With spring in the air and restrictions on après ski eased in Europe’s top ski resorts, there’s never been a better time to let your hair down after a day on the slopes and celebrate the long-awaited return of ski holidays.
Across the Alps the music is pumping, Schnapps is flowing and tables are once again creaking under the weight of ski-boot-wearing dancers. From St Anton’s Mooserwirt to Val d’Isere’s Folie Douce and Snowbombing Festival in Mayrhofen, après ski is back to its best – much to the delight of the thousands of Britons who flock to the mountains each winter to spend more time partying, rather than sliding.
But what if, despite the persuasive words of your resort rep and the cheers of delight from the bar’s terrace, you’re just not feeling the raucous après vibe anymore and instead yearn for an afternoon soaking in the hot tub, before an indulgent dinner? Well, truth be told, you might just be too old for après ski.
10 signs you’re too old for après ski
Helen Coffey reveals the moment she realised her days of frolicking at the Folie Douce were over.
As a fresh-faced 21-year-old on a ski season in the French Alps, I could literally have it all. Stumbling back from the local bar, once so notably sozzled that I was unable to find my shoebox apartment and had to spend the night on a bemused French couple’s floor (it turned out to be on the same corridor as my room), I would nevertheless be fairly confident in my ability to spring back the next day, ready for a full day’s skiing. And that confidence was rarely misplaced.
I have no idea how it worked on a physiological level – my best guess is some kind of beautiful magic, also bestowed upon my contemporaries, who shared this special ability to stay out till 4am and then hit the slopes for six straight hours the following day.
In fact, this miracle became so commonplace, so expected, that we all started to forget it was a miracle at all…
Cut to six years later, and I’m sat on a chairlift, bloodshot eyes blinking stupidly in the sunlight like early man emerging from the cave for the first time, head pounding with all the ferocity of what feels like a very small but very strong pixie bashing the inside of my skull with a very small but very real club. It is taking every ounce of my concentration and willpower to simply not be sick over the side of the chair.
The previous night’s “hilarious” antics, involving a bottle of tequila, some truly awful karaoke and a quickly-abandoned game of Ring of Fire, no longer seem quite so amusing this morning when looking down the barrel of an entire day of extreme exercise.
It is a rude awakening to the sad but inevitable truth – I can no longer handle the wild après AND the full-on skiing. No sir. Those days are done. And if you recognise any of the following symptoms, it may well be that the time has come for you, too, to trade in your party shoes for some “low-key fun” slippers – at least while on your only snowsports holiday of the year…
1. Sip not shot
Upon hearing the chant “Down it! Down it! Down it!”, your first impulse is to simply put your drink back down on the table.
2. Home sweet home
The very mention of leaving the chalet of an evening – the lovely, warm chalet with the lovely, free chalet wine – brings you out in a cold sweat so extreme, it prompts friends to comment that you’re “looking a bit peaky”.
3. Clock watching
When someone proposes one last pint at 11pm, you find yourself nervously looking at your watch and muttering “the thing is, if I’m going to get 10 hours sleep AND be up in time for first lift, I really should have been in bed 28 minutes ago…”
4. Ignorance is bliss
You offer to get the next three rounds in, simply so you can order a coke minus the vodka for yourself without having to endure relentless mockery from the rest of the group.
5. High-altitude epiphany
The morning after a night sans alcohol, you feel so incredible that you start gabbling enthusiastically to anyone who’ll listen about how your new multi-vitamin must be “really working!” – before realising that you are just experiencing a hangover-less ski day for the first time in 10 years.
6. A lust for lull
Midway through a conversation with the painfully beautiful Swedish ski-bum you’ve been lusting after, you realise you have completely tuned out and are staring balefully out of the window, thinking longingly of your pyjamas and boxset of The Good Wife back at the chalet.
7. Run for over
Shouts of “Bomb!” cause you to duck and roll under the nearest table, arms protectively shielding your head. Upon realising it’s actually in reference to the approaching round of Jägerbombs you feel, if anything, more alarmed.
8. Wardrobe worries
The words, “You’re not wearing that, are you?”, come out of your mouth, unbidden, on seeing a friend’s choice of mini-skirt/strap-top ensemble; the same thing you would have been happily skipping around the snow in decades ago.
9. Tactical tunes
You find yourself singing a bizarre acoustic version of your chum’s favourite track when your they refuse to leave the club until they play their request, in the vain hope that you will be allowed to return hotel-wards afterwards.
10. A helping hand
When it has been decided that someone must take the so-drunk-it’s-gone-beyond-a-joke member of your party home, you volunteer immediately – sure, you’ll spend half an hour dragging them through snowdrifts before washing the vomit out of their hair, but after that you’re free and clear! You’ll be able to get a full night’s sleep and be up in time to bag first tracks.
Top resorts for a quieter life on the slopes
Prefer your slippers in the chalet to dancing in ski boots in the club? Here’s where to find a more peaceful approach to life in the mountains
The long Montafon valley is at the western end of Austria, near the Swiss border and is blissfully quiet. It has a few separate ski areas that between them have 275km of marked pistes, all covered on a single pass – Silvretta Montafon is by far the largest with 117km of its own. The area’s freeride terrain is a particular draw, setting itself up as a quieter alternative to the hugely popular Ski Arlberg. Accommodation is split across the valley towns and après ski is spent planning the next day’s adventure rather than hangover cure.
Adelboden is a traditional Swiss village tucked away on a sunny mountainside – particularly popular with those looking for an all-round winter holiday, with plenty of activities to try, not just dancing on tables. Built almost entirely in chalet style, it has a long, quiet, largely car-free main street – nightlife is almost nonexistent in the chocolate-box village with stunning views. The 185km of slopes are enough to keep intermediates happy for a week, while beginners have a choice of good nursery slopes and glorious long, easy runs to progress to. Experts will enjoy the few black runs and there’s good off piste to explore.
Risoul is a purpose-built resort constructed in the late Seventies, made up of largely family-friendly apartment blocks. The busy little main street has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, but après ski is quiet compared to other purpose-built giants like Tignes or Avoriaz. Most accommodation is conveniently situated right on the piste and the centre is compact and family focussed, with restaurant terraces spilling on to the snow but not a raging disco in sight. The resort shares the extensive, attractively wooded Forêt Blanche ski area with Vars in the next valley and is popular with French families.
Après ski in Spain takes on a whole new personality – after the final run home it’s time for tapas and tempranillo until 6pm when the bars empty – it’s siesta time. Baqueira-Beret was purpose-built in the Sixties and the ski area is fair-sized and interestingly divided into three sectors, all with long, intermediate runs almost entirely above the tree line. Most slopes are above 1,800m and are served by extensive snow-making – making it a promising late-season option. The resort has been the winter home of the Spanish royal family ever since it first opened in 1964 – despite this, prices remain a fraction of those in the most popular destinations in the Alps.
Big Sky, USA
Quiet runs are one of the attractions of American ski areas in general. But the slopes of Big Sky and linked Moonlight Basin aren’t just quiet, they feel uninhabited. On average, the resort gets around 3,000 visitors a day – that works out at about two skiable acres for each of them to enjoy. And this isn’t because the mountain lacks appeal. The slopes add up to one of America’s biggest areas at more than 5,800 acres – larger than Vail. The resort village at the foot of the slopes, known as Mountain Village, is small, with just a few hotels and apartments and a handful of bars and restaurants set around a traffic-free plaza. In general, life off the slopes is just as quiet as on them – bliss.