Though Americans didn’t invent après, we can hold our own. These snow-filled mountain towns have some of our favorite spots to drink, eat, and hang post-ski.
After a long day of carving up the slopes, there’s nothing seasoned skiers and snowboarders look forward to more than a tall mug of beer. Or maybe it's a glass of red wine, or a hot toddy. Really, the drink doesn’t matter. It’s more the ritual. Because après ski is just as important as the act of skiing itself.
Après-ski may be French in name (translating simply to “after ski”), but its origins likely belong to the Norwegians. According to The New England Ski Journal, since at least the mid-19th century, skiers in Norway would gather in one another’s homes for a meal and drink. This turned into ski clubs, which spread across Europe and into the United States. The magazine added that in 1872, the Skiklubben Club was founded in New Hampshire and brought with it the tradition of an afterparty that continues to this day.
Though Americans didn’t invent après, we can hold our own on the world stage. All you need to do is find a spot with the best drinks, snacks, and atmosphere for warming up after hitting the slopes.
“A good après scene has to start with good drinks or a happy hour,” Joe Carberry, the senior managing editor of The Inertia, a website dedicated to surf and snow sports, explains. “That's where you can find the best deals, first. Music is always good and live music even better. If there's a crowd, there's something bringing them in and it's usually a good après scene.”
If you need a little proof that the U.S. really can hold its own, just check out these seven mountain destinations that throw an après ski that could easily rival those thrown by the Norwegians or even (sacré bleu!) the French.
For a Luxury Après: Aspen, CO
Aspen has long been a favored destination for everyone from elite athletes competing in the X-Games to glamorous skiers and snowboarders looking to see and be seen. It’s a spot where you’re more than likely to ride a chairlift with a pro, then share a toast with an A-lister like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell or CEOs like Jeff Bezos, who all own property in the area.
Where to go: Those looking for an upscale après head straight to The Wine Bar at the Little Nell. The lounge sits inside one of the most famous hotels in the area, and offers guests the chance to sip rare wines while listening to a DJ spin vintage vinyl. The space is small, so we do recommend making reservations at TheLittleNell.com.
For a Tradition-Filled Après: Stowe, VT
Stowe, Vermont, is as charming a destination as they come. Fewer than 1,000 people live in Stowe full time, but that number tends to swell in the winter months when the snow blankets everything, including the famed ski resort. It’s also a spot with a long ski history dating back to the mountain’s inaugural season in 1936, meaning tradition here reigns supreme.
Where to go: Though a lot has changed at Stowe thanks to massive expansion projects and its sale to Vail Resorts in 2017, there are still a few old-school favorites sprinkled around town that throw an après like the good old days. Namely, it’s the Matterhorn. The bar has been serving frosty beers since the ‘50s and has welcomed some of the greatest bands on earth to its tiny stage (including the Monkees and a few members of the Grateful Dead). Make it your first stop after leaving the mountain — the bartenders won’t mind if you still have your ski boots on either.
For a Party-Centric Après: Mammoth, CA
Mammoth is a big mountain with big runs, big snow, and a big, giant personality. On the slopes you’re likely to find people hooting and hollering the entire way down as they seek out powder stashes or make their way to Hemlocks, an off-piste, tree skiing area for those looking to both push their limits and find an extra thrill. And maybe even earn a post-ski drink.
Where to go: Surprise yourself with an après visit to the Lakanuki Bar & Cafe. The tiki bar keeps the good times going with fruity cocktails that you don’t often associate with chilly destinations, but one sip will show you that yes, a piña colada does really hit all the right notes after a day on the slopes.
For a Wild West Après: Jackson Hole, WY
Jackson Hole has arguably the best skiing in America. The mountain is enormous and offers skiers and riders the chance to either test their mettle on some of the steepest slopes on the continent or take it easy on some beautiful green trails that offer views across the Teton Mountain Range.
Where to go: There’s no question on this one. Anyone skiing for the first time or the 100th in Jackson Hole should head to Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. The bar is both famous and a classic for good reason. It’s located right in the middle of the town and really you can’t miss it thanks to the massive neon cowboy out front. Inside, guests can literally saddle up to the bar thanks to its unique saddle seats, and order whatever drink they’d like. If you can, try to plan a visit around one of its stellar music nights, too.
For a Plenty of Après Choices: Breckenridge, CO
Breckenridge is yet another mountain town with a long and happy history for skiers and snowboarders, dating back to its first season in 1961. People on the slopes here seem to just be a little happier than most. Maybe it’s because it gets an average 300 inches of snow each year. Or, it could be because the town is home to dozens of restaurants and bars that will happily indulge your après needs.
Where to go: Again, you’ve got a lot of options, but the best (and easiest) après off the slopes may be TBar, which sits at the base of Peak 8. The bar is a perfect spot to ski up to for a drink at the end of the day, and it also has a full menu of share-worthy bites so you can nosh on a few items with your ski crew, too.
For a Hot Toddy Après: Park City, UT
Park City, like Breck, sees some 300 inches of snow a year. It has more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, but what really sets this place apart is its fantastic on-mountain dining options. That includes lookout Cabin, a fine-dining restaurant with full table service; Tombstone Grill, a traditional BBQ spot; Miners Camp, which serves tasty burgers and vegan dishes; and Cloud Dine, famous for its sugary sweet doughnuts that typically sell out by mid-morning.
Where to go: Yes, there are a ton of great bars here, but you shouldn’t skip having a drink at the High West Distillery, which maintains a full saloon at the base of the mountain. Guests can come right off the slope and gather around its outdoor fire pit. And sure, you can order just about anything you want, but this is prime time for a hot toddy, baby. So go for something that will warm your body and your soul.
For a Low-Key Ski and Après: Crystal Mountain, WA
Sometimes, you just want to keep it easy with your mountain adventures. And that’s when it’s time to head to Crystal Mountain. It’s a spot that has remained essentially the same since it opened in 1962 and has thinner crowds than some of the bigger name mountains across the U.S. But don’t get it twisted: It still offers world-class skiing for everyone from newbies to experts, and it even averages more than 400 inches of snow a year.
Where to go: After your body is spent from ripping it up on the slopes, make your way to the Snorting Elk Cellar (possibly the best après bar name out there). The bar is cozy, offers 18 beers on tap, and even throws themed parties throughout the winter season to keep things festive.