If you love sliding down a mountain on a plank of wood (or two), then it’s that time of year again, to think about where you want you and your mates to go this winter season. I’m not exactly the best skier in the world, in fact far from it. I’ve a had a couple of ridiculous accidents: one time I got my pole stuck and managed to dislocate my thumb and sprain my wrist (nice). And another time I fell and sliced my hand open on my brand new skis, making the slope look like a murder scene! I did get to ride down the mountain super fast on a skidoo though, so that made it all worthwhile!
If you’re like me and like to break up your day of comedy skiing with a nice Gluwein every so often, and aim to be dancing on the tables by 4pm then I have 5 tried and tested ski resorts that you will absolutely love. So here are the best ski resorts for Après in Europe (in my humble opinion), in reverse order…
Les Arcs 1800, France
I was in Les Arcs just last year, the ski area is vast and you can even get the ski train there from St Pancras station. It’s an overnight sleeper to Bourg St Maurice, then a short funicular ride up the mountain to the resorts, making it a great weekend skiing option (if you’re London based). There are a number of different village areas at various altitudes, I actually stayed in Les Arcs 2000, which I’ve gotta say was a bit dull, other than the El Latino Loco Club on a Tuesday night, which is mental. I was in a group of 28 though (I know) and there wasn’t enough accommodation left for all of us in 1800, which would have been our preference as it’s the best resort for après. We tended to spend early afternoons just up the hill at L’Arpette Bar, above 1800 village. Where we started off fairly civilized, but it got rowdy pretty quickly. Then ski down to 1800 for live music and cheap pints at Bar King Mad and Red Hot Saloon, which are right next to each other on a nice sunny terrace. There are loads of bars in 1800 though and it’s a pretty young resort in general, so expect some crazy nights.
Val Thorens, France
Val Thorens was where I went at the start of this year, it’s a fairly long transfer from Grenoble airport, but it is the highest ski resort in Europe so you can understand why. It’s in the Trois Valles ski area that connects 8 resorts: Meribel, Courcheval, Les Meuniers etc. But more importantly, it also has the infamous après ski bar, La Folie Douce! Which is why I think Val Thorens is one of the best resorts for Après. La Folie was crazy every afternoon, starting from about 2pm and going all out till 5pm. I’m talking DJs, dancers, fire breathers and spraying champagne everywhere! The run back down to the village is definitely…interesting!
Down in the village The Frog and Roast Beef pub is where everyone heads, they have great happy hour deals, at a number of times throughout the evening and you can even toss a coin to win free drinks. It’s a fairly small place though, so if you want some space the whole of that street is lined with bars that have live music, DJs, beer pong, etc. and open till the last man/woman is standing!
Paz de la Casa, Andorra
I spent NYE week in Paz a couple of years ago, it was a very last minute thing and I’m really glad we went. Paz de la Casa is the highest and the liveliest resort in Andorra. It attracts a young crowd because it’s just so damn cheap! Forget your 8 Euro beers that you find in French resorts, I’m talking 1 Euro beers and shots the size of triple measures. Everyone mostly hangs out at Paddy’s Irish bar first, where they have loads of competitions and games, then heads to London Underground, to dance the night away. Plus Crystal Ski run a pub-crawl every Monday night that anyone can join. Expect LOTS of free shots!
The ski area isn’t exactly challenging, although you can access the whole of the Grandvalira in the Pyrenees from here. But if you want a super cheap, fun week away with your mates then this place is definitely worth considering. Especially as you can also stash your bag full of tax-free booze to take home, woo hoo!
The complete opposite of Paz de la Casa is Zermatt. If you want to splurge I would wholeheartedly recommend this gorgeous Swiss resort, but you will seriously need deep pockets! I’m possibly a little bit biased as I lived in Zermatt for a while, working for a high end Ski Company and completely fell in love with it. Not only is the village like something out of a fairy tale, you also have the imposing Matterhorn mountain that glows pink at sunset, a world class ski area that stretches into Italy and some of the best après ski in the world, not just Europe.
There are some amazing bars and restaurants all over the mountain for a long lunch after a morning of skiing; including the Michelin starred Chez Vrony. But no après could start properly without a trip to the Hennu Stall bar, half way down the home run on the Furi lift, and the slightly scary ski down the rest of the run after having a few Jaegers!
Popular bars in town are: The Bubble bar, The Broken and my personal fave The Paperla Pub, a live music bar above the Schneewittchen night club that’s open to 6am or beyond every single day. Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoons are the liveliest, with is being chalet staff’s day off.
The village of Mayrhofen is actually at a very low altitude for a ski resort, meaning that late in the season the village is sans snow, I was able to sit and sunbath on my chalet balcony most mornings. That does mean the lifts up to the slopes are very long, but once you’re up, the ski area is huge and even boasts the steepest slope in Europe: The Harikiri! Mayrhofen is amazing for snowboarders with a few big snow parks and you definitely notice a bigger number of boarders than in other resorts. The party generally starts at the terrace bar at the top of the Penkenbahn bubble lift, then it’s a rowdy squeeze into the lift at 5pm to head down to the Ice Bar next to the base station. You will definitely see some interesting sites at the Ice Bar, including lots of weird costumes and crazy dancing.
If you fancy more of an Austrian experience head to the Bruck n Stadl at the bottom of the Ahorn lift for traditional Austrian drinking songs, dancing in lederhosen to cheesy Euro dance and swilling great big beers. The whole high street is lined with bars and clubs so you won’t be stuck for choice and it’s a damn sight cheaper than the Swiss/French Alps.
But what gives Mayrhofen the edge is the annual Snowbombing Festival, a weeklong music and boarding party. This year’s festival line up includes: Chase & Status, De La Soul, Slaves and loads more. Snowbombing offer festival pass and accommodation packages as well as deals on travel, including a wacky races style convoy from the UK all the way to Austria.This is what makes Mayrhofen THE best ski resort for Aprés in Europe.
So if you’re thinking about booking somewhere for this winter season I would definitely recommend one of these 5. But you may need to go on a serious detox program afterwards! For the first time in years it looks like I won’t be skiing this season, which I’m really sad about, but other plans are in the pipeline. All will be revealed soon…..
Which ski resorts do you think are best for Après; let me know in the comments below