For many, Après has long been a legendary part of a snowboard trip. It normally lures you in around 4pm with a casual jug of beer and before you know it you're knocking back the Jägers, dancing more enthusiastically than you thought yourself capable of to euro-pop and laughing in the faces of skiers as they attempt to clamber on tables in their silly boots.
This might sound like an impossible task after a punishing day on the mountain, but the saving grace of après is that it usually releases you from its clinches at around 9pm - plenty of time to shake off the crimes from the night before and still hit first lifts.
Whether you're looking for a few sophisticated Vin Chaudes in a French local or you want to stomp on the rule book and keep the party going 'til 4am, here's our pick of the best European resorts for après.
Val dIsere, France
The town is full of good-looking people spending daddy’s money, but don’t let this put you off: there are plenty of bars to choose from and the place deserves its party reputation. The Mountain Echo is a free weekly piece of tat, but it does have listings for live music, events and special deals.
Between 3-5pm, if you're up for being sprayed with champagne while dancing on a table then head for the Folie Douce. This is a crazy outdoor daytime ‘nightclub’ on the slopes – although be aware that the drink prices are extortionate. In town there are loads of bars. The Morris pub is good for live music and has a sun terrace in spring. Hidden away opposite the ESF office is the Bluenote, which is a small friendly bar packed with seasonaires. If you want to watch sport then head to the Pacific bar – it's a bit of a dive but has loads of screens, reasonably priced beer and also cider on tap. Le Petit Danois is a low-ceilinged hangout packed with hot scandis, and later on the Saloon bar gets busy with sweaty teenagers fuelled by their lethal jugs of long island. And if you're still able, there are four nightclubs to choose from, with Dick's Tea Bar being the favourite with the Brits.
Val Thorens, France
The 360 Degree bar and La Folie Douce (son of the famous mountain bar in Val d’Isère) are open-air clubs that gets the party started early on the pistes. After that, revellers stagger and slide back into town, with the majority of Brits ending in up in the Frog and Roast Beef, which has a pretty good claim to being the highest pub in Europe. The Red Fox is another good hangout for happy hour. There are so many bars in this road it can be hard to choose, but if you fancy a bit more of a Dutch or Swedish ambience try the Viking, the Tango, or Café Snesko. O’Connells has a quieter atmosphere, and it’s worth checking out the Rhum Box, with its vast array of (yes) flavoured rums, for something different. If all this choice isn’t enough to while away the wee hours you can always move on to the Malaysia, Le Baramix or The Underground, where you can keep going till it’s time to hit the slopes again.
Les Deux Alpes, France
The setting of the town is a match for any in the Alps, but like many French resorts, the architecture is a bit of a mess, with its mix of 70’s apartment blocks and wood clad hotels. However, there are loads of off-slope services, including a cinema, bowling alley, sports complex and an outdoor climbing wall. It is a busy package tour destination so expect a lot of tourist junk shops, but there are a couple of decent snowboard shops too. The nightlife goes off seven nights a week, with things starting early and finishing late. 'Smokey Joes', near the main gondola station, is good for a beer after the slopes, and it has a big screen for the football games. There’s the obligatory Yeti Bar too, but the real place to go is Smithy’s, which gets messy later on. The Red Frog is a friendly Brit haunt with free wi-fi, and Pub Le Windsor is a great little bar with a massive whisky menu. L’Avalanche and L’Opéra are the places to head in the wee hours - if you can still stand.
There are a few ways to party Courchevel style - from fur coats and Michelin-starred restaurants, to eclectic bars with live music and DJ’s. However due to the location of the different villages, nightlife is a little spread out. In Le Praz the best bar is currently the Drop Inn. The Cave des Lys wine bar is also a nice local spot with modern chalet décor and a great atmosphere. In 1550 the Taverna is good for a pint, while L'Escourchevel is great for live music. The Funky Fox in 1650 is the major party bar of the whole area and is open til 4am. Also check out the Chalet-hotel Les Avals or the Bubble, a bar which closely resembles an airport departure lounge but is often a meeting point for the Brits.
1850 can be livelier. The snowboard shop-cum bar ‘Prend ta Luge et Tire-toi’ is the local rider meeting spot. It’s busiest after dinner with DJ’s and live music. The Milk bar is reasonably priced, while the Kalico and the Coyote Club are both great for dancing with chalet girls wearing pearl earrings or boys with bad rugby tops. If you are looking for something a little more upmarket (or have drunk yourself rich) then try blagging your way past the bouncers in Le Mangeoire to rub shoulders with the rich and famous.
Chamonix has a reputation for good nightlife. Unlike other resorts where all you can find are nightclubs playing cheesy music, there are a few real gems here – assuming you still have the energy after riding!
Soul Food is a smallish bar run by two French brothers who really know how to create a fun and friendly atmosphere. Specialising in jazz, funk and soul music, it’s a great place for a boogie though they do pack people in and it can sometimes feel a little claustrophobic. As with most places in the valley, the bar closes at 2am. After 2am you can make your way to Le Tof, which is traditionally a gay bar but is really good fun for all. They play cheesy music you just love to dance to because you’re so drunk at this point of the night. Food wise, Le Moustache et Filles offers fantastic, reasonably priced dishes and vintage ski décor, while Midnight Express and Belugas are THE place for late-night monster sarnies.
Don't be fooled by it's distinctly average appearance. Mutzig at Robbo's is potent.
Morzine town is lively and has a good selection of bars. Coming off the hill, Bar Robinsons, or ‘Robbo's’, is a popular hangout for seasonnaires and snowboarders; it's only open from four ‘til eight, but since the only lager they have on tap is double-strength firewater known as Mutzig, four hours is more than enough time to make the walk back to your accommodation interesting.
The Dixie Bar is close to the centre and has a familiar English feel, with good bands playing; they serve until 2am. The Cavern bar is central, also with a mainly English clientele. It’s open until 2am with live music or DJs on most nights. If you still don’t want to sleep then head to Opera, which only closes at 5am.
Fridays are always lively and Wednesday is seasonaires day off – on these nights, one of the best places to head to is the Tremplin bar at the bottom of the Pleney lift in Morzine, it really goes off with regular DJ’s and live bands.
Being way up in the mountains, Avoriaz's nightlife is self-contained. The cablecar that snakes up the cliff from Morzine stays open late enough that you can sink a few après beers in the valley and still make it back to your bed. Just make sure you don’t miss the last one, as it’s a long old walk – right up a sheer cliff! Up in ‘Avo’ itself, there are several bars with good tunes and plenty of beer flowing throughout the night. It's best to ask a local if there's anything's going on, as there are quite often guest DJ's in town.
On the way down from the mountain the Sonnblick bar is a good place to wait for the slopes to quieten, and the Philips bar in Innerwald gets pretty lively. At the foot of the slopes, Marco’s bar has mushroomed in size and is a safe bet. The Kuckuck is okay, but the undisputed king of après is the Schrim Umbrella Bar; literally squeeze yourself in and join the party! The Alm Rausch gets pretty crazy and is always packed with the maddest sort of Dutchmen. But there are so many bars to checkout around the Giggijoch, and we can’t possibly list them all here. Fire & Ice is rammed until it closes until 3am, and the multi-bar and club Bierhimml is heaving at weekends – rammed full of moody teenagers who’ve come up from Innsbruck. It’s worth remembering if only for the top kebabs you can get at 2am. There are a few strip clubs open until 5am – Hasenhütte and Rodelhütte are at opposite ends of the village, and Mirage is behind Die Alm. And if your bed still isn’t beckoning you then the Kühstall is open until the morning sun starts shining.
If you don’t like your euro-pop music and being shoe-horned into a bar, then you’ll be missing one of Ischgl’s major highlights. The village is pretty compact and you’ll get to know the main street, which runs from one end to the other, pretty quickly. Après is full-on, and kicks off early. The Schatzi Bar in Hotel Elizabeth next to the Pardatschgratbahn is pumping by 3pm. Head inside for the Pacha girls doing an early shift dancing on the bar. For classic Austrian après, head down the road to Nikis Stadl which really has to be experienced to be believed.
In the main village next to the piste, the huge wooden Trofana Alm is après ski on acid, and nearby Silvretta Platz has yet more bars. The Kuhstall is the largest and liveliest of these, and never really stops until it closes at 2am. Opposite that is Fire & Ice which plays to a much younger crowd. The Allegra, which does great cocktails and food, is a lot more chilled, and tends to be where the locals hangout. The Guxa cigar bar, the Golden Eagle and the Kiwi Bar are also more relaxed places to drink.
Things keep going until it’s time to hit the slopes again. The Pacha nightclub under the uber-trendy Hotel Madlein is nice-looking but full of blokes (mostly Russians) throwing money around. There’s also a Coyote-Ugly-style lap-dancing bar adjoining. The Arena nightclub under the Trofana Royal hotel only gets going late, so early doors squeeze into the Posthörnd'l located under the Hotel Post.
St Anton, Austria
St Anton is an attractive town, and most of the action is located on or just off the main pedestrianised street. There are plenty of fancy hotels and money floating around, and recently there has been a surge in cool boutique style hotels; however it still manages to retain a good balance without becoming too poncey.
Après ski in St Anton is the thing of legend – as long as you like it Austrian style and starting halfway up the mountain. Descending on Run 1, just before it meets with Run 21, take a look at the Senn Hütte. Next stop is the Heustadl for some more traditional live music après ski. From here traverse left onto the Red 21 and head to the Krazy Kangaroo or the (slightly more chilled) Taps bar next door. Descend and get back onto the piste you'll find the almighty Mooserwirt. Lock your board up or drop it in the cloakroom and squeeze yourself into the ensuing mayhem. Chances are it’ll be dark by the time you need to ride down that last bit of the piste – best of luck!
At the bottom of the Galzigbahn the Anton Bar is a nice respite from the après ski and has snowboard movies playing on the big screens. On and just off the main street you’ll find a good number of bars, starting with the Piccadilly which has a covers singer every evening until 8pm and then re-opens as a nightclub later. The Kandahar does good food and has a nightclub open until 4am, Bobos is the place for a taco and tequila, and Bar Cuba is popular hangout among seasonnaires. Scottys Bar is an old classic, and tend to run a few drink specials.
Mayrhofen partying is a mix of the traditional Austrian and the traditional British – but it’s all completely bonkers. The traditional Austrian après ski is handled nicely by the Ice Bar, which is directly next to the bottom of the Penkenbahn. This place is already rammed by 4pm with plenty of Austrian, German and Dutch revellers, all fuelled on jagermeister and euro-pop, or the even dodgier schlager music. By 4.15, someone’s usually dancing on a table in their ski-boots singing “Oi oi oi!" If you’ve been on the Ahorn then at the bottom of that area the Brück’n Stadl has a similar après ski arrangement.
The English pub, the Scotland Yard, provides a good respite from this Austrian madness and is open until 2am. It’s usually the choice of the locals and seasonnaires.
Just out of town back towards the Ahornbahn is the Gasthoff Zillertal, a youth hostel mainly serving the young and the rowdy with cheap beer, all night food and live music. Many young loves and broken hearts have been made here as the locals, the Dutch, German, Swedish and British all culminate in one sweaty dancehall.
Verbier is awash with cash and a drink in the town will match the price of slopeside beer in any flash French resort. The Pub Mont Fort is a popular après and evening haunt, especially among seasonnaires, and it’s worth heading to their shots bar if you’re playing catch-up. The T-Bar in the Central Hotel and the Big Ben Pub are other well-known places to have a few beers. The Après-Ski bar in the Hotel Farinetm kicks off late afternoon with a happy hour and has a band playing every day. And if you need a club, the Casbah underneath is open until 4am. Just avoid the Farm Club if you’re on a budget – a bottle of vodka will set you back a minimum of 100CHF!
Switzerland has a deserved reputation of being a bit too clinical sometimes, but luckily Zermatt likes to let its hair down and party hard after a day on the hill. Things begin on the slopes, après style, at the Hennu Stall near the base. It’s difficult to miss as you head down from the Matterhorn, with a live band inside.
If you’ve spent the day on the Sunnegga then you’ll be hard pressed to miss the Snowboat Cafe, which is well worth a prosecco. It is situated on the side of the river near the funicular entrance. At the Matterhorn end of the village, the Papperla Pub starts early outside and moves inside when the band kicks off. The bar is open until 1:30am but the party continues on downstairs at the Schneewittchen until 3:30am. On the main street, the Hotel Post has five bars and four restaurants.