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With our first 2 après ski guides now out of date AJ Johnson, Iglu's Director of Sales, and resident après ski Black-Belt, has updated our best après ski destinations for 2014/15.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.
The highest party town in the Alps
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.
24/7 Ibiza (budget) Party Town
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.
Ski Hard, Party Harder
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.
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.
Glamorous and expensive, and worth every penny
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
We were inspired by this topic after a question on our ski blog. Taking a gondola maybe preferred by groups with beginners, families with young children, anxious skiers or anyone that prefers to keep out of the cold (why are you skiing?) Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but for the majority of us we just choose whatever gets us up the mountain quick enough. So for a bit of fun we decided to take a look at which ski resorts you can access the most ski area without having to sit on a chairlift. Here are our top 5 ski resorts to avoid chairlifts.
From Val d’Isere you can take the Olympique cable car to the Rocher De Bellevarde peak at 2827m where there is a huge selections of ski runs from the top. There are green, blue and red run options all the way down to 1785m where you then have the benefit of taking the funicular at La Daille back to the top. From here there is the blue Santons and black Face de Bellevarde which you can ski all the way back to Val d’isere. On the otherside of the valley, the Solaise cable car gives you access to another green beginner area, plus the red run Plan that forms the black Rhone-Alpes or red Piste M. In neighbouring Tignes, it is possible to take the Funiculaire Grande Motte and the Grand Motte cable car all the way to the glacier at 3456m before skiing all the way back down to Val Claret on a choice of blue and red runs.
Levi is a fantastic resort for beginners; the small ski area mainly consists of blue and red runs which are great for anyone new to ski, particularly with the quiet slopes and lack of queuing. What is also great for beginners is that there is only one chairlift - you can access the 43 pistes in Levi using the 2 cabin lifts, 1 chair lift, 14 T-bars, 6 drag lifts and 4 rope lifts.
Similar to many of the large resorts, there are many chairlifts in Alpe d’Huez but there is a surprising amount of bubbles, gondolas and telecabins where you can access all over the ADH ski area. From the village in 1860m, the 1st and 2nd Troncon can take you all the way up to 2700m where there is an assortment of green, blue and red runs that take you back to ADH. Otherwise you can carry on and take the Pic Blanc cable car up to the glacier at 3330m. If all lifts and runs are open, from 2700m you can follow the blue runs Couloir and Boulevard des Marmottes to Plat des Marmottes and take the Marmottes 2 and 3 up to the glacier as well. From Oz en Oisans at 1350m there are the Poutran bubbles to get you back over to ADH or there is the L’Alpette bubble that takes you up to 2050m, with green, blue and red runs to ski, or the Alpette Rousses cable car to 2800m at Dome des Petities Rousses with fantastic red runs that came take you all the way back down to Oz en Oisans or ADH.
From Verbier village at 1500m you can get all the way to Mont Fort at 3330m using la Chaux bubble, plus the Gentianes and Mont Fort cable cars. Verbier is home to some of the most challenging skiing in the Alps, including the runs from Mont Fort. There is a fantastic variety of tough reds and exhilarating blacks from intermediates and advanced.
La Plagne has a huge 225km of ski area across the villages; yes there are mainly chairlifts to access the whole expanse but you maybe surprised how much you could access without having to touch a chair. From the Grande Rochette ‘Funitel’ Gondola in Plagne Centre there are a variety of blue, red and black runs to ski down. From the top at 2505m you can head left to pick up the black Rochette or the leisurely blue run Mira back down to Centre, or if you head right at the top you can access the red run Carina which leads into a few blue options plus the Colorado Park. Also from the top you can access the back of this mountain where you can head all the way down to Champagny at 1250m, although to get back to Plagne Centre you will need to take a bubble and 2 chair lifts. At Plagne Bellecotte you can ride the Roche de Mio bubble, which makes a stop in Belle Plagne, to the peak of Roche de Mio at 2700m. From the top you can take the blue run Tunnel back down to Belle Plagne and Bellecote, or you can choose my favourite run in La Plagne, the red Sources which leads in to blue runs back down to Bellecotte at 1930m. Also from the top you can access the back of the mountain on the fantastic blue run Levasset, plus the Bellecotte bubble up to the glacier. Even non skiers can take in the views at 3417m on the glacier as it is completely accessible from Bellecotte with the 2 bubble lifts. If you did want to completely avoid chairlifts, you can take the ski bus between Bellecotte and Centre, otherwise the Colosses and La Bergerie chair lifts can take you between the two ski areas quickly.
If you are looking for somewhere new to ski this season then take a look at our top 5 hidden gems to explore in 2014/15. Do you remember that feeling when you first discovered your favourite ski resort? Say yes to new adventures and try out these lesser known ski paradises.
Perfect for families Montgenevre is a pretty alpine village that sits on the French-Italian border. It has a fantastic ski area with varied runs and access to the 400km of the massive Milky Way ski circuit. It is particularly good for beginners and intermediates making it the perfect family resort. The traditional style town may be quiet but this is reflected on the slopes with minimal queues across the mountain. During a week in January, I often felt we were the only ones on the entire chairlift. With ultimate mountain time you can guarantee a memorable week on the slopes in Montgenevre.
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Perfect for snowboarders Sallbach is a superb ski resort and is renowned for its excellent range of pistes and efficient list system linking over 200km to Hinterglemm and Leogang. Snowboarders will relish in the varied terrain and 3 snow parks while on powder days you can enjoy pockets of powder and making fresh tracks through trees off piste. The fun doesn’t stop once the lifts are closed, after sunset the party sets in. Saalbach has one of Austria’s liveliest party circuits with 40 bars and discos to experience the famous Austrian après.
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Perfect for intermediates and experts Ideal for intermediates and experts, this beautiful ski area offers long wide red runs and amazing off piste skiing. Snowboarders will like the wide slopes and freeriders will find plenty to do with little jumps and bumps and challenging runs further afield. Champoluc is a hidden treasure in Italy; the charming, unspoilt village creates a magical feel for your ski holiday. It is inexpensive with great food across the resort.
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Perfect for off piste Klosters has acquired international status from the presence of the Royal Family and film stars. This beautiful resort oozes Swiss charm with its picturesque chalets and horse drawn sleighs. The Klosters/Davos Rega ski pass gives access to a fantastic 310km of runs that are serviced by an extensive lift system. The glittering powdered snow stretching far as you can see makes Klosters an incredible place for off piste skiing and snowboarding. As it is relatively unknown, there are many opportunities for first tracks.
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Perfect for a ski holiday you’ll never forget Arosa is an alpine fairy-tale resort nestled in the Swiss Alps. With spectacular mountain views and a village-life atmosphere, you will fall in love with this beautiful resort. This gem is part of one of the largest linked ski areas in Switzerland now there is a new lift link built from Lenzerheide to Arosa, creating 225kms runs. With enough skiing to keep all abilities happy and minimal queues, you couldn’t choose a better ski resort for a ski holiday. If you have any non-skiers in your group or you seek a more relaxed afternoon after a morning on the slopes, there are walking and sledging routes in the town and it is easy to meet up for lunch in one of the numerous mountain restaurants and sample a delicious Swiss fondue.
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