It may translate from the French to “after” but probably the best definition of après is sheer bliss. It comes after a long day that typically starts by waking up to catch the first ski lift chair and then spending the day out in the elements, braving the cold and variable conditions to ski or snowboard till your legs turn to jelly and your ego is swollen with bragging rights or—hopefully—a need to just chill in a warm locale with a trusty beverage and reflect on all the fun you had. Most lifts stop running around 4:30, which makes the ski resorts feel like they’re in on the simple pleasures of a few happy hour drinks after all that cold, hard-charging powder play. But après shouldn’t mean haute or fancy or refined. Our favorite spots swap fancy attire for beat-up ski clothes, ski boots clanking on iron grate flooring, TVs displaying ski porn videos, and a robust list of local, craft beer. Here are some of the best in the United States.
One of the few family-owned resorts remaining in the Lower 48, Alta is for skiers who eschew amenities for the simple love of skiing—and that means no snowboarders allowed. The slope-side Peruvian Lodge carries over the no-frills vibe of the resort itself. The rooms don’t have TVs, taking their inspiration from European-style lodges that lean into community over white tablecloth service. And even if you’re not bedding down at the lodge, it’s still prime for a few drinks after the lifts close. The decades-old building was once used as a nurse’s barracks during World War II, and the après scene is communal, casual, and undeniably cozy thanks to roaring fireplaces, glass windows overlooking the slopes, and a smartly curated list of beverages.
Colorado’s highest-elevation ski resort also boasts the longest ski season in the state, with a closing date that typically stretches to July. And while the real scene of Arapahoe Basin’s après party takes place on The Beach—the local term for the BBQ tailgate party that has organically developed over the years in the main resort parking lot—the Sixth Alley Bar and Grill wins when the weather makes The Beach a touch too arctic. Located at the resort base, the bacon bloody marys are legendary. But, as you’d expect from the Rocky Mountain State, the beer list is tops, matched only by the menu and the undeniably welcome, convivial atmosphere that you’re all in on the best damn secret in the Rockies.
The only ski-in/ski-out whiskey distillery in the country, High West Saloon (located at the base of the aptly named Quittin’ Time lift on Park City Mountain Resort) was the first whiskey distillery in Utah and today makes some of the country’s best whiskeys, vodkas, and ryes. And while their distribution map throughout the country looks like a winning Risk board, experiencing the Saloon shouldn’t be missed. The maze of an establishment includes a big, rowdy main room that often hosts live music, as well as a few smaller rooms with high-top tables and bars armed with some of the region’s best mixologists. The food is just as good as the beers, whiskey, and cocktails, and the retail store is the only location in the state where you can buy bottles of booze on Sundays. It’s located within stumbling distance of Park City’s main drag, and the scene is hopping almost every night, especially during peak seasons. One small caveat: after July 1, 2019, it’s only 21 and over.
During the day, this is a choice place to score a lunch of classic Swiss fondue, raclette, and apple strudel on the sun porch, which takes full advantage of the restaurant’s location at the top of the Top of the Cloud Nine Ski Lift. But come après, the hedonists descend. Expect ski boot dance parties on the sun porch, while inside the cozy wood-panel interior quickly transforms into full-on bacchanalia, complete with bottles of Champaign sprayed over the dancing crowd, who have typically stripped down to their base layers. But if the scene feels like a bit too much, you can always snag a can of Aspen Brewing beer and watch as the party-goers attempt to clip in and ski down; Cloud Nine is, after all, on the mountain and not at the base, and requires skiing or riding your way down (unless patrol takes pity and helps you, that is).
Just how low-frills is Sun Valley’s Apples Bar and Grill They don’t even bother to have a website. What they do have, however, is pure ski authenticity—as well as great food and an expansive list of beers from Idaho and other mountain-centric craft brewers. The iconic resort has hosted legions of Olympians, as proven by the signed posters lining the walls, which stand naturally alongside racy vintage Lange Ski Boot adverts. On warm days, the party shifts from the cramped confines onto the wider porch, where bands have played on makeshift stages and the entire scene is fueled from a hearty day on the slopes. If you want to rub shoulders with legit athletes and no pretense, this is the spot.
With only ten percent of the designated runs dedicated to beginners, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has aptly earned the rep for being a serious mountain for serious skiers. But everyone is equal at the Mangy Moose, one of the thrown-keepers in the U.S. après scene, not only because the crowd is welcoming, the place is large, and the menu of both food and drink is expansive. But also because legions of touring bands make a point to stop mid-wherever to put on a show. Think smoked prime rib off their new steakhouse menu, loads of regional craft beer, and an overall vibe that will likely tempt you to stay out longer than you should. Thankfully it’s relatively close to the resort’s array of lodging options, and the town of Jackson is only a short shuttle ride away.
When it comes to terrain, the rule of Squaw Valley Resort is simple: if you can see it, you can ski it. No wonder it’s arguably fostered the birth of the U.S. freestyle/all-mountain ski scene. Located within the main pedestrian village, that takes-all-comers vibe carries through at Le Chamois. The food is typical resort fare: pizzas and wings and soups and salads. But the beer list is tops, as it should be for a California bar. You can even buy a variety of pre-purchase beer passes; $80 gets you 20 pints of domestic beer, $100 ups it to premium, and $120 gives you ten pitchers of domestic brew, and they can all be shared (if you’re feeling generous) with others in your party. And the party isn’t only inside; Le Chamois also has a huge deck that sprawls out on the village for parties that often inspire the restaurant to extend its closing time well past the official seven-o’clock last call.