As scary as it may seem, the ski season is almost upon us. Once upon a time it had the stereotypical label of being something of a cosy sport, where skiers would gather round a fire and quietly talk about their days cruising down the slopes. While this certainly happens at some resorts, it would be fair to say that it has become a lot livelier at others. Some are actually more renowned for the hundreds of bars that are dotted around – and this has made some skiing holidays more party orientated than anything else.
Of course, the perfect blend is to combine the best ski slopes and nightlife all in one place. Through the rest of this guide we’ll now take a look at our favourite five après-ski resorts, that give you the best experiences both at day and night. If we do manage to whet your appetite, take a look at our ski and snowboard shop to get started.
St Anton, Austria
In the eyes of the ski enthusiast, any resort located in the Arlberg region in Austria should be worth a mention. After all, this is one of the snowiest areas in Europe. It is also home to approximately 340km of pistes and while some popular European resorts may have slacked in relation to their infrastructure over the years, this cannot be said of St Anton which has some of the best, and most up-to-date, lifts in place to make your stay even more enjoyable. Considering its popularity, this is absolutely crucial and means that queue times are surprisingly acceptable.
On the downside, if you could call it that, this is a destination which isn’t for the beginner. Most of the slopes are challenging to say the least and while it is possible to find the odd mild run, it’s certainly not an area that's renowned for this.
If we turn to the après-ski factor, or the partying to be more precise, few resorts will come close to St Anton. Some parties start as early as 3pm and it goes without saying that they carry on long into the night. Additionally, for those who appreciate village charm in the early hours, this is a destination which boasts terrific amounts of it and despite its liveliness, it still retains its Tyrolean feel. There is one establishment which prides itself on serving 5,000 litres of beer a day – and this in itself shows just how St Anton lives off its après-ski reputation.
If we cross the pond, you can’t find a much livelier resort than Aspen in Colorado. The fact that this region started as a silver-mining town is quite amazing when you see what it has been transformed into. At one point, the population had dwindled to record lows and the area was in a complete state of disrepair. It was the ski resorts that rescued it and since the 1930s Aspen has gone from strength-to-strength.
Unlike some of the other resorts have been looked at, Aspen is a place which can suit skiers of all abilities. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced, the slopes are flexible. Then again, with four mountains spreading across four separate resorts, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. As well as the variety, it’s worth mentioning that there’s an average of 300 inches of snowfall per season, which naturally adds to the whole experience.
As the focus of this guide is mainly to showcase the best party resorts on the ski scene, we should make a special mention to the 100 bars, restaurants and clubs that Aspen offers. While it might not be quite as thriving as some of the European destinations, the fact that it attracts some of the wealthiest and richest people in the world says just what sort of experience it offers. As such, you’re more likely to find a cocktail bar than an old fashioned beer house, but that’s not to say the latter doesn’t exist – you’ve just got to search a little harder.
Aspen might be classed as the A-list of the ski world and at the other end of the spectrum, at least if we’re concentrating on the party resorts, Livigno is right up there. This is a place which is affordable to say the least and it doesn’t matter if you are darting down the slopes, or taking advantage of the vibrant night scene, it won’t cost a fraction of the price of rival resorts. This is something that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future either, with Livigno being one of the few tax-free havens in the continent.
Despite the above, this is still one of the most desirable places to ski across Europe. It boasts around 115km of piste ski runs, although some would suggest that it's the cross country skiing that makes this destination even more alluring. There is around 40km of cross country terrain available in the area of Trepalle and with this area being permanently inhabited, it means that there is terrific potential for those who wish to push the standard boundaries on the slopes. Don’t immediately be under the assumption that Livigno is reserved for the advanced skier though, this is an area which prides itself on being open to everyone. It has plenty of village side nursery slopes and considering the high altitude of the region, it means that there is always plenty of snow to make for an enjoyable experience.
By the time you have pulled yourself away from the slopes, the regions 140 bars should keep you occupied for the night. It’s generally thought that the size of Livigno’s night scene is bigger than any other in the world, and this is a good enough reason for it to be included on our list. Admittedly, most of the establishments are spread out rather than centralized, but if you plan your visit accordingly you can get the most out of the area and take in a bit of everything.
The general opinion amongst the skiing community is that Ischgl and St Anton are the king pins in European skiing. The former is seen as being one of the liveliest around, but at the same time we shouldn’t neglect to show just how impressive the general skiing experience is.
Ischgl is another area that benefits from a reliable stream of snow, while the slopes are some of the biggest around. In fact, one of them crosses the border and ventures into Switzerland and it’s not very often you can say that you’ve skied in two countries in the space of seconds. The authorities have made it as easy as possible to negotiate as well and despite being busy, it has a pedestrian-walkway constructed in an airport-style that make it simple to get across the village.
The nightlife is the main factor that separates Ischgl from the pack though. At 10.30am, the slopes are dead and it’s for good reason – few people have recovered following the previous night’s antics. Bars, clubs and shows are all predominant fixtures through the night and there’s a bit of something to suit everyone. Whether it’s the bar that permits dancing on tables, the electro-music club, or the star-studded festivals such as Top of the Mountain (which has seen some of the biggest artists in the world perform at 2320m), you’ll struggle to find a region that beats Ischgl for après-ski.
It would be fair to say that the final addition to our list is one of the more recent destinations to shoot to prominence in the world. Prior to 2008, Whistler could have been described as your standard ski resort, yet the construction of the Peak2Peak gondola meant that it became much easier to switch between the popular mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb. With the Winter Olympics also being held here a couple of years later in 2010, now really is the time in which Whistler is becoming one of those must-visit ski destinations (and that’s without the party factor).
As well as the terrific views and history of Whistler, let’s not forget that there are approximately 8,000 acres of pistes around in this area – making it one of the largest resorts around. These are made up across slopes of all types, meaning that beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers are all covered.
The fact that Whistler was part of the Winter Olympics highlights its credentials as a premier skiing resort. However, from an après-ski perspective, it’s also right up there. Never mind being one of the top evening resorts, many regard Whistler as being one of the best party destinations in the whole of Canada. It attracts all of the best DJs, from all over the world and the best part of all is that you can see it filling up as you make your way back on your skis. This is another destination which holds something for all tastes; whether it’s dance clubs, breweries or just your standard ski bar. It’s vibrant.