8 of the best apres-ski holiday destinations: top resorts in Europe and around the world

Is cutting loose while still in your ski boots one of the most important parts of your snpwsports trip? Here’s where to head for unbeatable slopeside partying

Chris Wilson
Wednesday 26 July 2023 17:06 BST
<p>Apres bars such as those in Val Thorens can be a defining feature of a great skiing holiday</p>

Apres bars such as those in Val Thorens can be a defining feature of a great skiing holiday

Snowsports holidays promise a unique combination of high-octane fun on the slopes – whether whizzing down smooth, pisted runs or freeriding on challenging off-piste terrain – alongside panoramic mountain views, pretty villages, spa indulgence and an abundance of other activities, from zip-lining and sledging to snowbiking and parapenting.

While the extent of the ski area, snow conditions and overall quality of the resort will likely be important factors in picking a preferred resort, for many, the après-ski scene will be just as vital in making their decision.

Whether you just stop for one at the end of the ski day or wind up dancing on tables for hours in your ski boots, there’s nothing quite like cutting loose on the side of a mountain, no matter if you’re tucked inside a cosy mountain hut or living it up on a sun-soaked terrace.

From Europe to North America, we’ve rounded up some of the resorts that do après best.

Val Thorens, France

Val Thorens is the highest-located resort in the Trois Vallees region

Among the most renowned party resorts in the French Alps, Val Thorens has an après-ski scene that matches its superior slopes. As the highest ski resort in Europe, it’s a remarkable place to party while surrounded by dramatic mountain views, and it offers access to 600km of pistes as part of the mammoth Three Valleys ski area.

La Folie Douce is the headline act in the resort’s après offering; perched at 2,600m, this is where revellers can get the best mountain views while dancing on tables. For a similarly energetic atmosphere on the slopes, head to Bar 360; both venues welcome world-class DJs at various points during the season.

If you prefer your afternoon parties at a slightly lower altitude, there are plenty of karaoke venues, happy hours and early-hours bars to choose from in resort. Rue de Gebroulaz is the central après area, with music and entertainment running from early afternoon until early the next morning. Among the most notable venues are Klub Summit (the highest club in Europe), Rhum Box (offering over 30 types of flavoured rum) and Cafe Snesko.

St Anton, Austria

St Anton is particularly known for its post-ski party atmosphere

St Anton sits in the Arlberg ski region – the largest interconnected region in Austria – and is one of eight resorts in the area. The ski area is home to almost 300km of slopes (and over 200km of off-piste routes) as the recently built Flexenbahn cableway now also links in the slopes of villages Lech and Zurs.

Another resort that is well-known for its plethora of party options, St Anton is home to two of the most renowned après destinations in Europe: MooserWirt and Krazy Kangaruh. Laid-back yet suitably energetic, you can expect songs, schnitzels and steins as early as 11am at Krazy Kangaruh (though the main party kicks off around 3.30pm), while MooserWirt – the self-styled ‘baddest bar in Europe’ – offers even more raucous parties at the foot of a tree-lined Tyrolian mountain.

Though these are the two most famed après locations in St Anton, the resort’s reputation has been furthered by the presence of other excellent mountainside and in-town alternatives. Taps is another on-piste bar, providing a less crowded party, and down in town visitors have several choices: Basecamp is a popular choice for the last stop of the afternoon, Bodo’s is a great karaoke spot and Bar Cuba is the best choice for watching sport while sipping more affordable drinks.

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Whistler, Canada

Whistler Blackcomb is Canada’s most famous ski resort

The largest ski resort in North America has a reputation that precedes it. Home to over 250km of slopes and blessed with a particularly long season of high-quality snow, Whistler delivers on the ski as well as the après.

The resort’s official tourism website lists over 50 potential après venues, so you’re unlikely to run out of choice if you want to let loose (or just eat and drink in peace) in this Canadian town.

Most places are located in the town rather than on the mountainside. The Garibaldi Lift Company and Merlin’s Bar offer standard North American-sized portions – if you’ve built up an appetite while skiing – plus the potential for things to get a little more rowdy. Meanwhile, the Mallard Lounge and Black’s Pub give a more easy-going afternoon and evening atmosphere.

For more intense partying, Dusty’s Bar, The Longhorn Saloon and Garfinkel’s (Whistler’s largest club) all boast a good selection of snacks and drinks, daily and weekly events, amazing views and the potential to party until the early hours.

Aspen, USA

Aspen’s location in the Colorado Rockies makes it an enviable skiing destination

This popular resort in the Colorado section of the Rocky Mountains has a ski area comprised of four sections – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass – and features a variety of terrain across its slopes. From the World Cup run on Aspen Mountain to the rugged expert runs in the Highland Bowl, Aspen is especially good for more advanced level skiers.

Though much of the après in Aspen is high-end – there are private bars that charge $1,000 for a week’s membership, for example – there’s still a good mix of leisurely, low-key venues and more high-spirited party places. The Ajax Tavern is a good starting spot thanks to its large mountainside terrace and wide menu, while Jimmy’s puts on regular live blues and swing events. For something decidedly more European, try Cloud 9 (an alpine-style cabin situated on the mountainside).

Belly Up is a livelier venue for anyone looking to party until 2am, while Aspen Art Museum hosts daily events from 5pm until 9pm on its rooftop.

Verbier, Switzerland

An aerial view of Verbier’s New Year’s Eve celebrations

As famed for its challenging runs as it is for its après scene, Verbier is an ideal option for experienced skiers who want dozens of party options after a day its 400km of pistes.

La Rouge – promoted as ‘Ibiza in the snow’ – might be your first stop if you’re after a slightly smarter après vibe (or a long lunch beforehand), while Farinet is a venue for live music, with a live band playing every day of the season.

Bar 1936 and Fer a Cheval are more relaxed mountainside après alternatives that are also cheaper than some of Verbier’s more famed haunts.

Livigno, Italy

Many of Livigno’s resorts are ski-in and ski-out

One of the livelier Italian resorts, Livigno is said to be home to around 150 bars. To add to the good news, the Italian village is also a tax-free resort – a status that goes back to the 16th century – meaning that food, drinks and shopping is cheaper than elsewhere. Its 115km of slopes also cater to all experience levels, from gentle beginners runs to advanced freeride routes.

Miky’s Pub is one of the town’s most atmospheric destinations, where themed parties and long DJ sets are customary, while the more low-key Mikey’s Aperitivo Bar and Tagliede are good choices for a relaxed aperol spritz.

Stalet is the largest venue in the resort, throwing après parties till 8pm. Located at the Carosello gondola, drinking here starts in the early afternoon, and there’s a retractable roof for when things need to move inside. Kosmo is another early starter (around 4pm), housed in a traditional Alpine building and playing all the cheesy hits.

Val d’Isère, France

Val d’Isere is the location of the original Folie Douce

This French resort is among the most famous in the country along with neighbouring Tignes, with several lift-served off-piste routes and a total of 300km of marked runs for all levels. Aside from its excellent ski credentials, it’s a premier après destination too; perhaps unsurprising when you consider it was the site of the first La Folie Douce bar, which opened in 1980.

The Folie is the obvious highlight, offering exquisite views while punters dance on tables on its terrace at 2,400m from 2.30pm onwards.

Other mountainside apres highlights include Cocorico – where live music starts at 3pm and DJs take over until the early evening – and Grand Marnier and Rosee Blanche, which are both more relaxed, quieter options if needed.

The liveliness continues in town, with everthing from sophisticated cocktail bars to 4am-close nightclubs. Dick’s Tea Bar and Bananas have packed dancefloors on most days, Le Petit Danois is known for its great happy hour offerings and B’Bar is a welcome recent addition to the resort with a focus on a laid-back après experience, with its pool tables and dart boards.

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt’s location at the foot of the Matterhorn makes for particular great views at après time

Zermatt is one of the best choices for parties in the most picturesque of settings. Sitting at the foot of the Matterhorn, the town and much of its 360km of slopes, shared with the neighbouring Italian resort of Cervinia, is blessed with unbeatable views of the 4,477m mountain.

From pubs to champagne and wine bars, there’s a real variety to the venues in Zermatt. If you want an afternoon in town, choose Papperla Pub for an early start to the party, or Snowboat for a kind of smarter après. For something a little more intimate, Harry’s Bar is a good choice.

For on-the-mountain partying, Cervo prides itself on its sophistication, added to by the assortment of live acts and DJs and an in-house cigar room. Hennu Stall is a livelier, alcohol-fuelled alternative – more ‘fancy dress and jaegerbombs’ than ‘local craft beer and cigars’.

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