Après ski: The short intense party between finishing your skiing and going back to the Chalet/Hotel for dinner. Usually littered with shots, large beers, jaeger bombs, and table dancing. We at Iglu believe you have to have your ski boots on for it to be considered après ski.
The Après ski is now as important as the skiing or boarding for UK skiers and riders. Those hectic (or chilled) hours between 3.30pm and 6.30pm 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.
Folie Douce, Val d'Isere
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.
In the Après-verse the balance of power had moved back towards France from Austria with the proliferation of Folie Douce like establishments popping up everywhere. Excellent examples of this are the 360° Bar in VT, the Pano Bar in Les Deux Alpes, and especially Cocoricos on the Solaise in Val d’Isére. However, I’d still take an après ski session in Austria over France any day. We have seen a swing back towards Austria this season which may because of the poor snow France had last season or just because it’s a damned sight more fun and cheaper.
Val Thorens, France
The highest party town in the Alps
For a long time Val Thorens 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 last year saw Club Med launch their newest village, called Sensations, right in the centre of town. 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 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 in Val Thorens - Club Med Val Thorens Sensations is brilliant and Chalet Le Sommet
360 Bar Val Thorens. Photo: Facebook (360BarValTho)
Les Deux Alpes, France
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. Les Deux Alpes 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 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.
The place to stay in Les Deux Alpes - Hotel Aalborg, Les Deux Alpes
St. Anton, Austria
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.
The place to stay in St. Anton - Chalet Murr and Chalet Alpenheim
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.
The place to stay in Verbier - Chalet Hotel De Verbier.
Val d’Isére, France
Glamorous and expensive, and worth every penny
Val d'Isere is Iglu Ski’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.
The big new attraction in the Val d'Isere après world is Cocoricos.
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.
The place to stay in Val d'Isere - Chalet Hotel Champs Avalins if you are on a budget or Chalet Hotel Le Savoie is you are splashing the cash.
Alpe d’Huez, France
Cheaper & 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, Sphere Bar, Etalon rum Bar and The Underground Bar. 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.
For the ultimate on-the-mountain apres it's got to be La Folie Douce. The huge mountain terrace has plenty of space to dance around in your ski boots and boasts spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. This is my favourite Folie location due to the one easy blue run back into town so you can party until the bar closes without worrying about making it back for last lifts.
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!
The place to stay in Alpe d'Huez - Chalet Hotel Les Cimes and Hotel Escapade
Upmarket 24/7 party town
Okay, it’s not cheap compared to other Austrian resorts but Ischgl is 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.
The place to stay in Ischgl - Chalet Hotel Abendrot
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.
Here’s my top tip for Livigno and this one really will pay off. Right in the centre of the pedestrianised area of Livigno is a bar with a unique drawcard. The Baita Del Ghet offers every customer their 1st drink free. That’s every time you go there. Unsurprisingly it is extremely popular and worth heading to early. It has great food and it’s where the locals go with their families and dogs as well.
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.
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.
The place to stay in Livigno - Hotel Garni Francescato