We Eastern skiers think we do "après ski" well, but the root word and the real deal obviously ordinates in the European Alps. Killington's Wobbly Barn, The Matterhorn ski bars at Stowe and Sunday River (not related), and North Conway's Red Parka Pub are all very lively after the lifts stop spinning.
After a trip to Austria last winter, let me say - we are mere amateurs with our après alpine antics. Après ski in Austria, Switzerland and France starts with wine at lunch at a mountainside chalet (if not schnapps shots before), continues at umbrella bars on the slopes, before carrying on at ski bars dancing to a DJ or live band in ski boots.
I have been to the self-proclaimed "worst après ski bar" in the Alps, The Mooserwirt in St Anton where I witnessed post-powder partying in a different league (ok I did partake - research). The Mooserwirt rocks every afternoon from 3-8pm with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of skiers drinking shots and steins, dancing in ski boots to the tunes of DJ Gerhardt. It's a wild winter scene. And that's not the only crazy ski bar! Just across the ski slope is the Krazy Kanguruh, or KK to those in the know, with more hopping après ski - owned by world champion ski racer Mario Matt.
The best and worst aspects of both these St Anton ski bars is that they are ski in ski out. The ski in part is cool - click out of your ski bindings and drink beer with a view of St Anton's village 200 yards down the snowy trail. But imagine the ski out, skiing those finally 20 turns after drinking for four hours! We enjoyed our après, then retreated to the sophisticated Mooser Hotel (same owner, same chalet - but so much more subdued, even spa-like on the hotel side) for a gourmet dinner in the slopeview restaurant, where we watched a few wasted skiers make their way, and their wipeouts, back to the village. It was like viewing highlight reels of Austrians' funniest home videos gone vertical.
An awesome high altitude bar in Austria is the panoramic Mountaintop Star at Obergurgl - it takes three lift rides to reach the 10,111' summit lodge, where the bartender told us, "Sorry, we don't serve food, just drinks!" It's a long ski down after those libation.
If this Austrian après ski sounds enviable, St Anton tourism officials might disagree. They have introduced a volunteer but suggested no-ski-boots-after-8pm policy, fed up with drunk skiers stumbling around their pretty alpine village after dark in full ski attire. So bars must close and send the crazies home by 8pm. The hope is that the après-ski crowd will go back to their St Anton hotels, remove their stinky ski boots and ski togs, shower, sober up, then patronize the village's restaurants for a satiating dinner before sleep, and skiing the amazing Alps again the next day. #SkierProblems
Photos of St Anton and Obergurgl Austria by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.