Last week I had an après ski drink at the Frying Pan Inn at Falls Creek. It brought back fond (and I have to admit – somewhat hazy) memories, because it was at the Frying Pan where I had my first ever après ski drink – after my first ever day on the slopes. It was so exciting to walk down through the snow to the pub then drink like crazy and dance like crazy then stagger and slip your way back to the lodge through the snow. You really feel like you have earned a drink after a big day of skiing – and it seems everyone else thinks the same and is out to celebrate. Aprés-ski endurance is almost as impressive as your ability on the slopes.
I would have had over 600 days of skiing in my life – and almost as many nights of après ski fun (I have snuck in a few quiet nights here and there). Admittedly I can’t quite remember a few of them, but here are my 10 favourite après ski experiences:
St Anton, Austria
We stopped for one beer. One beer, that was all, but somehow four hours passed and it was dark when we left. The only problem is that the bar isn’t in the ski village, but up in the middle of the piste. Which means that you have to ski down in the dark. While perhaps a little drunk. It was all the frivolous fräulein’s fault. She kept walking around the tables pouring Jägermeister shots straight into people’s mouths. It’s amazing how good you can dance on a small table in heavy ski boots. Oh, and Krazy Kanguruh gets it’s wacky name because it was started by an Aussie and was built up by a Swede (and is now owned by local Olympic champion Mario Matt).
Bar crawl and Curling
The perfect combination for a wild night of fun – a bar crawl down the main drag of Wengen village followed by a spot of curling. Okay, curling may not be the most exciting ‘sport’, but after a few drinks it is hilarious fun. None of us were exactly sure how or why we had to sweep in front of the big stone thing, but watching tipsy folk fall about the ice trying to do it was worth the price of admission alone. Oh, and a little hint if you ever want to try it: push the big stone thing gently down the ice. On my first attempt I ‘bowled’ it as hard as I could and almost took out the back wall.
Valle Nevado, Chile
Now this is how to do a hot tub at the snow. The pool-sized hot tub that graces the deck of Puerta del Sol, overlooking the Valle Nevado valley (at Chile’s largest ski resort) becomes a hot tub party every afternoon. Skiers and snowboarders soak in the tub drinking pisco sours while listening to pop and house music played by a D.J. and watching the Andean sunset. After a few drinks they even set up a volleyball net in the hot tub – although most of us were a little uncoordinated by then to manage any significant rallies.
High West Distillery and Saloon
Park City, Utah, USA
This is the only ski-in whiskey distillery in the world. And perhaps the only fall-over-a-lot-on-the-way-home distillery in the world, too. The après ski scene hasn’t always been big in the state of Utah (it was those darn Mormon’s fault), but they are making up for it now. Park City is full of cool bars, good old-fashioned pubs and the home of Utah’s first legal distillery. The distillery, which is housed in a charming, restored mining-era home, is located right at the bottom of Park City Mountain’s Quit ‘N Time ski run. Every night the saloon serves up wine, spirits, vodka, cocktails and, of course, its very own whiskey. I downed a few cocktails (including a ‘Double Dog Dare Ya’ – West Double Rye, Grapefruit and Raspberry Gum), which accompanied my delicious bison cottage pie.
Fridge Door Bar
It’s actually called Gyu Bar, but everyone knows it as the Fridge Door Bar. Because that’s all it is. Well, from the outside at least – it’s just a small red freezer door set in what looks like a snowbank. So small in fact that you have to duck your head when you enter. But the inside is just as cool as inside a fridge (that’s hip cool, not freezing cool). Groovy jazz tunes are played from a vintage turntable, while folk sit around candlelit tables sipping – or in our case sculling – cocktails and beers.
Val d’Isere, France
I went to Dick’s for a quick drink after skiing and didn’t leave until 2am. After dinner it turns into a nightclub. It’s been a nightclub since it opened on New Year’s Eve in 1979. Dick’s openly sells itself as ‘the best bar for pulling in the Alps’, but I was too busy taking advantage of the cheap beer and looking ridiculous dancing in my ski boots.
Fondue and Night Ski
This was probably the most fun après ski that I’ve had. It started with a delicious cheese fondue dinner (accompanied by a few wines and a couple of cheeky shots of apple schnapps) at the Kleine Scheidegg Bahnhof Restaurant. What made it so much fun was that the restaurant is about 7kms uphill from the town of Wengen and after 6.00pm (when the last train heads down) the only way down is to ski. But it’s not something you can do every night – during a full moon the mountain (and ski runs) are lit up just enough to see where you are going. The runs had just been groomed, so the snow perfect (and so easy) to ski on. But it was the mountain under the full moon that made it amazing. It is simply stunning as you ski down to the twinkling lights of Wengen.
Cardrona, New Zealand
I think just about everyone who goes skiing in Cardrona (in Otago, in the South Island) stops for an après ski drink at the Cardrona Hotel at the foot of Cardrona ski resort. Established in 1863, its stone walls and splintered wood floors attest to its place among the ranks of New Zealand’s oldest hotels. With a low-slung ceiling, fireplaces and relics from the area’s gold rush days, the place is absolutely packed (inside and out in the big backyard dotted with blazing fireplaces). I’ve been there numerous times (it’s one of my favourite après ski bars in the world), but on my last visit we decided to stay for dinner. Most of the crowd dispersed and we had a cosy room to ourselves and ate delicious New Zealand green-lipped mussels washed down with a bottle or two of Otago Pinot Noir.
You’re skiing down a run in the middle of the afternoon when suddenly you slam on your brakes. That’s because on the side of the run is a bar. A bar that wasn’t there the day before. Crafted perfectly out of snow is a bar – serving cold beers and hot gluhwein. And just like that you’re sitting in a deck chair in the sun with truly one of the most amazing views in the world and life could not get any better.
An onsen is a Japanese communal bath and after a hard day’s skiing it can be very relaxing. Except when it is -20 degrees outside and the onsen is outside. Thankfully the water was scolding and, although I only had a 20cm square ‘modesty’ towel to cover my bits, it was serenely soothing and so beautiful watching the steam rise up over the banks of snow that surrounded the onsen. And when large fluffy snowflakes began to float out of the night sky it looked truly magical. Although my head started to freeze up, so I moved my modesty towel to on top of my head (like the locals were doing). With a sneaky can of hot sake in hand (the Japanese invented a can that when you open the contents the inside heat up!) the soreness in my muscles melted away. Well, until we jumped out of the onsen and rolled around in the snow. Then I squealed my head off and my skin felt like it was on fire when I rolled back into the onsen.