If you love to party as much as you love to ski, you should check out our top five après–ski resorts in Europe. Queue the drinking resorts with a serious ski problem...
As long as you're heading for one of the best après-ski resorts in Europe, what does it matter if your skiing draws comparisons to Bambi on ice? Whether you're a snow virgin or the king of the slopes, it doesn't take a genius to understand that having a lively après scene can turn your skiing holiday from a good one into a great one. Forget the beach holidays; pick up the latest ski gear from outdoorgear and book your winter ski break. All avid snow-seekers know that nothing beats a day on the pistes when a few ice cold beers are waiting for you at the slope-side bar.
Below we pick our top five from the many après-ski resorts in Europe and highlight our favourite haunts and hangouts at each. Will your favourite make our list? Just remember, if you're heading back down the slopes with your mates after a few shots, at least you won't be the only one with Bambi-esque tendencies.
St Anton, Austria
Fly to: Innsbruck
Ski Season: Early December - Late April
Best bar(s): Mooserwirt, Krazy Kanguruh
The rules are simple at one of Austria's most popular resorts - ski hard, party harder. Located in the Alps within the Arlberg region, St Anton is one of the continent's snowiest areas, home to around 340km of pistes and some excellent chalets from Ski Total. We're especially fond of the pretty and reasonably priced Chalet Helvetia which is a mere 50m from the Nasserein gondola and comes complete with a sauna to help ease tired muscles after a hard day on the slopes. But enough about the skiing, where do we start when it comes to its après-ski? There are a few bars to look out for but along the blue Galzig piste, you'll find two of this town's most well known and liveliest venues - Mooserwirt and Krazy Kanguruh (KK). By 4 p.m. they are heaving with party-goers who climb up on to tables in their ski boots with a Fohrenburg beer in hand. KK has an impressive sun terrace which becomes an open-air dance floor to the sound of the venue's resident DJ, whereas live music and prompt table service is best enjoyed at Mooserwirt. The latter claims to sell the most beer in Austria; we've no worries about getting an ice cold one here.
Fly to: Milan/Zurich
Ski Season: Late December - Mid April
Best bar(s): Tea del Vidal
Located in northern Italy beside the Swiss-Italian border, Livigno is one of the country's most popular après-ski destinations. Getting to this bustling village might appear tricky and although the transfer from either Zurich or Milan's airports will take a little longer than expected, once here you'll instantly see what all the fuss is about. For a start there are around 150 bars to choose from which explains why this place is something of a party mecca for young snow-seeking tourists. Plus, you won't find the fashion police monitoring your attire like they tend to do in other fancy shindigs in France or Switzerland. Bars worth mentioning are Stalet next to the base station of the Carosello 3000 gondola lift, which is packed at weekends, and Tea del Vidal - the birthplace of the Bombardino (a tasty hot cocktail with Advocaat/eggnog and brandy, topped with whipped cream). When it comes to finally laying your head down to sleep, our pick is the Hotel Intermonti which along with a wellness centre and the Mottolino ski lifts right on its doorstep, also has a games room, billiards, a tavern-style restaurant and even a duty-free shop which brings us nicely to another point - when you're not too busy drinking or skiing, Livigno is also probably the best ski resort in Europe for shopping and that's largely because it's all duty free. Winning.
Fly to: Geneva
Ski Season: Late November - Mid/Late April
Best bar(s): Apres Ski at Farinet
Verbier has a reputation for attracting the wealthy thanks to pricey accommodation, nightlife, food, ski fees - practically everything. But there's a reason why this powder-white paradise commands big bucks. Firstly it boasts a sunny, scenic location with easy access from Geneva airport; second, this village has some of the best slopes in the world with over 400km of runs; and most importantly to the party crowd? It has an extremely attractive après-ski scene too. To put it bluntly, if you've got the dollar, head for Verbier. Obviously you'll find many fancy hangouts here like Farm Club, but other popular haunts include the legendary Pub Mont Fort and Après Ski at Farinet which features a live band every night of the week (make sure you take advantage of the happy hour between 4-5 p.m.). And if you've packed your dancing shoes, Casbah opens its doors until 4 a.m. boasting a relatively young crowd. Make your stay a little cheaper by opting for a hotel or chalet that offers savings on packages, for example Inghams has deals on accommodation, lift passes and equipment at Chalet de Verbier that are definitely worth a look. Just remember, if you do blow all your budget on the first night (yes, it does happen), we can only suggest making friends - pockets are deeper here than the Grand Canyon.
Val d'Isere, France
Fly to: Geneva/Lyon
Ski Season: Late November - Early May
Best bar(s): La Folie Douce
Possibly the trendiest resort in the French Alps, Val d'Isere resides in south-east France and is another destination for those with a large budget with luxury chalets generally attracting a crowd of wealthy young professionals and rich kids running on daddy's money. But much like Verbier, if you want to experience one of the world's premier ski resorts, sometimes you have to pay. Val d'Isere has been providing a winter sports fix since before you were born for the thousands who visit every winter and has hosted snow-based competitions for well over 50 years. There are more than 300km of pistes which cater to all ability levels and once you're done on the snow, the après scene isn't bad either. Posers can be found in venues like Café Face with a chic crowd sipping champagne to live music, whereas those who can't wait until they've reached the bottom of the mountain for a tipple, head for La Folie Douce's lively open terrace. And as for the hardcore party animals looking for late night fun, Dicks Tea Bar is a good option open until 5 a.m. As for accommodation, we like Chalet La Table which is a mere six-minute stumble from the bars in the centre of Val d’Isère and boasts a log fire in its sitting room that will comfort even the most hungover of souls. Just don't forget your sun-cream during the day, lobster red isn't a good look when you're out to impress in the bar later on.
Fly to: Innsbruck
Ski Season: Late November - Early May
Best bar(s): Kuhstall
Ischgl is another of Austria's buzzing ski resorts which is said to offer some of the best snowboarding spots in the Alps. As well as 330km of pistes up in the mountains of this traditional town, Ischgl is also blessed with a thriving après scene that rivals any other in Europe. Rihanna and Mariah Carey are just two from a long list of superstars to have featured at closing and opening parties here. Most venues tend to be rather compact and by 3 p.m. many bars are rammed - none more so than The Schatzi Bar at Hotel Elizabeth and the Trofana Alm. Yet, one of the most popular hangouts to look out for is Kuhstall where a top in-house DJ plays all the latest tunes until 2 a.m. The stunning Hotel Madlein is a favourite with wealthy night owls and as well as being an incredible design hotel, is also home to the Madlein Club (previously Pacha) and the Coyote Ugly Table Dance Bar. If you do head here, you'd better hope your endurance for clubbing matches your endurance on the slopes as the music plays right up until 4 a.m.