There’s no doubt that the main part of a skiing holiday is the actual skiing itself.
There really are few things in life more liberating than strapping on a pair of skis or a snowboard and swishing down a snowy mountain. But if skiing is the only focus of your holiday, then you’re missing out. As a day on the slopes comes to an end, there’s a world of après ski to explore afterwards and it promises a whole other kind of fun.
So, what exactly is après ski?
Well, it depends entirely on what you want out of your perfect ski holiday. If you plan on whizzing down the slopes and then relaxing afterwards, then après ski is spa treatments, massages and evenings spent in the sauna, soothing sore muscles or swimming in an indoor or outdoor heated pool.
If you want to let your hair down, then après ski is a cocktail (or two), socialising and dancing at some of the best bars and clubs. And if you’re a true foodie at heart, then après ski means enjoying delicious food in stunning settings.
So whatever you’re looking for after your day’s skiing, read on to find the perfect ski domain for you.
It’s important to keep your energy levels up, but there’s no point filling yourself with just any old sustenance, not when there are unforgettable meals to be eaten. And you can always burn off anything overly indulgent on the slopes the next day.
If it’s top class food that you’re after, the first destination on your list should be Les Trois Vallées. Not only does this ski area comprise eight different domains in – as the name suggests – three different valleys with a top altitude of 3,230m and 600km of skiable slopes, it also is home to some of Europe’s best restaurants.
The domain of Courchevel is famous for having more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other ski domain. Highlights include Le 1947, named for the vintage of its most illustrious wine, Azimut and L’Oeil de Boeuf, where you can watch your steak cooked on an open fire.
For a mountainside lunch, head to Bel Air where the hearty portions of comforting French favourites will give you more than enough fuel to get to the end of the day. Grab a seat out on the terrace for lunch with a view.
Also in Les Trois Vallées is the Val Thorens resort, closer to the stars in more ways than one. Be sure to sample the menu at Club Med Val Thorens Sensations. It was designed by dual Michelin-starred chef Edouard Loubet who, in 1995, became the youngest French chef to receive the coveted stars.
Drive 25 minutes from Val Thorens and you’ll find yourself at La Bouitte, which has a remarkable three Michelin stars, while L’Epicurean in Val Thorens itself has earned a star for its contemporary twists on traditional French dishes.
If you’re travelling with kids – of any age – in tow, high-end Michelin-starred food might not be exactly what they’re looking for to recharge after a day on the slopes.
The perfect solution here is Cervinia.
Copa Pan is the kind of place that the kids will demand to return to night after night for their excellent pizzas and homemade pasta, while something a little more adventurous (frogs’ legs or reindeer steak, anyone?) can be had at the popular Wood restaurant.
When it comes to après ski bars, the biggest name is La Folie Douce. The original mountainside haven of drinks, food, live music and DJs was founded in 1981 in Val d’Isere, but there are now outposts in Meribel, Val Thorens, Alpe d’Huez and Saint Gervais that carry the same fun-loving spirit to new domains. There is no better – or more scenic – place in the alps for kicking back and letting your hair down.
If you still have the energy after a day’s skiing, you can party all night at the Alps’ biggest nightclub “Malaysia” in Val Thorens. It opens at 10.30pm and runs until 4am and has featured some seriously big DJ names, such as Calvin Harris, Rudimental and Chase & Status.
Neighbouring Meribel is not to be outdone. Alongside its very own La Folie Douce, the domain boasts another iconic après hangout in Le Rond Point, which is on piste, but not too far up that you need to negotiate anything tricky après your après. The food is excellent and the entertainment even better, with live bands, DJs and demonstrations from the clothing brand DC’s snowboarding team.
If your body is crying out for some relaxation and indulgence to recover from all that twisting and turning on the slopes, top-class spa experiences are very much in fashion at ski domains. Club Med’s Carita spa in the beautifully picturesque domain of Valmorel is built into a cave and includes a hammam, an indoor pool and an outdoor Jacuzzi.
Or if you want to pamper yourself while enjoying breath-taking views of the mountains, the spa at the Grand Massif Samoëns Morillon resort has 180˚ views of the surrounding peaks.
Read our article on family ski trips for tips on the best destinations for family ski holidays and domains with great après activities that everyone will love.