You’ve heard your friends or other skiers talking about it, but have no clue what they’re talking about and it sounds too elegant for beer and nachos. But this fancy-sounding term which conjures up images of people drinking champagne and laughing heartily in a swanky cocktail lounge is about as unpretentious as it gets. So, what does Apres ski mean?
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What Does Apres Ski Mean?
So, what does apres ski mean, and why is it found all over posters hanging in coffee shops advertising events in the dead of winter? Apres ski is a French term that literally means “after-ski,” and is the time-honored ritual of leaving the mountain after a full day of skiing to kick back with friends. Apres meaning is simply following or after. The term was coined sometime in the 1950s by the French who can appreciate properly scheduled wind-down time, but the art of this post-ski activity began long ago.
The History of Apres Ski
Norway in the mid-1800s
Naturally, apres ski dates back to when people first started sliding downhill on sticks, but it’s not clear when that officially happened as people have been traversing this planet for quite some time. However, we can trace the movement of modern downhill skiing and how ski lodges and resorts came to be widespread and with it, apres.
It was the 1860s in Telemark, Norway, and a man named Sondre Norheim, who grew up without luxuries, reveled in what he did have–an abundance of snow and slopes. In 1866 he won the first national Norwegian ski competition. Before that, in 1860, he wowed his fellow countrymen with his trailblazing invention of birch root bindings, which allowed for ski jumps and other acrobatic moves. He also came up with the first skis with curved sides and laid the foundation for proper turning techniques with his Christiana and Stem turns.
Bringing ski culture to America
Thanks to Norheim, the possibilities of downhill skiing were laid wide open, and people were able to do so much more on the slopes than ever before. As skiers emigrated from Norway all over the world, they took with them their skill and passion for playing hard in the snow and eating well.
Many of them landed in the U.S. and in 1872 in Berlin, New Hampshire, the first ski club in the U.S. was started, the Skiklubben Club. As ski clubs all over the U.S. welcomed avid skiers, resorts popped up in places like New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming, and Colorado, and with each one, hotels and restaurants saw the opportunity for enterprise and catered to their sporty clientele with handcrafted cocktails and excellent dining fare.
Apres ski culture
As commercial ski resorts opened up to enthusiastic crowds, in the 1950’s it became fun and fashionable to exert oneself on the slopes and end the day with a drink and a meal. As early as the late 1930s at the Eastern Slope Inn on Mt. Cranmore, New Hampshire, skiers garbed in ski gear could walk right into The Elephant Room, where jacket and tie were normally required, for apres ski food and drinks. Apres ski culture evolved into an elevated social activity and grew to encapsulate not just food and drink, but live entertainment as well. In the 1960s, Stratton Mountain ski resort had an apres ski scene complete with singing, yodeling, and folk dancing provided by the Stratton Mountain Boys.
Today in resort towns all over the U.S., the tradition continues–from Kellog, Idaho to Park City, Utah, skiers can find more than one local watering hole where they can hang up their skis and enjoy music from live bands or DJs.
Depending on your mood, you’ll find bars and restaurants that offer down-to-earth apres scenes or posh and polished parlors. For example, the Mangy Moose Saloon in Jackson Hole, Wyoming whose website proudly proclaims, “Gettin’ loose since 1967!” serves up old-school drinks and shotskis along with zesty margaritas under a moose that hangs from its cozy wood-beamed-ceiling. Skiers can also sit and take in the live music from rotating bands. Dance or not, it’s totally up to you!
If you’re not in the dancing mood, in Aspen, Colorado, you can find a less rowdy apres Ski atmosphere at Element 47, inside the Little Nell Hotel. You won’t find shotskis there; instead, their sommeliers will help you select the perfect wine to pair with your steak, and you won’t have to worry about being able to hear your friends.
Apres Ski Clothing and What Clothing is OK to Wear for Apres Ski?
In most ski resorts, restaurants, and bars, it’s perfectly fine to walk in from the slopes wearing your ski boots and pants. If you do, you’ll probably recognize fellow skiers dressed similarly who are willing to swap stories and anecdotes. The après scene is quite casual in most places, but if you end up in a restaurant that serves meals in courses or boasts a higher price point, it’s safe to bring an extra pair of shoes with you (and pants if you need them).
In fact, it’s a great idea to have a change of shoes in the car, because while ski boots can be comfortable, they can also be very uncomfortable after having them on your feet all day. Changing into different shoes at the end of the day gives your feet a break. Also, in case your base layers get soaked in a wipeout, bringing a spare change of clothes will make you a more pleasant après partner.
What Not to Do
While you’ll see propped-up skis and snowboards lining the walls inside the ski lodge, your skis won’t be a welcome guest inside a restaurant or bar. Some places provide places to prop up your gear, but if not, be prepared to secure your skis in your car, in a rooftop box, or on a rack attached to your vehicle.
When Does Apres Ski Begin?
Apres Ski is essential to the sport of skiing, but there’s no official start time for it. After all, apres Ski means “after ski.” It can be at 12:00 if you’ve been in the pow since 7:00 or after the last run of the day, usually at 4:00 or 5:00. However, many lodges, resorts, bars, and restaurants close to the mountain offer Apres Ski events that start in the late afternoon, coinciding with the last few hours the mountain is open, and they give mountain-goers a splendid apres ski party atmosphere with boot-tapping music and tasty signature drinks.
Does Apres Ski have to be at a restaurant or bar?
Non! Bars and restaurants provide food, entertainment, and drink, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any of that without them.
Takeout for the Win
If you don’t feel like cooking after a day on the slopes (and who would?), arrange to get takeout on the way home so that there’s a hot, fuss-free meal ready for you. Wings, burgers, pizza, nutrient-dense wraps, soup, or Reuben sandwiches are all great choices for apres Ski food. Then, sit at the table, let your ski gear thaw, and enjoy a hard-earned meal while regaling your ski buddies with tales of successful tricks and epic fails.
Tailgate like a pro
But who says you have to wait until you get home to do that? Ski resort parking lots are full of seasoned skiers who know to bring fire pits (this one is sturdy and compact), wood, drinks, and food following a day’s skiing so that they don’t have to go far to recharge. As you walk by one of these gatherings of experienced Apres skiers, you may also hear The Grateful Dead setting the tone over a Bluetooth speaker.
Follow suit and pull out a couple of camping chairs, break out the hot chocolate, and prop up your ski boots for a bit before heading home. Some fan-favorite tailgating foods include charcuterie boards, hot dogs, and even sparkling wine with the cork pop being heard throughout the entire ski lodge parking lot.
Get even fancier with this picnic backpack!
You can also prep sandwiches, bowls, wraps, burritos, or snack boards ahead of time which makes for instant eating once you get back to the car. Don’t forget beverages, either. Keep it cool with beer, flavored seltzer water, or soda, or warm up with hot chocolate–spiked or regular. It always hits just right when you’re drinking something warm with friends in the midst of a snowy wonderland.
Remember, true Apres Ski is in the gathering of friends and refueling your body—so you can do it anywhere, anytime.
Why Apres Ski?
As seen in the brief history of Apres Ski, it’s clear that skiing is not for the faint of heart–or limb–and there’s nothing better than fatiguing your muscles to earthquake-level shakes all day on the slopes knowing that a carb-heavy meal and refreshing beverage await you at the bottom.
Straining your muscles creates micro-tears in the tissue and this tissue needs repairing. According to research from Kevin D. Tipton of Durham University and Luc J.C. van Loon of Maastricht University Medical Centre, it’s crucial to eat good dietary protein immediately after exercise to effectively repair muscle. Apres Ski is actually healthy for you!
The calories and time of recharging will prove to be good for the soul and for your sore legs, arms, shoulders, back, abs, or whatever else is hurting. Not only that, but your body needs that energy to help get you safely back home.
Keep the good times rolling
The importance of eating after a day on the slopes can’t be stressed too much for its health benefits, but what about the benefit of not having a good time cut off too soon? What did they say about parting being “such sweet sorrow”? More like plain sorrow.
Whether you’ve been able to keep track of your friends all day or you’ve had to go separate ways until the last run, Apres Ski is the time to reconnect and share experiences and laughs. Sure, there’s the time on the chairlift, but at that point, you’re just anxious to do another run. Warm food and good drinks make for a splendid après because they force everyone to slow down and take it easy.
One last thing…
Remember to Apres Ski responsibly. If you’re drinking alcohol, remember that you have to get safely home when you’re done, so be sure to arrange for transportation or ask a good-hearted buddy to drive everyone.
If you’re out of town and staying near the slopes, check with your hotel for shuttle services to the mountain. Local transportation and Lyft or Uber are great options, too, but the drivers need to be prepared to transport everyone’s ski gear.
Skiing is hard work, but it’s also some of the best fun you’ll ever have! Whether you’re a veteran skier who loves moguls or a beginner who is just starting to navigate the bunny hill, let Apres Ski be the hard-earned reward at the end of the day. The best Apres Ski doesn’t happen in a specific place at a specific time, but after you’ve conquered the hill and are with friends. Find the spirit of Apres Ski wherever you go.
Has this post made you salivate for not just food but also the thrill of skiing? If you want to get started with learning how to ski or snowboard, check out this post for tips to help you have more confidence on the hill.
how to pronounce après-ski:
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Article written by Ruth Dahlen