Après-ski is part and parcel of the ski holiday experience, and if you've never seen a good mountain bar 'going off' at 6.30pm - well, you haven't lived. The sense of euphoria that being in the mountains can bring, plus the extra buzz the adrenaline provides, means the party atmosphere goes from 0-60 faster than you can mumble 'ein bier bitte' at the bar. At the best bars, it's like New Year's Eve every night.
Not all ski resort nightlife is so supercharged, however, and if you want to sample the best of it, you want to shop around. But if you can't bear the idea of being marooned in the middle of 1,000 sweaty, beery twenty somethings, that's fine too: the mountains are full of resorts where a quiet and relaxing drink is the more acceptable means of unwinding after a day on the slopes.
5 top tips to remember for après-ski
- Party like an Austrian, not like a Brit. That means stopping off on the way back into the resort and dancing in your ski boots, rather than going out after dinner. Why? Because you'll get into the mood much more quickly, and finish earlier, leaving you relatively fresh for the next day's skiing or snowboarding.
- A glass of shandy is a great way to kick off. Actually, make that two. It sounds a bit wimpy, but chances are you'll neck them in a nano-second, because you'll be so thirsty from the slopes. Saves you from getting too drunk too quickly.
- Check what they put in the hot wine: take it gently if it includes schnapps!
- Don't be put off by the music. Cheesy Austrian music makes a lot of sense when you're dancing in your ski boots.
- A good rule of thumb for those looking for a quiet drink is to find a four-star hotel and go for a drink there. Five stars can be a bit starchy. Four stars usually have nice lounges and a more laid-back atmosphere.
Finding the right kind of après-ski
Not all après-ski is the same. In fact, a lot of it can be disappointing if you find yourself in the wrong resort. So here are few rules of thumb by which to steer yourself.
- Austrian après-ski is the best. But even so, it's not universally brilliant. If you want the real deal, go for a resort with a reputation for it, such as St Anton, Saalbach, Solden or Mayrhofen.
- Italian resorts tend to be lively only at the weekends - unless, like Sauze d'Oulx, they attract a big contingent of Brits.
- Lots of the purpose-built French ski resorts suffer from being broken up into 'villages'. This means there are never enough people in any one of them to generate a real buzz. So avoid resorts such as Courchevel, Les Arcs, La Plagne and Tignes which were built according to these concepts. (They do, however, have plenty of places for a quiet drink - though the bars are often small and quite rudimentary). Resorts which have grown into big towns, such as Val d'Isère and Chamonix, are much better.
- If you want sophisticated cocktails, then aim for a resort with an upmarket reputation - St Moritz, Lech, Verbier, and Zermatt all do a great line in cool bars for grown-ups.
- Beware of the bar with the widescreen TV. Useful for catching up on the scores back home, but an atmosphere-killer.
- If the idea of après-ski appalls you, go for a small resort with a family-friendly reputation.
A word of warning about your travel insurance
One important point to note is that most ski and snowboard insurance policies have specific exclusions for accidents caused by excessive alcohol or drug consumption. If you were to hurt yourself after a night out on the tiles, your cover may be void.
This almost certainly applies during the evening itself - unless you can either show the drinking was totally unrelated, or there are other circumstances that apply (for example, someone spiking your drink). It may also apply if it can be shown that any accident suffered on the slopes the next day was directly caused by your drinking the night before.