Some people plan their ski day around powder stashes and double-black runs. Others plot the most direct path from chairlift to bar. These days, the two strategies are hardly mutually exclusive.
The best après-ski bars used to be concentrated in Europe, but the universally appealing phenomenon of drinking on a mountainside, eating local food and letting your inner terrible dancer out has found a home in every high-altitude corner of the globe. And unlike skiing, a good time at these bars doesn't depend on increasingly unpredictable weather.
With that in mind, we've rounded up the best places for post-piste revelry around the world, from Switzerland to the American West.
Europe parties on
MooserWirt, St. Anton, Austria: Toward the final stretch of St. Anton's blue piste No. 1 — the main run down to St. Anton village — you'll find MooserWirt's long-standing mixmaster, DJ Gerhard, luring skiers from piste to party with his signature mix of Europop hits and German schlager anthems. The raucous bar serves oceans of beer; its tap lines are so plentiful they're rumored to span 6 miles if connected end-to-end. Inside the old farmhouse, strangers link arms and dance in ski boots beneath a disco ball. Outside, crowds cheer on tipsy skiers as they attempt the 500-meter descent back to the village.
La Folie Douce, Val d'Isère-Tignes, France: It's like Vegas in the French Alps: La Folie Douce is equal parts cabaret, nightclub and booze-fueled theater. Most likely, it's the only bar in the world that staffs a resident choreographer, creative director and composer, plus acrobats, saxophonists and dancers. Since its opening in 1980 atop Val d'Isère's Daille cable car, the owners have tried to replicate the concept in five other locations throughout France, but the original, with its hordes of costumed skiers, remains unrivaled. If crowds aren't your thing, book the VIP veranda, where bottles of Château Peyrassol rose are delivered via mini-cable car.
Henu Stall, Zermatt, Switzerland: As you schuss down the final stretch of the Furi-Zermatt run in Zermatt, Switzerland, you'll hear the thumping beats of the house band at Hennu Stall before you see this weathered après-ski shack. A trail of discarded skis and poles leads to the outdoor bar, where people fist-pump and shimmy beneath a giant red-and-white striped umbrella. The beverage of choice: shots of Jaeger, served on three-foot-long vintage skis. Inside, the two-level bar resembles a barn-turned-disco.
North America pours it on
Garibaldi Lift Co., Whistler, British Columbia: The laid-back après spot above the Whistler Gondola has such good people-watching that even hard-core skiers have been known to pass up last-chair bragging rights for a seat on its patio. The "Cheers"-like atmosphere, live music and monster burgers get locals in the door. What keeps them there: drinks like the Cowboy Caesar, a bloody mary garnished with beef jerky.
Cloud Nine, Aspen, Colo.: Revelers at this converted ski patrol hut consume (and spray) enough Champagne each season to make it Veuve Cliquot's biggest American account. Set at 11,000 feet at Aspen Highlands, it's the best U.S.-based approximation to a Euro-style après-ski scene. Twice-daily seatings, at noon and 2 p.m., start with bubbling raclette and end with diners dancing atop tables to Justin Bieber. Pro tip: Book a week in advance.
The Bavarian, Taos, N.M.: A German beer hall on the slopes in New Mexico sounds suspect, but after tackling Taos Ski Valley's legendary steeps, nothing hits the spot quite like a stein of hefeweizen and a brat. Situated at the base of Lift 4, the Bavarian will transport you to the Alps with its Tyrolean oompah music and staff dressed in dirndls and lederhosen. Beers are imported from Germany, including hard-to-find ales from centuries-old breweries. Sit at a communal table on the wraparound porch and you're likely to leave with new friends, especially if you offer to share your apple strudel.
Japan and Argentina
Bar Gyu, Niseko, Japan: In the mountains of Hokkaido Island, the notoriously hard-to-find Bar Gyu is tucked away down Yotei Zaka Street, just off the main road of lower Hirafu village. The quirky entrance — a vintage Coca-Cola vending machine door hidden beyond snowbanks — leads to a cozy lounge-like bar where bartenders in vests and bow ties pour rare Japanese whiskeys, local craft brews and exacting cocktails. Mellow jazz music and comfort snacks, such as shoyu garlic fried potatoes and chicken wings, make this Niseko's go-to spot to unwind from the slopes.
Mute, Bariloche, Argentina: The most happening bar at the base of Cerro Catedral ski resort, Mute (pronounced moo-tay) attracts a young crew with its liquor brand-sponsored parties and lodge-like vibe. Boarders and skiers kick back on couches to swill Quilmes (Argentina's answer to Budweiser) and Fernet and Cokes while watching extreme sports flicks on the TVs. Then, when the sun sets, live bands give way to DJs, and Mute turns into the ski area's only legit nightclub.