Purists, partiers, those who wish to be pampered — there’s a perfect ski resort for everyone out there, even those who don’t care to set foot on the slopes.There has never been a better time to be a skier or snowboarder. The past decade has seen a perfect storm of improvements, with better grooming, better snowmaking, and faster lifts than ever before. In the same period, dramatic advances in boots and skis have shortened the learning curve and made skiing easier for every ability level. Resorts around the globe have continued to expand their terrain and, even more importantly, their off-slope facilities. Long gone are the days when dorm-like ski lodges were the norm, and a slew of new slopeside five-star luxury hotels rival any beachfront or urban properties on earth for sumptuous creature comforts. Likewise, fine dining and shopping options have multiplied at resorts from the Rockies to the Alps as mountain towns increasingly become four-season playgrounds. What was once a “ski vacation” is now a full-blown winter vacation requiring no compromises.
What does this mean to you when planning for this winter? The biggest differentiator is no longer the mountain itself, but rather everything else that matters to you, and choosing the right destination comes down to your personal preferences and priorities, be they lodging, dining, or non-skiing activities. So whether you are a hardcore athlete who cares only about skiing or a spa lover who enjoys a few blue cruisers before a gourmet lunch, we have the mountain for you.
Tops for the Après Ski Scene
Aspen, Colorado: This is the town where people who have not even set foot on the slopes don four-figure ski outfits at 3 p.m. just for cocktails. The traditional power spot for après ski is the Terrace Bar in the slopeside the little Nell hotel, which draws longtime repeat Aspen visitors. A younger crowd seeking more of an Ibiza-vibe hits the very contemporary 39 Degrees at Sky Hotel, which replaces mere bartenders with mixologists, features fancy bar snacks, and offers both indoor and poolside options with a lounge atmosphere. Locals and visitors looking for good beer and a less flashy scene have made Aspen Brewing Company ultrapopular. One special local experience is the afternoon fondue at Cloud Nine alpine bistro, on the slopes of Aspen Highlands, followed by the last run of the day. Keep the après ski fun going by segueing into dinner at one of the area’s best restaurants: Matsuhisa, Montagna, PiÑons, or locavore-centric Eight K in the Viceroy Hotel in Snowmass.
Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia: How serious is the après ski scene in Whistler? The village’s public transport runs until 3:30 in the morning — later than in London, Paris, or Tokyo — even though most visitors can walk back to their hotels. The entire pedestrian village is built around drinking, dining, and dancing the night away, and it is hard to beat this multicultural gathering spot, with more than 90 bars and restaurants including everything from happy-hour sushi to traditional Irish pubs to champagne bars. Garibaldi Lift Company bar and grill, at the base of the main Whistler Village Gondola, is consistently named one of the world’s best après spots, with high-quality live music nightly into the wee hours. For fine dining, the Bearfoot Bistro might just be the best ski resort eatery in North America, and one of the few since the Napoleonic era where they will open your champagne bottle with a saber.
Hidden Gem: Heavenly, Nevada/California: Unique among all ski destinations, this vast Lake Tahoe resort has a direct gondola to the sidewalks of downtown Stateline, Nevada, where five large casino hotels are full of bars, shows, cabarets, live music, and cocktail servers at the gaming tables. That would be enough to make it a great après choice, but it also has its own pedestrian village at the bottom of the gondola with even more options.