Après-ski, the hubbub of social activities that take place after skiing, can be loosely defined as “partying,” says Seth Masia. The president of the International Skiing History Association has been practicing winter sports for about fifty years and, subsequently, après-ski for about as long.
Meaning “after ski,” the term can describe a time of day, style of dress, type of cocktail, lifestyle, and more. In some circles it is used interchangeably with the shortened version, “after”.
The cherished tradition began in the 19th century, Masia says, when Britain’s upper classes began spending winter holidays at Swiss ski resorts. Their drink of choice was mainly hot tea, intended to warm cold bodies. An alcohol-fueled après-ski tradition emerged in the 1950s, Masia says, and inspired dance parties called “tea dancing,” due to the afternoon time and tea-soaked origins. . Dancing also helped heat things up, and accompanying drinks evolved to incorporate beverages native to the Alps like schnapps, brandy, beer, and various forms of mulled wine.
While après-ski is still an integral part of the skiing experience in the United States, the tradition of the dance “kind of died out,” Masia says. “Bars and restaurants are paying very, very high rents, real estate is so valuable, and they want to maximize the number of dining tables” and the number of times they can turn them over to new customers.
Whether the music is muted or the party going, there’s a mainstay of modern après, and it’s called booze. Hot beverages like hot toddies, fortified hot chocolate and mulled wine continue to be traditional favorites, says industry veteran Tad Carducci. “Anything hot will be a staple in any town or resort that offers an afternoon,” he says. Currently a representative of Gruppo Montenegro, Carducci’s introduction to the after-culture was aided by time serving drinks at Mountain Creek, New Jersey, a ski resort. He also spent some 40 years skiing and indulging in the afternoon.
For him, après-ski has always been about “being a little loud, a little fun”. Even though the festivities are subdued, the après-ski offers “time to relax and unwind with friends” after a leg-burning workout, he says.
What attendees drink and eat afterwards is dictated by the menu and ambiance of the chosen bar or restaurant, according to Berkshire-based Holly Berrigan. She and her husband, Nic Jansson, are both avid skiers in their early thirties and have conquered slopes in Switzerland and across North America. From their experiences, after varies by location. “We eat nachos or poutine if we head to Canada and have beers at the bar,” says Berrigan.
“Loaded nachos, beer and afternoon are as synonymous as peanut butter and jelly, especially if you live in the Tetons.” —Max Shafer, Roadhouse Brewmaster
Masia calls himself a beer lover and says beer has long been a popular choice for après skiers. Additionally, the craft brewery movement in states like Colorado, Oregon, and Vermont, many of which just happen to have vast ski acreage, has kept beer at the forefront of afternoon tea in the United States.
“Loaded nachos, beer, and afternoon are as synonymous as peanut butter and jelly, especially if you live in the Tetons,” says Roadhouse Brewmaster Max Shafer. His latest creation, Loose Boots After IPA, was brewed in partnership with Stio Outdoor Apparel, based in Jackson, Wyoming. And on November 25, 2021, Big Sky Resort in Montana, in partnership with MAP Brewing, launched a limited-edition beer, Swifty Session Pale Ale, to celebrate its new chairlift, Swift Current 6, as well as the start of the 2021 season. -22.
Berrigan thinks “younger generations are embracing much less chic versions of après-ski, although many key elements are still there, like a lot of melty cheese.” And so, you’re unlikely to find Champagne outside of the Zermatts and Chamonixs of the ski world.
A less chic afternoon also led to a change in fashion choices. By early afternoon, people were dressing up for the occasion, ditching their clumsy ski boots and thick layers of clothing for more elegant garments like “stretch pants” appreciated for the way they “flaunted their butts,” Masia says of 1950s and 60s afternoon wear. today, it’s more common to go for cocktail hour straight from the mountain, with a shower and a change of clothes after noon. but before dinner.
Another way the after evolves? Low-alcohol drinks are becoming increasingly popular, Carducci says. It’s a departure from the scene he remembers in Killington, Vermont in the late 90s and early 2000s, when crazy boozy rum concoctions ruled. “You know,” Carducci said, “it was like a college fraternity party.”
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