The 10 best resorts for après-ski

Advice

Traditional foot-stomping après-ski might be falling out of favour for some, but for the majority of skiers and snowboarders hitting the slopes is only part of the joy of going on a ski holiday. Getting the most conducive après-ski scene is often almost as important as finding the right slopes.

While spas, ice skating, ziplining and snowmobile adventures are growing in popularity, here we’re talking about resorts with a lively nightlife scene, brimming with places to celebrate a successful day on the slopes. And luckily there is plenty of variety, whether sophisticated wine bars, club nights or rowdy dancing-on-tables in your ski wear.

Austrian resorts are famed for foot-stomping but friendly après that starts on the slopes in the afternoon – think everything from convivial times in rustic mountain huts to clashing Steins and schnapps in lively bars. In France, the country that gave après ski its name, there is remarkably little of that kind of vibe – but the ever-expanding Folie Douce, born in Val d’Isère, and expanded to other resorts including Méribel and Morzine, is among those redressing the balance. Other resorts such as Zermatt in Switzerland or Courmayeur in Italy benefit from an extensive variety of bars and late-night entertainment, while going out in duty-free Andorra is especially good value.

Here’s our pick of the best resorts for a lively time après ski, whatever the scene you’re looking for this winter.


St Anton, Austria

Best for experts

The ability to handle the slopes like a god and the bar like the devil makes or breaks a stay in what can be regarded as one of the top resorts in Europe for serious skiers and snowboarders. The core of St Anton’s village is just one main street – pedestrianised during the day – lined with some fine, old hotels and inns, sports shops and cafés.

In between the village and the top of the Valluga cable car, the highest lift, lies an array of runs that vary from the moderately demanding to the just plain wicked – often with waist-high moguls to boot. Snow cover is reliable and the main action takes place on the Valluga side of the village, on and above the slopes of the Gampen and Galzig sectors. The Rendl ski area on the other side of the valley is more benign (and sunnier). The altogether more friendly slopes of Lech and Zürs are also included in the regional Arlberg lift pass, as well as the slopes of Warth-Schröcken on the far side of Lech. The off-piste offered by the ski area is one of the major attractions, and an excursion to Zürs off the back of the Valluga is a must for any expert.



mooserwirt


The Mooserwirt is one of the world’s most famous après venues


Credit: mooserwirt

St Anton is as serious about its raucous nightlife as it is about its on-slope action. Half a dozen bars sit alongside the home run, most famous among them the Krazy Kanguruh and the Mooserwirt. The Mooserwirt usually makes the most noise, with an afternoon show that kicks off with a blast of The Final Countdown. Later, usually by 8pm, the music on the mountain stops, and any remaining customers slide down the last 500m of choppy piste. The party reignites later in bars, pubs and clubs in the village centre. Bar Cuba is a good option for lurid cocktails, and Basecamp, at the foot of the slopes, has live music. For late dancing there’s the sophisticated Q Club. Find more of the best bars in St Anton in our guide.

Where to stay

Located at the base of the Galzig gondola, the Skihotel Galzig is spitting distance from the centre of town, putting it at the heart of the action. Décor is contemporary minimalism but the owners, the Alber family, give guests a warm welcome.

Rooms from

£
134

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Ischgl, Austria

Best for an older crowd

The old farming village of Ischgl has developed into a sophisticated tourist centre, with smart hotels and cavernous bars offering full-throttle nightlife. The resort is famed for its opening and closing parties featuring some of the world’s most celebrated artists

Ischgl’s altitude (1,400m) combined with sophisticated snowmaking pretty much guarantees snow cover. The main ways up the mountain are by heavyweight gondolas, and the 239km of pistes in Ischgl – the area is linked to Samnaun in Switzerland –  suit intermediates who enjoy covering lots of ground before returning to the resort for some of the wildest table-dancing in the Alps. For some different après, Ischgl has a 7km toboggan run, open two nights a week.



iscghl


Iscghl’s opening and closing concerts attract big name acts


Credit: getty

The clientele here tends to be about 10 years older than the 20-somethings who pack into the Mooserwirt in St Anton. From 3.30pm, the atmosphere in the village and at the foot of the pistes is electric and very good-natured. Arguably the most unusual bar in town is Niki’s Stadl – the music is oompahpah Germanic, but the whole place buzzes. Pacha on the other hand is a little bit of Ibiza in the Tirol, one the après venues run by the Hotel Madlein, and attracting VIP guests. Find more of the best bars in Ischgl in our guide.

Where to stay

Thanks to its elevated position just below the piste, intermediates are able to slide straight to the door of Hotel Val Sinestra, a charming and traditional chalet hotel that best suits guests looking for a small hotel with a homely and personal atmosphere.

Rooms from

£
80

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Méribel, France

Best for a massive ski area

Méribel is a long-standing British favourite. Not just for the seamless piste cruising its well-linked location at the centre of the giant Trois Valleés ski area offers, but also for its attractive chalet-style architecture and very lively après, boosted by a large seasonaire population. And there’s no denying that the thousands of international visitors who migrate here each winter also know how to party in style.

A branch of the French on-mountain après experience La Folie Douce, at the mid-station of the main Saulire gondola, gets loud at 3pm with a DJ and tabletop dancing. The clientele tend to migrate after 5pm to the Rond Point, aka The Ronny, just above the main village, with live bands and a fantastic, up-for-it atmosphere, or to Jack’s Bar, at the foot of the slopes. Later on, La Taverne and the Doron Pub are good warm-up spots for the main clubbing action even later at O’Sullivan’s or Les Saint Pères. For a more chilled atmosphere Barometer, L’Abreuvoir and Copiña offer a seat and low-volume music. Find more of the best bars in Méribel in our guide.



meribel


Méribel is part of the giant Trois Vallées

Méribel‘s local slopes are extensive and mainly intermediate, and give easy access to the rest of the Trois Vallées ski area. To the east are the resorts of Courchevel and La Tania, and to the west, Val Thorens. Méribel’s sheltered setting means the blue and red runs leading into resort are protected by the steep-sided mountains and enjoy more settled weather conditions than in the adjacent broader valleys. It has an unrivalled selection of good-quality, upmarket chalets in its various sectors, but there is also a decent selection of hotels and self-catering apartments.

Where to stay

The centrally located and comfortable Hotel La Chaudanne is right at the foot of the pistes next to the main Chaudanne lifts. There’s a wellness centre with sauna, steam room and hot tubs, and an outdoor pool.

Rooms from

£
235

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Les Deux Alpes, France

Best for reliable snow

Les Deux Alpes has three major assets: guaranteed snow cover, long cruisy runs for intermediates and one of the finest terrain parks in Europe. A top altitude of 3,568m and glacier slopes mean that even in the worst winters for snow visitors are never in serious trouble here. It’s an informal, lively place, with few pretensions but plenty of inexpensive accommodation. And it has some of the most vibrant après in France.



les deux alpes


Les Deux Alpes has a snowsure glacier


Credit: AFP or licensors/JEFF PACHOUD

The mountain’s unusual shape means that some of the most difficult runs are at the bottom, while up on the glacier there are mostly easy blues. As well as intermediates, this is good for beginners, who even during their first week on skis or snowboard can access more terrain here than in other ski areas. Les 2 Alpes Freestyle Land at 2,600m includes a snowpark on the glacier with a half pipe and super pipe. Plus, the off piste in adjoining La Grave is extraordinary.

There arew some 30 bars in town. Pub Windsor claims to have been the first bar to be built when the resort opened and has a welcoming atmosphere, plus a choice of 100 beers and almost as many whiskies. L’Avalanche Club in the lower village of Venosc has been going for the best part of 20 years and is an institution for the late-night crowd. Open from 11.30pm to 6am, it has a mix of dance and house music with themed nights.

Where to stay

Chamois Volant has been skilfully converted into the resort’s smartest rental chalet, with seven ensuite bedrooms and a hot tub on the terrace. It’s well placed for shops, restaurants, and nightlife, while the six-seater Le Diable chairlift is 230m away. Book early as rooms sell fast. From £1,286, with Skiworld.

Banff, Canada

Best for North American adventure

Banff is a jolly tourist town with plenty of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. There are three different ski areas to choose from, each easily accessible by ski bus. Although prices on the ground are not super cheap, a holiday here needn’t cost the earth because tour operators offer great-value packages. That’s because there are a lot of lodgings to meet peak summer demand – the town sits at one end of a scenic drive through mountainous national parks.



banff


Banff is a bustling town full of life

There are more than 100 bars in the town. The après ski lounge at the Juniper Hotel Bistro has great views overlooking Banff. Kick off the evening with a Banff Fog cocktail, which includes vanilla Galliano, Grand Marnier and Earl Grey tea, served hot with cinnamon. Elk & Oarsman kitchen and bar on Banff Avenue is also good for drinks and snacks.

Each of Banff’s three very different ski areas is a free bus ride away. Norquay is only a few minutes’ drive, but tiny, with just 190 acres of terrain including a good nursery area. Sunshine Village, 20 minutes away, is a fair size (3,358 acres), and is known for steep terrain and plenty of snow. Lake Louise, 45 minutes away, is the largest area, with 4,200 acres of terrain – it’s best suited to intermediates and experts.

Where to stay

Four-star Caribou Lodge on the main street is affordably priced, has a warm, homely atmosphere. It also has a fully equipped spa and excellent steak restaurant. 

Rooms from

£
50

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Courmayeur, Italy

Best for an action-packed weekend

This lovely old village at the foot of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, has a relatively small ski area that well suits a weekend visit – it’s close to both Geneva and Turin airports. Courmayeur’s ski area best suits confident intermediates, and there’s also challenging off piste, superb restaurants and lively nightlife.

At the heart of the stylish village is the pedestrianised Via Roma, lined with smart boutiques, enticing bars and restaurants, as well as delicatessen, antique and homeware shops, and busy with immaculately-dressed weekending Italians, lots of whom don’t bother to hit the slopes. The spacious Bar Roma on Via Roma is furnished with comfortable sofas and armchairs. It opens early, closes late and serves a spectacular array of free antipasti at apero time. The back room of the Caffè della Posta has a more low-key ambience, and drinks there also arrive with free antipasti.



courmayeur


Courmayeur offers a more sophisticated nightlife

The main lift from town runs until midnight, allowing time to soak up the sunset and enjoy après drinks at mid mountain. It’s also an option to take the lift up from the town to spend the evening in a choice of mountain restaurants. One of the best is Maison Vieille, which runs a snowmobile taxi service to and from the cable car. Later on, ClubHaus 80’s is a 1980s-themed venue, with club nights.

Where to stay

The three-star Hotel Berthod is elegantly designed throughout and is close to the resort’s main lifts. The hotel features a very comfortable communal lounge area, modern bar, hot tub and sauna.

Rooms from

£
85

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Pas de la Casa, Andorra

Best for partying on a budget

While not the most attractive resort, Pas de la Casa, set at a snow-sure 2,100m at one end of the 210km Grandvalira ski area, is famed for value and wild partying. There are shops piled high with low-VAT, duty-free goods – alcohol, cigarettes, perfume and electronics – as well as drinks at cheap prices and free shots in a wide range of bars, clubs and restaurants, most located close to each other.

The popular Kamikaze Surf bar on the slopes is where the party often starts and continues. The Mazaya Igloo terrace, also on the slopes, is open till late, with a music stage. In town, the London Underground-themed Underground also gets going early, with shots galore, DJs and free popcorn. La Perla Negra is a pirate-themed bar with big screens, DJs and pool. 



pas de la casa


Pas de la Casa is kind on the purse strings


Credit: Gonzalo Azumendi/Gonzalo Azumendi

Most of the Grandvalira ski area is perfect for intermediate cruising – almost two thirds of pistes are red or blue. The slopes above Pas de la Casa are more suited to confident intermediates. The ski area as a whole has embraced street food; the the Petit Isard food van based in the Abelletes parking area above Pas has a good line up of burgers and hot dogs as well as tapas. 

Where to stay

The comfortable Hotel Caribou has a games room and sauna and is in a quiet location 200m from the slopes. From £726, including lift pass, with Sunweb.

Rooms from

£
44

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Saalbach, Austria

Best for varied nightlife

Saalbach is a 90-minute drive from Salzburg airport and shares one of the most sophisticated lift systems in Austria with neighbouring Hinterglemm and Fieberbrunn. The combined ski area is one of the biggest in Austria, and there are very few slow lifts.

Saalbach has a charming centre with traditional cafés, lively bars and clubs, designer clothing boutiques and a clutch of smart four-star hotels. Partying here starts early in numerous piste side bars and finishes late – running the gammut from sophisticated cocktails to dancing and live music from early afternoon till the small hours, to dodgy pole-dancing clubs. Berger Alm under the Magic chairlift is a great place for a sunny day, with music blasting and a two-for-one Happy Hour from 3.30pm, all followed by an easy blue run home. The biggest, glitziest nightclub is Castello at the Saalbacherhof hotel in the village. Find more of the best bars in the resort in our guide.



apres


The party starts by the pistes in Saalbach


Credit: MIRJA GEH PHOTOGRAPHY

The villages are at the centre of a magical ring of 2,000m peaks. These form a natural circuit of pistes that can be navigated in either direction to give more adventurous intermediates a sense they are actually going somewhere each day. Plus there are over 60 mountain restaurants in the ski area to make the journey even more pleasurable.

Where to stay

The centrally located four-star Berger’s Sporthotel in Saalbach’s old town has a fun atmosphere in its two bars, plus regular dance and Elvis nights.

Rooms from

£
132

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Sauze d’Oulx, Italy

Best for good value good times

Sauze d’Oulx had a reputation in the 1970s and 1980s as a sort of Magaluf with moguls, where pub was more important than piste, and many of its strong British youth following never made it on to the snow before midday. These days the charming Italian village is back on form, and the party atmosphere never went away. Prices here are roughly a third of those in premier French resorts like Courchevel and Val d’Isère, so eating out and entertainment needn’t cost a fortune.

Sauze has some of Italy’s best pistes, with undulating terrain linking to the resorts of Sansicario, Sestriere and, across the French border, to Montgenèvre and the rest of the Milky Way – a vast, linked area with 400km of pistes. The local slopes are spread out across a wooded mountainside. At the heart of these runs is Sportinia – a mid-mountain collection of restaurants, hotels and a nursery area.



sauze d'oulx


Sauze d’oulx has some of Italy’s finest pistes


Credit: clamon

The village has an attractive, cobbled centre, though most of the resort is made up of modern, block-like buildings. Après begins with live music at Capanna Mollino in the Sportinia area, and moves on to the Village Café-bar on the home run into the resort. Other lively places to try include Ghost bar. For a quieter drink, the Caffe della Seggiovia or Enoteca Il Lampione wine bars are popular. Later on, the action moves to Moncrons bar. 

Where to stay

La Torre was designed to allow in lots of natural light and give wonderful views all round, and modern art decorates the bedrooms and public rooms. Its impressive wellness centre next door includes a small pool, sauna, steam room and gym  (charges apply). The hotel is just outside the centre, 500m from a chairlift but the hotel has a free minibus service.

Rooms from

£
20

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Zermatt, Switzerland

Best for a traditional Alpine scene

Après that starts on the mountain in mid-afternoon has arguably been going on in Zermatt as long as anywhere, in the cute huts that dot the lower slopes of the Matterhorn sector – bars such as the Hennu Stall at the bottom of the Matterhorn sector and Cervo at the bottom of Sunnegga have live bands. In town there’s also a fun and lively night-time scene. However, live music and welcoming, lederhosen-clad staff are likely to be accompanied by high prices.

For town-centre après or pre-dinner drinks, there’s the atmospheric Harry’s Skibar at the Matterhorn Lodge hotel, near the river at the bottom of Hinterdorfstrasse, a picturesque street lined with ancient, rickety chalets. The Papperla Pub is packed with a young crowd après ski and sometimes has live music, and the traditional Hexenbar just below Hotel Zermatterhof on main street is a good place for people-watching. Later on, Zermatt has something for everybody, from squeezing into the panelled Elsie’s Bar for a glass of wine (and maybe oysters) to having eardrums assaulted in one of the several venues in the Hotel Post – the place to go dancing is the Broken Bar Disco. Find more of the best bars in Zermatt in our guide.



zermatt


Zermatt is one of the most iconic Alpine villages


Credit: Leander Wenger

Zermatt’s varied, extensive slopes linked to those of Cervinia in Italy and other attractions include testing off piste, heliskiing on tap, quality mountain restaurants, a characterful, car-free village and stand-out views of the Matterhorn. A spectacular gondola lift to Klein Matterhorn at almost 4,000m has large cabins and panoramic views.

Where to stay

One of the oldest hotels in Zermatt, the Gornergrat Dorf is in the middle of town, close to the train station and the Gornergrat lift. Bedrooms are simple but cosy, and the hotel has a sauna and heated boot room.

Rooms from

£
104

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Booking.com rates above are guide prices per person per night, please note that packages can differ across accommodation. Please check the properties’ websites for further information on what’s included. Unless stated otherwise, package prices are per person, based on two sharing a double or twin room, half-board,  for seven nights, including flights and transfers.

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