Polly Baker is what you might call a well-seasoned seasonaire. Having swapped out the apres of France for the oom-paa of Austria some years ago, she's perfectly positioned to recount some horrific tales from Mayrhofen's legendary boozing culture.
Apres Ski: French by Name, Though Not by nature.
Sure, I’ve seen topless teens on the tables of La Folie Douce, but since landing a job in an Apres Ski bar and experiencing the dark, unbridled phenomenon they call Apres in Austria, where all usual morals and expectations are left outside on the ski rack, I’ve seen things I’d rather forget.
So much like the humble cul-de-sac I’m taking this fancy French phrase and bending it out of context.
Dictionaries shall henceforth read: Apres-Ski, the amoral twisted universe where ordinarily civilised humans descend from a day on the slopes for some early evening hell-raising.
This is an eye-witness account of Apres Ski, Austrian style.
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Everyone who should never dance on a pole, dancing on a pole... in ski boots
It is a truth universally acknowledged that drunk people harbour a delusional self-confidence for possessing talents in unfamiliar activities. There is also only a certain volume of Jagerbombs an individual can drink before indulging in the further delusion that they are the sexiest human in the bar. These two delusions are self-evident in any bar equipped with a dance pole.
One of these installed in your bar is the source of much entertainment (and injury). Tipsy men, old enough to be my father, who have no doubt studied talented pole dancers with much interest over the years, like to try their hand at it.
With a belly-full of false confidence these senior citizens fail to recall the necessary TALENT pole-dancing might require. i.e. balance (something heavily compromised by schnapps drinking) and grip (something ski-outwear is not usually famed for). The results are less than astounding.
Only the other day I saw a 50 something male up there on the pole, giving it his best to ‘you can leave your hat on’ when his new schnapps-assisted confidence suggest he try that sexy upside-down manoeuvre he’d seen performed by scantily clad women in his local Spearmint Rhino.
So with great effort and commitment he swung is rental ski boots wildly upwards in an attempt to grasp the pole. The plastic to metal combo provided little friction to curb the burdening force of gravity and down he slid with speed, straight onto his head. His only saviour was the fact that he did indeed ‘leave his hat on’, or rather, his helmet.
The Unrelenting Desire to Gain Altitude
We’ve all been there. For some reason another kickback of alcohol use is the ill-advised desire to stand upon tall things. Dancing on wobbly three legged bar stools, ropey benches mounted on slippery snow, bar tops doused in alcoholic lubricant... all questionable activities when you have full body awareness but with the added challenge of being a balance impaired drunk, things can get interesting.
I recall a bar in Val Thorens that when the route to the bar was fully blocked by peoples dancing feet upon it, the staff poured a flammable liquid (probably the paint-stripper vodka they served) over both the bar and the unsuspecting shoes of the dancing drunks and promptly set fire to it. Sick genius I think you’ll agree.
Last week a schnapps riddled punter at my work took his desire for altitude to the next level and fastened himself to the rafters via his novelty braces, just dangling there... like a child in a baby bouncer.
Fortunately - this phenomenon is often followed by complete submission to the forces of gravity - see below:
The Bent Moral Compass of the ‘Entertainment’ Employees.
Now thankfully the bar I work in doesn’t provide entertainment. (Although I think you’ll agree the customers are enough). However, the notorious ICE BAR in Mayrhofen is home to one of the most infamous seasonaire jobs going: the Dancing Ice Bear. In short, getting paid to sweat beer from the pores of a very unconvincing Polar Bear suit all night every night. They also have openings for guys dressed as schoolgirls.
But without doubt the most disturbing Apres Ski entertainment I have witnessed was on a day trip to Kitzbuhel. It was a small on-mountain umbrella bar with the promise of ‘Sexy Ladies’. Well naturally we couldn’t resist. They were dressed as cowgirls (obviously). The two of them pranced around for a little while on the small circular bar before engaging their audience with free alcohol.
‘Free’ might be an overstatement, as the methods necessary for ingesting the liquid, though perhaps ‘cheap’ may leave permanent emotional scarring. Pouring it down their cleavage before swiftly shoving an unsuspecting customer’s face directly in their breasts to lap it up like a cat was one method, another was pouring it into their own mouth before producing a projectile squirt of translucent fluid in a well-practised trajectory at the open mouth of a stranger.
I left in the same guilt-ridden awe you experience from watching an episode of TOWIE or Geordie Shore.
If you’ve ever been to a proper mountain bar in Austria, and I’m talking old wooden shack run by a pleasant farmer’s wife who gives you a free schnapps with everything you order, you’ve probably encountered the excellent, and totally safe bar game, involving a stump of wood, a hammer and several 6inch nails.
A step up from Jenga, this game also requires coordination and a steady hand. The aim is to whack your 6inch nail into the wood, in as few hits as possible... with the wrong end of a hammer. Fingers, thumbs and passers-by beware, a sore loser armed with a hammer is be a bad combination!
Total Immersion in Terrible Music.
There’s something familiar about this song... oh yes. It’s a badly translated and poorly arranged version of the Kings of Leon, Sex is on Fire.
Apres Ski music in Austria is something else. It comprises of a thumping, oompa-oompa beat (excellent for stomping your ski-boots to), lyrics more basic than your average nursery rhyme and usually with corresponding ‘dance moves’.
It’s like going back in time to a Year 6 Disco, but where all the kids are so high on blue Smarties they can no longer co-ordinate the moves to ‘Saturday Night’. But that’s just it. It is a kids disco for grown-ups with the added bonus of alcohol and a seemingly lawless attitude towards what is deemed ‘appropriate’ behaviour.
Everyone is on holiday and no one gives a fuck. The result is complete regression and a total immersion. Just as a kid would be focused on nailing that clap and turn manoeuvre in the Macarena, these fully fledged adults are totally at one with Schatzi Schenk mir ein Photo, and I’ll be damned if I’m getting in their way.