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With our first 2 après ski guides now out of date AJ Johnson, Iglu's Director of Sales, and resident après ski Black-Belt, has updated our best après ski destinations for 2014/15. Après ski is now as important as the skiing for UK skiers and riders. Those hectic (or chilled) hours between 3.30pm and 6.00pm when you celebrate a day of great skiing with your mates while still in your ski gear and often still up on the slopes can make or break your trip. The level of après ski is the most common question we get about resorts and I happen to agree that it is an essential part of my ski experience. I may not want to party every afternoon, but when I do, I want very good music, cold beers and cheap shooters, plenty of room to dance, and the option of a sunny terrace. If it’s inclement weather then an indoor area with strong tables for dancing on with ski-boots and lots of alpine memorabilia and style will do. The resort Councils also realise the importance of après ski to the UK market and last year Alpe d’Huez warmly welcomed Folie Douce with their 4th Franchise to great success and the brand keeps going from strength to strength.
For a long time VT has been considered the poor cousin of its neighbours in upmarket Méribel and super expensive Courchevel but recent years have seen a transformation into a more mid-range resort. There are still the cheap and tiny apartments available but now there is a 5 star Hotel, some top quality chalets, upmarket self-catered apartments and this year sees Club Med launch their newest village right in the centre of town. We’ll be there for an early season ski in December. It’s a great resort for early or late snow due to its height. The Folie Douce here is just above the town so everyone gets to do a short ski back down on wobbly legs. It’s smaller than the rest of the Folies as it was not built to purpose but a restaurant taken over. I think it has a charm which puts it among the finest après bars in the Tarentaise Vallée.
Down in town there are more bars than you can visit in a night and the après starts early. The Frog and Roast Beef is the highest pub in Europe and draws a UK crowd. The Saloon bar is the Seasonaires favourite and is the rowdiest and most fun bar on the strip if you can take the crowds. VT is also home to the largest nightclub in the Alps in Malaysia, it may be cavernous but it fills up late and rocks all night. The place to stay – The New Val Thorens Club Med Sensations is going to be brilliant.
This big resort in the Grand Rouses mountain range has long been a favourite with the young hip crowd and offers an amazingly long season due to the huge glacier. It has a direct link access to the legendary La Grave free-ride resort, the best Terrain Park in Europe, and summer skiing. There are 45 bars along the main drag and 8 night-clubs. That’s not much less than the entire Trois Vallées and more than Val d’Isére and Tignes added together. On the slopes there is the amazing and huge PANO BAR that gives the 4 Folie Douces a run for their money. The beats are a bit dancier and recognisable and the crowd a little less reserved. After your Pano après session there are a series of bars at the foot of the slopes worth visiting. Just a little warning, the last run in to the resort called the Valentin is a serious run. Download on the Jandri Gondola if you’ve over-cooked it on Jaeger-Bombs. This direct Gondola access means injured or non-skiing friends can join you for lunch and après every day. At the foot of the slopes I like the Umbrella bar. The giant Umbrella can be closed for really cold days and opened for the sunny ones.
St Anton is still the best of Austria but it is perhaps too popular and the famous piste-side bars are uncomfortably jammed to overflowing with plastered Brits, Dutch and Germans. It has fantastic off-piste routes like the Valluga 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 starts the party with ‘The Final Countdown’ at 3pm and then cranks out loud Austro/German pop and gets the crowd into a table dancing frenzy. They probably make the strongest tables in the World in the Arlberg region! Just seeing the beer servers who carry up to 30 full size drinks on doubled up trays is worth the trip. Those guys are seriously strong. This is a bit off subject but for Lunch on the mountain you must visit the Hospiz Alm down in St Christoph. It is easily the best on-mountain restaurant in the Arlberg region and has well-priced daily specials. You are served by staff in traditional lederhosen and there’s a great slide down to the loos inside. I can also highly recommend the Heustadl for live music on the slopes. It’s in a perfect suntrap just before you get to the KK on the skiers left. Recommended Hotel in St. Anton: The Nassereinerhof 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.
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.
VD is IGLU’s number 1 resort for sales and for staff love. We can’t get enough of it. The skiing in the Espace Killy (the area linked with Tignes) offers more easily accessible variety than any other in Europe. It has a very long season because it catches the storms as they hit the end of the Tarentaise Valley at the border with Italy. But what really sets it apart is the number of high quality bars on-piste and off. The original Folie Douce has got its Mojo back after a couple of experimental years and now offers a great afternoon’s entertainment. The price of a large beer has stayed at 7€ which a few years ago seemed expensive but now matches up with most bars in the Alps. Kelly Starlight still leads the entertainment but has toned down the cabaret aspect in favour of more DJ inspired singing and dancing. There are countless bars in town like the Petit Danois (après drink deals and 2 pool tables), The Morris bar, The Underground (very French), Victors (241 cocktails), and Bar La Rosee (nice terrace) in La Daille. The 2 biggest nightclubs are the legendary original Dicks Tea Bar with a mainly UK crowd and Doudoune for a French crowd (and corresponding appalling music). I could name another 20 bars but the names don’t really matter. You will never be more than a few metres from a party in this premier resort of France. Recommended Chalet in Val d’Isére: Chalet Yeti - get in early as it’s sold out by November.
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 and probably much higher 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. If you want to stay up until the sun rises then you’ll be at the Igloo bar that gets crazier and crazier all the way until the 6am closing time. This resort is now the most fun in France, it’s just a damned shame it’s a bit ugly. The skiing here is up there with the best and the 16km La Sarenne black run of the back of Pic Blanc down to Vaujany is world class. Personally I prefer the thrills and spills of the un-pisted Itinerary route through the famous tunnel. Not for beginners! Recommended chalet in Alpe d'Huez: Chalet Friandise – a little beauty.
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.
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.
Last week we launched our World Cup blog series with two Southern Hemisphere resorts - Chile VS Australia. Chile came out top, beating Australia with its epic backcountry runs and reliable snow conditions. This week we’re moving a little closer to home, with the battle of two European countries, Switzerland VS France. Both are big favourites for many skiers and snowboarders, but which one will be crowned King of the Alps? We compare the slopes, après and cuisine to find out.
SwitzerlandMost resorts in Switzerland are set at a high altitude, bringing guaranteed snow as well as glacier skiing and good conditions throughout the season. Many of the ski areas provide long runs and challenging pistes, making it particularly good for skiers at a more intermediate to advanced level. There are, however, still opportunities for beginners. The resort of Wengen has a ski school as well as a blue piste and a ‘slow speed zone’ for those just starting out. From stunning scenery to plenty of pistes, backcountry runs and snowparks, Switzerland certainly has a lot of variety. The Graubunden ski area is Switzerland’s largest mountain area, offering a whapping 225km of skiable piste. Head to Verbier and you’ll find your ski area expanded to across the 4 valleys, which includes the neighbouring resorts of Nendaz and Les Collons. If you visit Zermatt you’ll soon spot the famous Matterhorn peak, which is often featured in many photos of the resort. There are some great advanced runs here as well as the opportunity to do some heliskiing for those who are looking for a new challenge. It is also the highest altitude resort in the country sitting at a top height of 3900m. For the adventurous ones out there, Flims Laax is home to 4 snowparks (including Europe’s largest half pipe) and a glacier for spring and summer skiing.
France Much like Switzerland, France also offers plenty of variation, from high altitude resorts to snowparks and glaciers. Snow reliability is high and the majority of resorts offer good snow conditions throughout the season. Les Deux Alps is the highest resort, standing at a top altitude of 3600m. The resort experiences long sunshine hours and boasts 220km of piste, a board park and a halfpipe. There are plenty of linked ski areas such as the massive Three Valleys with its 600km of runs. Portes du Soleil is one of the largest linked ski areas in the world, with lots of ski-in ski-out accommodation which is ideal for families and kids. For your freestyle fix, the Paradiski area has four snowparks and two half-pipes. France caters equally well for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers. Alpe d’Huez has lots of blue runs, beginners only areas and no abundance of ski schools. If you like backcountry skiing, Tignes has some fantastic off piste opportunities, as does Val d’Isere. There are also numerous glacier resorts in France, including Tignes, some of which offer skiing all year round. Winner: France
Switzerland The après scene in Switzerland is a little on the small side, with not a great deal of après venues on offer. However, each of the bars makes up for it, with resorts such as Verbier known to have some fun and lively nightclubs. As well as nightclubs, expect to find discos, jazz bars and quiet pubs – something to cater for every taste.
France France is home to some well-known après venues, like Rond Point in Meribel and the legendary La Folie Douce, which has bars in Val d’Isere, Meribel, Val Thorens and Alpe d’Huez. Ibiza Rocks the Snow Festival is also held yearly in France, bringing some great partying and music to the mountains. All in all, expect some wild après, live bands every night and quieter venues where you can relax with a drink. Winner: France
St Moritz, Switzerland
Switzerland Switzerland is the home of the delicious Fondue as well as a whole other collection of comforting mountain foods. Enjoy Käseschnitte (cheese on toast), Raclette (melted cheese scraped overmeat, bread and vegetables) or fried potato Rösti’s. To satisfy your sweet tooth, Switzerland is a great place to find Swiss Chocolate and no end of delicious cakes and pastries.
France Most dishes found in the French mountains are cheese, potato or bread heavy. Traditional French dishes include Tartiflette (baked cheese, potatoes and meat), Beaufort Tart (a cheese and pastry tart), sweet crepes and pastries. Winner: Switzerland
Les Deux Alpes, France
Winner: France This one was a very close call – both countries have some excellent skiing, après and food and are both firm favourites for many snowsports enthusiasts. The winning streak came from France due to its ability to cater equally to beginner, intermediate and advanced abilities. It also knows how to throw a mean après party to end the day!
There's plenty to look forward to this coming 2014/15 winter season, whether you’re staying put in the UK or taking a holiday to the mountains. If you’re eager to swap the summer sun for snowy pistes, then start your countdown now and get planning your next adventure.
Here’s a look at what’s to come…
We used to get festival blues when they all finished for the summer, but now we don’t have to. The popular festival Ibiza Rocks heads to the mountains each year bringing a host of DJ’s and live bands with it. Get your party on and enjoy live music, plenty of snow and wild après. We can’t wait!
Spring 2015 will welcome another year of this well-loved comedy festival, which last year saw comedians such as John Bishop and Al Murray perform. From live stand up to musical parodies, you’ll always find plenty to keep you entertained in-between your time spent out on the pistes. Plus, there’ll also be beer. Lots of beer!
This festival, held in Mayrhofen, Austria, showcases a mixture of new emerging talent and well-established artists. There are also ski and snowboard lessons on offer, plus contests and of course – optimum opportunity for après fun times. To give you a taste of what to expect, last year’s line-up featured The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, DJ Yoda and Foxes.
January 2015 will see another year of the X Games in Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado, with contests in skiing, snowboarding and snowmobile. Previous years of the games have seen our very own Jenny Jones claim gold three times (yes Jenny!). With coverage provided by ESPN, you can enjoy the all the action from the comfort of your sofa.
This December, Breckenridge will play host to Dew Tour to celebrate its tenth anniversary. There’ll be athlete meet and greets, live music, plus snowboard and ski contests in superpipe, slopestyle and streetstyle. Expect to see the likes of Torah Bright, Sage Kotsenburg, Rowan Cheshire, Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller compete.
The Freeride World Tour stops at various resorts across Europe and North America, offering top skiers and snowboarder the chance to compete for the World Champion title. If you’re on holiday at the time, be sure to stop by at one of the events and check it out – some of the resorts visited along the way are Chamonix, Verbier and Mammoth Mountain.
The 2014/15 season will see the opening of a new 4 Trident Club Med hotel in Val Thorens – Val Thorens Sensations. The hotel is all-inclusive (including ski & snowboard lessons) and is due to open in December 2014. With a fantastic ski-in ski-out position and a display of exceptional mountain views through its huge panoramic windows, the hotel also features a new innovation - Wi-Fi on the slopes! If you’re a Club Med fan, we recommend you try this one out.
Opening on the 5th July 2014, the ‘For Friends Hotel’ is situated in Mösern, Austria. The hotel offers stunning views across the surrounding mountains and valleys and is situated 20km from Innsbruck. The hotel will feature an infinity pool, a spa which offers sound therapy and the chance to rent the luxurious For Friends Roof Top Suite.
Located in Zell am Zee, Austria the Mountain Lake Resort will offer 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom apartments and penthouses, each boasting their own mix of traditional Alpine design mixed with a contemporary twist. Keep cosy and warm with comforting underfloor heating plus a steam room and sauna for winding down after a long day. The hotel also features floor to ceiling windows so you can really make the most of the surrounding mountain scenery.
With over 60 lift constructions under way in Europe and North America, lift systems look to be improved in many resorts next season. Many of these new builds will be effectively upgrading the current lift systems and there will also be a few brand new ones to look forward too as well. In Scheffau, Austria one of the most expensive chairlifts in the world is currently under construction. The chairlift will hold 8 people and will featured cosy heated seats, weather hoods, foot rests and a conveyor belt system for ease of entry.
At the end of July 2014, the 1456m high Jakobskreuz viewing platform will open in plenty of time for the winter season. It will feature five viewing areas which offer displays of the beautiful surrounding mountain landscapes and will be the setting for various lectures, seminars and workshops.
The world’s longest suspension bridge for pedestrians will open in Reutte, Austria later this year. The Highline 179 will rise 110m from ground level and is certainly not for the faint of heart! If you’re looking to take a little break from the day’s skiing or boarding, then certainly give this a try.
You don’t have to go to the mountains to enjoy snow-related events. From the 30th October – 2rd November 2014 the Ski and Snowboard Show will take place in Earls Court, London. Here you’ll find a huge range of activities and stalls; ski and snowboard taster lessons, an ice rink, curling, tubing, après activities, an Austrian themed stand and much, much more.
London will play host to another Freeze Festival this year (dates TBC), with live music, mountain drinks, comforting cuisine and snow-themed fun in Clapham Common. Last year saw live performances from DJ Fresh and Idris Elba as well as international ski and snowboard rail jams, film screenings and even a Christmas jumper world record attempt.
With the UK still feeling the hype from this year’s successful Winter Olympics, our engagement in snowsports has never been better. After Jenny Jones’ bronze medal win, snowdomes and dry slopes were full to the brim, regularly finding themselves fully booked and even running out of rental equipment. The Go Ski Go Board campaign was launched alongside the Olympics to encourage more people to give snowsports a try. The campaign is set to run for the next four years, meaning that there are plenty of ongoing opportunities on offer for pre-holiday lessons, taster sessions and improvers courses at reduced prices. This is an exciting time to get involved with UK snowsports – you can even start your season early and get some practice in before the first resorts open their doors.
What’s more, if you’re serious about skiing or boarding, there are more and more opportunities cropping up to apply for sponsored positions at your local snowdome. Olympian, Rowan Cheshire, started off as a member of the Chill Factore freestyle club in Manchester and fellow Olympians Aimee Fuller, Ed Drake and Jamie Nicholls are all members of The Snow Centre’s pro club in Hemel Hempstead.
One of our favourite things about the winter is the festive season and what better way to get that festive feeling than spending it in a ski resort surrounded by heaps of snow. With the disappointing lack of snow in the UK this year, at least we know we’ll get our snow fix out in the mountains. With local parades, activities for kids, sleigh rides, Carol concerts and festive food and drink, you’ll be feeling Christmassy in no time. New Year ’s Eve also plays host to some spectacular firework displays at most resorts, as well as some fantastic parties to see in the New Year.
Visit the Canadian resort of Whistler for the chance to experience a range of exciting festive activities for both families and adults alike. Watch athletes perform tricks through hoops of fire, sip a hot chocolate (or something a little stronger) around the bonfire or don your fancy dress for the Dress Like Santa Day.
See 2015 in with a bang at the Tignes annual Fire Mix Party featuring live music, DJ’s and lots of outdoor partying. Grab your friends, wrap up warm and start 2015 off right. What’s more, there’s nothing more refreshing than a day out on the mountain to settle that sore head…
Drink mulled wine, listen to carols, browse the Christmas markets and get yourself in the Christmas mood this year. With guaranteed snow (unlike here in the UK!) and plenty of beautiful seasonal lights, we couldn’t really think of a more magical way to spend the festive period.
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