How Mountain Party Spots are Redefining Après Ski This Year

Goodbye, shot ski. Hello ice bar.

Montgenèvre, France
Montgenèvre, France | MikeDotta / shutterstock
Montgenèvre, France | MikeDotta / shutterstock

The slopes may be the territory of skiers and snowboarders, but in mountain towns around the world, the ski lodge is the great equalizer: A warm, cozy gathering place where drinks flow, fires roar, and athletes and bar flies come together for a little warmth. A buzzy aprés ski is an essential winter experience, whether you’ve put on ski boots or not. 

As we approach ski season amid a pandemic, things on the slopes—like everywhere else—are going to be drastically different. And while socially distancing on a wide-open mountain slope is certainly doable, the prospect of kicking back in a crowded ski lodge seems less certain. Will there even be an aprés ski scene this season in the age of COVID?

While it’s unlikely you’ll be ripping shot-skis are a pounding post-ski party, some resorts and restaurants are ensuring that there will indeed be a 2020/21 aprés scene... even if it’s a little more subdued.  

Many resorts across the US are taking advantage of outdoor space by constructing slopeside tents or makeshift buildings where diners can have ample drinking and dining room. California’s Big Bear Mountain Resort, for example, is getting inventive with repurposed shipping containers that will be used as dining venues, as well as the addition of outdoor mobile dining joints like food-trucks. 

In Telluride village, heated glass “houses” will be assembled to allow for private meals, and gondolas are also set to be retrofitted to allow for dining experiences from different restaurants around town.  

Sheldon Chalet

Beer gardens and bars, too, are being reimagined. Jackson Hole’s much-loved local aprés ski spot Bodega—which pours famous booze-spiked ‘sloshies—is unveiling an outdoor tented beer garden serving up grilled brats and local craft beers.

At Park City, Utah gastro-distillery High West Saloon, skiers can slide straight into an outdoor ice bar and try the distillery’s many whiskeys or warm up with a Whisky Cider.

To-go offerings are also poised to take the party to the outdoors. Teton Village’s Il Villaggio Osteria, an Italian restaurant inside the Hotel Terra, will have aprés packages of beer, wine, and charcuterie.

At Colorado’s private Cimarron Club ski resort, staff will drop a meal at a chosen picnic table in the middle of the Rocky Mountain wilderness. The same goes for Alaska’s Sheldon Chalet in Denali National Park: No matter where skiers land, guides from the hotel will carve out an ‘ice bar’ in the snow and serve guests warm sangria and wine.

The Little Nell in Aspen has recently transformed their wine bar, where sommeliers will serve patrons over 50 wines by the glass, along with cheese and charcuterie. Here, partygoers will be seated in private booths (up to eight people per table) where they can groove to music played by a DJ behind a glass encasement.

So no, your aprés-buzz isn’t a thing of the past. It’s just evolved. And in many cases, the changes could help you connect to the mountain even more.

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Mary Holland is a contributor for Thrillist.