Sure, speeding downhill is fun, but we all know the best bit of a skiing holiday comes after you're done on the slopes. Whether your ideal après-ski scenario involves cosying up by a fire or partying till dawn, Europe’s ski resorts have lots to offer snow bunnies looking to unwind after a long day of powder-carving. Here are the best après-ski scenes to be found.
The one for high-end parties: Verbier, Switzerland
Around two hours east of Geneva, Verbier has long been the choice ski destination among Europe’s upper crust, whether billionaires or royals. But even if you’re not a high-roller, there’s plenty to do on a more modest budget, especially if you appreciate a good knees-up. The hush-hush new subterranean Monoski Klub hosts an in-the-know crowd of techno lovers, while the Farm Club is a sophisticated affair that draws Verbier’s A-listers. Don’t miss dinner and drinks at the Experimental Chalet – opened last year by the aesthetes at the Experimental Group. Its restaurant is helmed by an ex-Frenchie chef and features a sumptuous design by famed interiors maestro Fabrizio Casiraghi.
Coronavirus safety: Track-and-trace in place at restaurants and bars; social distancing encouraged in public spaces.
The one for gourmands: Courchevel, France
Courchevel’s high altitude (a whopping 1,850m at the highest level) means ski seasons go well into March, which gives visitors plenty of time to try the dizzying array of dining options on offer too. For traditional with a twist, head to La Cave des Creux where you can dine on French-Asian dishes on an expansive terrace warmed by log fires. Or, if you feel like splashing out, the three-Michelin-starred Le 1947 serves transcendent dishes from chef Yannick Alléno in a futuristic dining room. For some post-ski bevs, kick back on the cosy terrace at the ski in/ski out Le Denali – where, surprise, the food is pretty good too.
Coronavirus safety: Ski lifts regularly disinfected; mask-wearing enforced on shuttles and in shops; hand sanitizer available at each ski lift; social distancing enforced in queues.
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The one for finding balance: Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
In the shadow of Western Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, Chamonix (or ‘Cham’ as it’s affectionately known) was the site of the very first Winter Olympics – but its glory days are far from behind it. The bar scene here is legendary thanks to a clutch of lively drinking spots dotted around the pedestrianised village – from La Folie Douce hotel, with its famous Après-Ski Party and live music performances, to the Chambre Neuf, where table dancing is encouraged. They say you should never return to the scene of a crime, but if your debauched night turns into a sore head the next day, we recommend heading back to La Folie Douce to make use of their massive chill-out complex – featuring an 18m heated pool, sauna and steam rooms aplenty, and a yoga studio.
Coronavirus safety: Ski lifts and trains regularly disinfected; mask-wearing enforced in enclosed areas; hand sanitizer available in shops; social distancing enforced in public spaces.
The one for beer lovers: Ischgl, Austria
Ischgl is known as the party capital of Austria’s ski country, which can only mean one thing: beer, beer and more beer. Your average suds-obsessed Austrian consumes 100 litres of the stuff each year, so it makes sense that Ischgl is rammed with rowdy beer halls. Make your first stop Trofana Alm, a giant wooden barn that hosts traditional bands and reams of tipsy Austrians belting out drinking tunes. Higher up, the mountaintop Paznauner Thaya is as lovely as can be, with a massive terrace where skiers fill up on steins and roast chicken. But if you get sick of the suds, trade beer for bubbly at Champagner Huette, where you can pop a bottle of Moët to toast a tiring day on the slopes.
Coronavirus safety: limited admittance in restaurants, bars and lifts; partitioning in restaurant seating areas; digital menu cards in restaurants; regular disinfection of all cable cars and ski buses; masks required in cable car cabins.
The one for everyone and anyone: Zermatt, Switzerland
One of Europe’s better-known resorts, Zermatt is a people-pleaser with an après-ski scene that caters to all tastes. Ski sophisticates will dig Harry’s Bar – housed in the chic Matterhorn Lodge, this snug drinking spot is run by a friendly lederhosen-clad Swiss-Austrian couple and should be your first stop for pre-drink cocktails or post-run craft beer. For something a bit more lively, check out Hennu Stall – right at the bottom of the mountain, this ski-in spot often hosts live bands and gets very merry at peak après-ski hours. And the food in Zermatt shouldn’t be sniffed at with solid options like Restaurant Simi, a traditional joint that specialises in wiener schnitzel, fondue and all the best belly-warming Swiss dishes.
Coronavirus safety: increased cleaning and disinfection in shops, restaurants, mountain rail and cableways; track-and-trace in place at bars and restaurants; social distancing encouraged in public spaces; masks required in enclosed transport.
The one for people watching: Madonna di Campiglio, Italy
The stylish punters at this Italian resort look like they’ve been ripped right out of the pages of a high-fashion editorial, thanks mostly to the chic Milanese who make Madonna di Campiglio their winter escape. You’ll find plenty of perches in the cute pedestrianised town on which you can ogle passers-by – like the cosy Cafe D’Or, where expertly mixed cocktails are best sipped at a window seat. Later in the night, move on to Piano 54, a bumping chalet-style nightspot with lively music and tasty snacks. For dinner, head to the Michelin-starred restaurant at Hermitage Biohotel – an elegant wood-and-stone place that serves stunning food in its glass-walled, panoramic dining room.
Coronavirus safety: masks required on public transport and in enclosed public spaces; restaurant and bar seating spaced out to enforce social distancing; limited capacity on gondolas; hand sanitizer provided at chairlifts, gondolas and shops.