Après-ski: Where to go 2013/14
With our first après ski guide now a little out of date Adam Johnson, Iglu's Head of Sales, has been kind enough to update our best aprés ski destinations for 2013/14.
For tips on the best chalets and hotels for après ski check out AJ's blog.
Après ski is becoming more and more important every year with the discerning British skier/boarder. We know that customers are no longer happy with just miles of piste and cheap accommodation. They want an all-round package that includes shorter transfers, quality catering in close-to-the-piste chalets, attentive in-resort service, good value mountain restaurants — but not those awful self-service monstrosities — prettier villages, and the most requested of all... good après ski.
Every year, in every survey, Austrian resorts top the best après ski list, so why doesn't the UK market go there in bigger numbers?
(I apologise in advance for my short rant about big versus better.)
Many UK customers are obsessed with the monstrous resorts of the Tarentaise — such as Val d'Isere, Meribel & Les Arcs — and never venture anywhere else because they are addicted to the kilometres of piste statistics. Yet, I know they will get a better experience in the friendlier and more welcoming resorts of Austria or Switzerland. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the line, "we’re very good skiers and need the kind of piste mileage we get in Les Trois Vallées". So that rules out Canada, USA, Japan, Austria and Italy then!
It’s not the miles of piste that count but the quality of the mileage and the management of all the terrain inside the boundaries that matters to the discerning. Whistler is consistently named as the best resort in the world and is the largest in North America with 8,100 skiable acres which is less than a third of the Espace Killy and a quarter of Les Trois Vallées. Many times I’ve been given a great piece of advice that I’m willing to share with you: size doesn’t matter — it’s what you do with it.
This year none of the mega-resorts have made this list for various reasons and next season should be the year you try some other resorts with fantastic après ski. So, here are my top five après ski resorts for this 2013/14 season:
#1 Ischgl, Austria — Upmarket 24/7 Party Town:
Okay, it’s not cheap compared to other Austrian resorts but it’s still better value than the big resorts of France and Switzerland. The Trofana Alm stakes a claim for the best après ski bar in the world. It encompasses everything you’d expect from that title. Classic Tyrolean décor, cheesy sing-along songs with silly dances that get everyone involved. Fantastic service from immensely strong waiters, carrying trays of beer and shots for you to choose from, are never more than a few minutes away from another visit. The Schatzi Bar offers the added bonus of traditional bar top dancing girls and more modern music. I’d also throw in a vote for the Kuhstall, that plays more English music and fills to the brim with the younger crowd, jumping in their boots to the latest hits.
Recommended chalet hotel in Ischgl: Chalet Hotel Abendrot.
Everybody already knows about St. Anton, and it has in the past claimed the top spot. The terrain in St. Anton is pretty challenging and brings a lot of the best skiers in the world to party. It also claims to have the oldest ski school in the world and this brings a constant flow of new skiers and boarders to the noisiest après ski bars in Austria. I love the place and I’ve had some of my best après ski moments in The Krazy Kangaruh. Directly across the piste from the KK, the Mooserwirt cranks out loud Austro/German pop and gets the crowd into a table dancing frenzy. They probably make the strongest tables in the Alps in the Arlberg region!
Recommended chalet in St. Anton: Chalet Pia.
Every Austrian resort provides good après ski bars and special mentions go out to the resorts of Saalbach, Sölden, and Soll. They all deserve a visit that you’ll never forget.
#3 Verbier, Switzerland — Posh But Fun:
Let’s get the hard bit out of the way first, it’s expensive. The Swiss Franc is on a roll right now and until it gets back to reasonable levels against the £ your après sessions are going bite like a Nile Crocodile. Do as seasonaires do and follow the happy hours around the village. No visit to Verbier is complete without a session or two in the Pub Mont Fort, but my favourite is the Farinet Bar — with its sliding roof that opens to let the steam out when the party gets too hot. It’s an experience to remember when they open the roof when it’s snowing and you’re dancing to a Swedish cover band, that is leading the shot taking between songs. Why is it that the Swedes seem to have an impossibly good looking cover band in every decent resort in Europe? I suspect it’s because the band members are chasing the best snow, just like you and me.
Recommended chalet hotel in Verbier: Chalet Hotel De Verbier.
#4 Alpe d’Huez, France — Cheap & Cheerful:
Over the last few years the rise and rise of the € against £ has hurt our back pockets during the après ski hours, particularly in the UK customer dominated über-resorts of the Tarentaise Vallée. For this reason a lot of my friends have starting heading to Alpe d’Huez. In this resort the cost of a sérieux will only be around €4.50. You always pay over €6 in Val d’Isére or Méribel. There’s loads of bars here to try, but no pub crawl would be complete without visiting O’Sharkeys, Smithy's, The Crowded House, and of course you must try the slide at Freeride. This resort is now the most fun in France, it’s just a damned shame it’s so ugly. The skiing here is up there with the best and the 22km run of the back of Pic Blanc down to Vaujany is world class.
Recommended chalet in Alpe d'Huez: Chalet Christian.
The über-resorts of France can still be fun but the best bars of a few seasons ago have lost the plot. Kelly Starlight from the Legendary La Folie Douce of Val d’Isére has let his ego run riot and now hosts an all afternoon cabaret show. The DJ, David Dee, only gets the crowd rocking for a short stint from 4pm to 5pm — and the price of a 250ml bottle of beer is now an eye watering €7! The Ronny (Rond Point) of Méribel doesn’t attract the quality of bands it used to. Even the new La Folie Douce in Val Thorens is turning away the UK crowd by playing too much French pop — something nobody should have to endure. Other resorts in France that I would recommend for après ski are Chamonix and Les Deux Alpes.
#5 Livigno, Italy — Tax Free Party Haven:
Livigno is a shopper's paradise as well as an après ski mecca. It has around 150 bars, which dwarfs any other ski resort in the world — I think Vail is second with 110. Livigno has belonged to numerous countries and empires over the centuries and now has a distinctly Austrian flavour to it. The Kuhstall, Mikey's Pub, Gulliver Pub, the Echo Pub, and for cocktails, Jpioca, are all recommended. This resort has so many bars to offer, that there really isn’t much to say other than I bet you can’t visit them all.
Recommended hotel in Livigno: Hotel Valeria.
Italian resorts tend to be a bit more sophisticated and calmer during the après ski hours, but there are some pretty good traditionally loud and riotous gems to be found in the resorts of Cervinia and Selva.
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