5 Après Destinations That Made Us Fall in Love With Skiing
Kicking off our ski boots, passing around cold beers, and relaxing around a fire after a long day of carving down the mountain—this seems like second nature, right? Though that might be the case for most of us, the French coined the term, Après-ski, to define this phenomenon of post-skiing events and entertainment. The nuts and bolts of skiing tend to transcend cultures around the world—go to the top of a mountain, and, with much speed, get to the bottom of the run in one piece (easier for some of us than others). The ways in which we celebrate our snow-packed successes, however, is a little different in each ski town.
The Huckberry office is packed to the gills with all kinds of skiers, and, lucky for us (and for you), there’s never a shortage of recommendations for the optimal experience, both on and off the mountain. Below you’ll get all the best insight on some of the Huckberry family’s most coveted skiing destinations and the ideal way to enjoy the differing après ski cultures that come with them.
Tahoe Expert: Brandon Dang, Marketing
Because my hometown is Los Gatos, California, about as south as you could go to still be considered a “Bay Area” resident, that means Tahoe and Bear Valley were pretty much in my backyard growing up. Our geographic location and my parents’ love for skiing instilled a deep appreciation for the outdoors in me at a young age. Every winter we would take at least one trip up to Tahoe or Bear Valley, and at this point, I know those towns and the surrounding mountains like the back of my hand.
Tahoe has so much to offer, it’s really difficult to nail down everything that I love about it. Its convenience for San Francisco residents alone is perfect—you can get off work at 4 pm on a Friday, and after a few hours and multiple playlists in the car, you’re in a rural mountain town ready for the slopes in the morning. On the mountain, you can expect an eclectic mix of locals who live in the surrounding Tahoe area year round, and Bay Area residents with dreams of moving out there once they hit the lottery and retire early. Though I’m a sucker for fresh powder dumping all around me, nothing compares to clear sky conditions in Tahoe—the views are simply too excellent, especially if you’re going down a run overlooking the lake.
Photo: Les Chamois
People forget how truly massive Lake Tahoe is, so depending on where you are, the après ski scene will offer a different experience—the good news, there’s no shortage of delectable eats and refreshing beverages. Considering I mostly ski Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, I’m usually renting places in Tahoe City. In this spirit, I’ve worked up a pretty good routine with my buds for an ideal après ski evening.
Going straight from your last run of the day to Le Chamois, or “The Shammy,” is never a bad idea. Rack your gear at an outpost, grab a pitcher and a few glasses, find a spot outside, and enjoy some sun, music, good company, and stories from the day’s runs. Later on, you’ll find us hopping between bars in Tahoe City, playing pool or trying our hands at darts—particularly at either Pete ‘n Peter’s or Fat Cat’s. Both have a very communal dive bar scene where beer flows and the pub snacks are unforgettable.
If you happen to be staying on the south side of Lake Tahoe and skiing Heavenly, your best bet for the ultimate experience is staying at Basecamp Hotel. The surrounding Heavenly area is packed with places to chow down, but Basecamp has a full beer garden where Outpost Brewing Co. brews and serves beer on location. Ambiance? Check. Quality taste? Double check? Convenience of stumbling straight to your hotel room after a few too many? Triple check.
Photo: Jackson Hole
Jackson Expert: Micah McKay, Brand Marketing
My skiing chops were sub-par until I moved to Jackson, Wyoming. After graduating college, I headed west where my love for the outdoors outweighed any desire for a hefty paycheck. So, I worked service jobs in Jackson to fund my newly adopted skiing habits and my lifelong love for the mountains. Growing up in Buffalo, I played a ton of ice hockey and this conflicted with my opportunity to get into skiing at a young age. Lucky for me, being a great skater helped with my transition to skiing, and learning the mechanics of the sport became a lot easier for me.
Realistically, Jackson Hole is a pretty intense mountain, and—though it attracts all levels of skiers—I would recommend saving this destination until you’re pretty confident on the slopes. This proved to be a tad ironic for me considering I was newer to skiing when I moved out to Jackson, but I certainly learned quick. The conditions are some of the best in the country, similar to Big Sky, in that, the freezing temperatures bring in high-quality snow and plenty of powder days. Locals covet their powder days, so if you’re not on Dawn Patrol, good luck snagging any fresh runs.
Photo: The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
Two straight years bumming around the town and working at multiple restaurants and hotels gave me plenty of opportunity to snuff out the best of the best when it comes to après ski culture in Jackson. Usually, my buddies and I would get off the mountain head straight to The Mangy Moose for boilermakers, order a tall PBR and a shot of well whiskey. We’d recap the runs of the day, figure out the game plan for the evening, and listen to some killer live music.
Now that I’m a bit older and have a budget that exceeds microwave bean burritos, my buddies and I are usually choosing between Alpenhof Lodge (for a nicer, authentic German dinner) or Spur (for a gastropub style joint with unreal nachos) for dinner when we make our way back to Jackson. The nightlife in Jackson is unlike anywhere else—old Western-themed saloons like The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and The Virginian are the ultimate spots for cheap beers, plenty of shooters, and spur-kickin’ country music.
You’ll be rubbing elbows and mingling with locals and out-of-towners at all these joints, but the one thing that everyone will have in common? High energy. The skill level required to ski Jackson Hole matches everyone’s stance on having a good time. So if you’re heading into town, get ready for a night you’ll never forget (though, I suppose that depends on how many boilermakers you choose to enjoy).
Big Sky Expert: Alexi Wattis, House Brands
It wasn’t until my parents had kids that they fell in love with skiing, and it was an opportunity for the family to bond during the winter. In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Big Sky was still a relatively “unknown” place—most people went to Vail or Aspen if they were new to skiing and wanted to get out there. Times have certainly changed since I was a kid and Big Sky is a little more populated during the winter, but the reason we keep going back is our deep familial ties and the fact that the culture and people in Big Sky haven’t changed one bit.
Big Sky Skiing:
I’ve skied in plenty of places around the country, and the weather at Big Sky makes you appreciate a hot shower more than anywhere else in the world. The conditions are usually Arctic-level freezing, but this makes the snow light, dry, fresh, and fluffy—this, in turn, means the best powder I’ve ever experienced. Naturally, when I’m on the mountain, I’ve got all my runs planned for the day, and I’m pushing myself to get in as many runs as humanly possible.
Photo: Montana Jack
Big Sky Après:
Big Sky is no Vail, Colorado. The streets aren’t lined with endless saloons and refurbished taverns, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bone dry. That aside, my après-ski scene usually depends on my company. If I’m just with my (very musically-oriented) family, we’re heading straight back to the condo with a few beers to sit around the fire and play guitar and sing until we’re too tired to even speak. If I’m with my friends, we have a tradition of hitting Montana Jack for a little whiskey (usually Bulleit Rye on the rocks since I’m in cowboy country), and then hauling the 20-minute drive to Corral for wings and beers. Corral lists these heavenly morsels as an “appetizer,” but any self-respecting person will take that as a challenge and order enough wings to turn this first course into a main entre.
Photo: Georgia Naumann
Revelstoke Expert: Georgia Naumann, Brands
For both sides of my family, skiing has been an integral bonding activity for three generations. Growing up in Massachusetts, I was lucky enough to have grown up sharing a ski house with my cousins that my Grandfather built in Sugarbush, VT, and I’ve gone every winter that I’ve been alive. Nowadays, the kids of the family have grown older and everyone’s spread out across the country, so having a common activity that we can bond over like skiing is amazing. It also pushes us to travel more and share in a common experience together, and that’s why we were in Revelstoke this past holiday season. Revelstoke had always been on my bucket list of places to ski, so having the opportunity to do so with my family was a huge blessing.
The term “hidden gem” is overused a lot—people use it to describe a hole-in-the-wall taqueria or the “secret” menu at In-N-Out. And with that in mind, I can confidently say that Revelstoke is actually a true hidden gem. The nearest major city is Calgary and even that’s about 5 hours away, so this far east morsel of British Columbia is the definition of remote. The mountain welcomed all walks of skiers—there was a nice mix of international folk from around the globe, a decent amount of Americans, and some traveling Canadians that ventured out to Revelstoke. This eclectic gathering negated any “locals only” pressure that you mind find elsewhere. And the weather conditions, though pretty darn cold, produced some of the finest snow I’ve ever been in. To put it in perspective, the ski shops would only rent powder skis due to the amount of fresh snow that would come down each day.
On this particular trip, my family traded the traditional present-giving Christmas tradition for an epic day of Cat Skiing—truly one of the best gifts I've shared with my family—on one of the more remote areas of the Selkirk Mountain range. Every run was packed with fresh, untouched snow, and the experience crescendoed with a final 40 minute run of untouched powder. For anyone who’s been skiing at least once in their life knows that conditions like these are—as David Byrne would put it—once-in-a-lifetime.
Photo: Quartermaster’s Eatery
Before we dive into the full après scene, I should note that Mackenzie’s Outpost is paramount when the midday hunger pangs can’t be ignored. They offer a pound of french fries for around $8 with plenty of draft suds to boot—I’ve never been to a better (or more affordable) place to fuel up for the afternoon runs.
Now time for the real après ski recommendations… At the base of the mountain the Rockford Grill was our go-to spot for quick beers and excellent tunes. For first-rate, authentic Japanese cuisine and sushi, there’s no better place in northern British Columbia than Kawakubo. I understand your hesitation at first, but the fish are carefully selected for only the highest quality possible. If you’re looking for something more savory and hearty, then head over to Quartermaster Eatery and order one of the Chef’s Burger—you’ll thank us later. Our final stop of the evening always ended up being The Village Idiot. With just the right amount of kitschy ski decor and a dive bar style atmosphere, the Village Idiot is everything that’s right about après ski culture. They’ve got tasty pub snacks, a full bar with local Canadian beers on draft, and an outdoor patio area that overlooks the mountains.
Sugarloaf Expert: Evan Didisheim, Marketing
Picture it: Sweet little Evan Didisheim, no older than six years, and I’m strapping on my first pair of skis, ready to take on the moguls with my old man. Seriously though, Sugarloaf is the mountain that I learned to ski, and for a born-and-raised Mainer, it’s my second home (arguably my first depending on who you ask). My dad was a competitive freestyle skier and my mom is a seasoned cross country skier, so I’m pretty sure that my parents tried to teach me to how to “pizza” and “french fry” before they taught me how to walk.
To be totally transparent, the Loaf isn’t necessarily a highly sought-after place to ski in the Northeast—not due to quality but because of location. If you’re from Boston or New York City, getting to Vermont is much easier, and there are actual ski resorts to stay at, whereas Sugarloaf is tucked in northern Maine, and there are limited places to rest your head at night. The great thing about the remote location is only devoted riders are hitting Sugarloaf, and a lot of the local flavor has been preserved without an influx of outside money coming in. I mentioned earlier that I grew up on this mountain and I still crave those familiar runs when I’m deep in my work inbox, so Sugarloaf truly is suitable for all skill levels and welcoming to both newbies and experts.
Photo: The Bag and Kettle
I could fill a book with all my recommendations for Sugarloaf’s après ski scene, but I’ll only list my all-time favorites for ya. For the midday cravings, The Bag and Kettle is a Sugarloaf institution that’s been serving up mouth-watering burgers for over 50 years. When you walk in, take a deep inhale, soak in the surroundings, take a seat, and without looking at the menu, just say these words to your server: “Hello there, may I please have The Bag Burger and your tallest Stowaway IPA?” Just trust me.
Now, after the lifts have closed, it’s pretty easy to pick what’s next. You’ll only find me at The Rack after I’m done skiing. Rated as the best après ski bars by locals, I’m bound to run into some high school buds and family friends at The Rack. It’s a traditional ski bar with just the right amount of dive bar grunge, plus it’s part-owned by Seth Wescott, two-time gold medalist and proud Sugarloafer. Their slogan, “Serving questionable locals... and those soon to be,” truly captures the essence of The Rack (and all of Sugarloaf for that matter): a good time that’s accepting of anyone willing to haul all the way up.
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to have the stars align and you’re in town for Reggae Fest at Sugarloaf, it’s almost mandatory that you attend. Spring skiing is fun enough, but when you add thumping reggae beats cranked up to 11 and cooky locals grooving along, you’re in for a true après treat.
For more Huckberry skiing recommendations, head to The Huckberry Guide to Skiing on a Budget and The Oldest Ski Shop in America.