As the name itself reveals, après ski is a concept born and bred in France, before spreading to alpine hubs across the globe. It’s no surprise that drinking, eating, partying—celebrating in some form—sits at the top of the priority list for skiers everywhere. Compared to the U.S., the après scene in the French Alps literally goes from dusk ’til dawn. It features a higher fur to Gore-Tex ratio, more wine and elaborate cocktails, better food, more electronic dance music than acoustic guitar, more dancing in general, and a significantly larger crowd. Expect to shed some layers amid the collective body heat. Here are just suggestions for where to start your post-slopes partying.
In addition to its own table-dancing renditions of Dick’s Tea Bar and La Folie Douce, Europe’s highest resort features one of France’s most delicious high elevation dining experiences at La Fruitere. You are encouraged to indulge in a sun-drenched, seasonal fresh multi-course lunch before you head next door to La Folie to cut some snow. Long after the sun sets, maintain your vertical (or go back after a nap) at Klub Summit, France’s highest elevation nightclub, open until 4 a.m. with a variety of rock, ’80s, disco, and house tunes, plus a quieter VIP lounge.
There is no shortage of party stops in France’s most famous resort, including Chambre Neuf, where it’s standing room only once the live music begins to the tune of two-for-one cocktails. The aptly named L’Amnesiais where dancers tend to become scantily clad and the party goes until 4 a.m. But for a truly unique après experience, head to the most beautiful old house on the outskirts of town to listen to regional and international live jazz. Maison des Artistes is one of the best-kept secrets in the Alps, where you can soak up the melodies in a leather chair while sipping your soothing mug of vin chaud.
Did we mention sparklers? This is another prop you’ll find in certain alpine party haunts, particularly at Dick’s Tea Bar, which offers table service for those wishing to kick back with champagne while live musicians (including a violin and sax player) perform during the After Dinner Club. After midnight, the dance floor begins heaving with small flames and live DJs, and the party thumping lasts until 5 a.m. Decidedly more French, Doudoune Club brings in guest DJs throughout the winter, also spinning until 5 a.m. The club recently opened Cocorico, a ski-in spot at the base of Solaise where the party starts in the afternoon with a mix of great views and karaoke. On the La Daille side of the resort, the electro beats of La Folie Douce—an après fixture found in several French resorts—reverberate across the slopes, accented by the stomping of ski boots on the balcony.
If you wish to dive right into the swank of Courchevel and rub shoulders with the international crowd who spends the whole season here, sink into a plush couch at Le Bubble Bar in the village, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with live music on Sundays. Le Schuss Café, also located in Courchevel 1650, is an equally sophisticated but quieter après experience where cuisine ranges from burgers to raclette and the wine list is truly rich. Le Tremplin up the hill offers delightful fresh fish and meat dishes for lunch and dinner. You’ll find live music two days a week and more affordable prices than you’d expect. Also situated smack at the base of the 1850 chairlifts, Le Kudetaoffers a rustic, white tablecloth dining experience inside for lunch and dinner, then morphs into a club with live DJs kicking off around 10 p.m.
As with many French resorts, at Meribel you’re sometimes bound to run into more British accents than natives during après. When you sit down in the cabin-like La Taverne, you have the option of a burger and a pint in the main pub or a lineup of authentic Savoyard specialties, including steak and fondue, in the cozy wine bottle-lined restaurant. Make a reservation to ensure a table. On the mountain, reapply the sunscreen when you hang out on the patio at Le Rond Point, where toffee vodka is the party drink of choice on the crowded balconies and live bands play until nightfall.
Arguably the most well-bred of the bunch, the hot après spots tucked amid this stunning medieval-meets-chalet town include yet another on-slope La Folie Douce as well as Casino Barrière, a late-night club where you can lose your Euros quickly via both cocktails and slots. Club Cocoon is a locals’ hangout with more approachable prices and music that gets louder by the hour, ranging in variety from French folk to American hair rock. The No. 1 not-to-miss post-slopes scene in Megève can be found at Club de Jazz Les Cinq Rues. Inside the picturesque stone building, big names have been performing for more than half a century, including Bill Coleman and Memphis Slim. After you’re done listening and sipping red wine by the fireplace, the crowd gets younger as the late-night dance party takes over.
All told, après ski is a staple wherever you go in France. The tough part is deciding how to divide your time and energy between day and night, downhill or dancing.
Originally written for Atout France.