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Top 10: Après-Ski Scenes

Done with the slopes? Hot night spots and ways to unwind await you
Enjoy an après-ski warm up after a day on the slopes with a spiked hot chocolate on a chalet sundeck.
Enjoy an après-ski warm up after a day on the slopes with a spiked hot chocolate on a chalet sundeck.Jason Dewey / Getty Images file
/ Source: Sherman's Travel

Enjoy an après-ski warm up after a day on the slopes with a spiked hot chocolate on a chalet sundeck.

Peak ski season is in full swing, with a winter wonderland welcoming enthusiastic snow-lovers to carve out many of the world’s best slopes. But the exhilaration needn’t end when the pistes close: Let your hair down under that ski hat and discover around the globe, including two Colorado Rockies resorts that cater to both the refined and the rowdy, a glamorous casino-dotted ski town straddling the Nevada and California borders, and a Canadian gem that pulsates with live music and good times. Or, check out the eastern seaboard at Killington, where you’re guaranteed to have a "killer" time. Of course, no list would be complete without a sprinkling of alpine villages — we're keen on four evergreen hotspots that have provided tried-and-true night-time fun to generations of skiers. And, for those of you who refuse to let summer signal your last descent, we’ve even thrown in one South American ski town where you can get your fix between June and September.

Aspen is a magnet for Hollywood stars, B-listers, scenesters, want-to-be-seensters, and the just plain curious. Of course, the unifying factor that pulls them all together is the spectacular mountain scenery, providing serious skiers limitless opportunities to schuss their days away. What keeps them lingering well into the night, though, is the glitzy and glamorous après-ski scene that unfolds here each evening, animating the charmingly antiquated buildings of this former silver-mining town (a quirky authenticity that sets it apart from the Rockies’ other chi-chi ski mecca of Vail). Take in a concert under the crystal chandeliers of the Wheeler Opera House, built in 1889; delight your palate at one of the fabulous restaurants; or swap ski war stories over a cocktail.

If you’re hankering to ski some powder-packed slopes in the height of summer, head south to Argentina’s premier ski destination of Bariloche — by mid-June, temperatures here have dropped to around 30° F, perfect for maintaining a cover of snow on Cerro Catedral Mountain. Besides the fact that conditions include over 42 miles of trails and lift tickets are cheap – we’re talking less than $20 for adults — snow bunnies who make the trek down south can revel in an array of nightlife, dining, outdoor activities, and casino action that has made Bariloche the second-most-visited destination in Argentina.

Don’t expend all of your energy schussing the slopes surrounding massive Mont Blanc — you’ll need to conserve if you’re going to take part in the exhilarating nightlife that unfolds in this charming mountain town each evening. Chamonix’s reputation as one of the most happening après-ski resorts in the Alps is well-deserved, with a location on the crossroads of France, Italy, and Switzerland that makes it a natural multicultural mecca for serious skiers and serious partiers. Numerous bars and lounges lure ski bunnies away from the pistes with live bands and tempting drink specials, and, with some of the world's finest skiing and luxury chalets, there's plenty of high-brow excitement too, from a fine casino worthy of high-rollers to luxe lounges and classical music recitals.

Nestled beneath the magnificent Dolomite Peaks, the picturesque alpine village of Cortina is one of Europe’s most glamorous winter wonderlands, attracting international jet-setters since hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics. Although fairly calm in comparison to the après-ski scenes at some of the other top peaks on this list, this sophisticated mountain resort’s nighttime scene is no less noteworthy. After schussing down 90 miles of trails, well-heeled Italians, dressed to the nines, parade through the village after dinner, hitting up the swankiest spots for digestifs and cocktails.

A nod also must go to this East Coast winter favorite, where legions of skiers and snowboarders enjoy snow-filled action at the base of the mountain. Indeed, while Vermont’s largest ski resort lacks quaint alpine charm, the slew of restaurants, bars, lodges, and shops along the eponymous Killington Road more than compensates. Two après-ski staples that everyone must sample — the Wobbly Barn and the Pickle Barrel — are both found here; the former, set in an old barn, hosts a popular happy hour and keeps the night going with live bands and a crowded dance floor, while the latter is a larger nightspot that doubles as a music venue.

Take the Vegas vibe out of the desert and plop it by 14 downhill mountain resorts and you’ll get a feel for the gaming-cum-alpine attitude that is Lake Tahoe. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada range, on the cusp of California and Nevada, this winter retreat offers abundant snow play, neon-lit casinos, and the largest alpine lake in North America. The south shore (on the Nevada side) is where you’ll want to set up camp if you’re looking for the liveliest après-ski scene, since it’s chockfull of casinos, hotels, and mini-malls.

St. Anton (tack on “am Arlberg” for the town’s proper name) prides itself for being one of the birthplaces of skiing and offers up superb alpine pistes, an attractive village of domed churches and cozy chalets, and an after-the-slopes party scene that has simmered to perfection through the generations. The compact pedestrian zone finds dozens of bars, restaurants, and gasthofs serving up schnapps, locally brewed beer, and lots of good fun. In fact, you needn’t look further than the top of the slopes for a little aperitif to kick things off as mountainside huts serve up glühwein (hot red wine spiked with local schnapps).

This Rocky Mountain resort maintains its rowdy mining-town roots (notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here), but adds a splash of 21st-century sophistication to the mix. While sister Rockies towns like Vail and Aspen demand refinement both on and off the slopes, Telluride invites visitors to dig into its rugged slopes and throw one back at a neighborhood pub. But that’s not to say it’s a town without class; when it comes to nightlife, the central district of historic Victorian buildings, since converted into bars, shops, and eateries, is shadowed by the majestic scenery of the San Juan Mountains and makes for a picture-perfect evening out.

Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, situated just a couple of hours from Vancouver, are synonymous with great skiing. But, they’re just as compelling after the sun goes down, when one of the continent’s hottest après-ski scenes kicks into high gear. Mountain views, outdoorsy revelers, and live music greet party-goers after the lifts close (and sometimes earlier); Garibaldi Lift Company, at the base of the Whistler Village gondola, and Merlin’s, at the base of Blackcomb, are but two of the stellar spots to sit back, relax, and start sippin’ straight off the slopes. 

World-class Zermatt has become the quintessential alpine resort, with over 195 miles of trails, luxurious hotels, fashionable boutiques, ritzy restaurants, and a smattering of bars and clubs on and off the mountain. Thanks to strict zoning laws, this fairytale-like Swiss town counts no building taller than a four-story chalet; more charming still are the horse-drawn sleighs and electric taxis that are the town’s sole modes of transport (only doctors are permitted to have a car). Even before the lifts close, skiers can stop off at slope-side pubs, like the Olympia Stübli or Zum See, to warm up with a mug of traditional glühwein (hot spiced wine) before making their way down to the base — of course, one too many of these and the downhill trek becomes all the more challenging!

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