Après-ski comes from the French for “After Skiing” but is now used universally and refers to the socializing that is popular after a days skiing ends. When the sun goes down is the time when the ski resorts come alive and enjoying a steaming mug of hot Chocolate laced with rum or a glass of hot Glühwein whilst watching the sunset over the snow covered mountain peaks is a memory which will last a life-time. In the Alps it is usual to come straight from the slopes, still in your ski gear, and stop off at the bars along the way. Après-ski covers the foods, the drinks and the dancing that is enjoyed and is part of the atmosphere of the ski resorts and ski culture, the idea is similar to the nineteenth hole in golf. The bars and restaurants in the ski resorts are themed, in their architecture and decor to enhance the atmosphere of the Après-ski experience. In many of the ski resorts you will find deck-chairs, ice bars and live music which can be enjoyed by skiers and non-skiers alike.Après-ski is particularly popular in Austria and according to the Austrians they invented Après-ski, for example, the Austrian ski resorts St. Anton, Ischgl, Innsbruck, Kitzbuhl, Sölden, Saalbach-Hinterglemm and the Zillertal.
Warm yourself by the open log burning fire with a “Jägertee” – tea with schnapps, Heisse Schokolade or a Lumbaba. In the Netherlands, après-ski huts are found in many clubs and bars. In these huts, après-ski music is played, which is mostly covers or parodies of old songs. These huts are aimed primarily at young adults and teenagers. In southern Germany Après ski will also offer special relaxation opportunities with a variety of large thermal baths such as the Aquaria Oberstaufen, the Vitaltherme Oberstdorf or the Watzmanntherme Berchtesgaden. Nesselwang in Bavaria is an example of how popular skiing and Après-ski is in Germany, the town has a population of 3,500 people which is swelled to 73,000 with winter visitors . For the more energetic there are also snowshoe hiking, tobogganing, ice skating and there are wonderful horse drawn sleigh rides which take you through a winter wonderland where all you can hear is the jingle of the bells on the horses reins as the silence of the landscape envelopes you. Along the pistes there are quaint ice bars and traditional wooden chalets offering German hospitality, whilst in the towns are restaurants, bars and discos.
In France the area of Val D’Isere is well known for its lively Après-ski life as is Chamonix with its large range of bars and clubs. Also look out Meribel, Val Thorens and Les Deux Alpes all of which attract a large number of visitors each year. In Italy the best parties in the Italian mountains happen in the many beautiful ski resorts such as Passo Tonale, Alagna, Monte Rosa, Limone, Folgarida, Macugnaga, Corvara, Cortina, Claviere and Breuil just to mention a few. The Après ski in Courmayeur is so popular that it has overtaken the skiing experience according to some. Switzerland is, of course a big skiing and Après-ski region and extremely popular. Davos, Klosters, Verbier, Wengen and Zermatt and the world famous St.Moritz are among the many ski resorts that draw the winter visitors each year. Besides the wonderful scenery and mountain peaks, great skiing and Après ski, one can enjoy views of the Matterhorn in Zermatt and celebrity spotting and rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous in St. Moritz, Switzerland really has it all.
Another very important part of the Après-ski experience is the Food the most traditional and best known is the cheese fondue, hot, stringy and delicious and a wonderful way to spend the evening with friends dipping in chunks of crusty bread and washing it down with deliciously clear white wine. Watch out not to drop your chunk of bread off your fondue fork as the men will have to splash out on another bottle of wine and the ladies have to give a kiss to the men at the table! all makes for a happy, lively atmosphere. Cheese is not the only way to enjoy a fondue there are also meat fondues and the wonderful indulgent chocolate fondues into which you can dip fresh fruits, mmmm!! Raclette is another favourite cheese sharing meal but it can also include meats, the cheese is melted below the flame in small dishes and spread on bread or potatoes, the meats are cooked on the top of the raclette burner so everything is definitely freshly cooked. Next on our Après-ski list of foods is pasta, in any shape or form as pasta is a wonderful way to replenish your strength for another day on the slopes.
Pasta tastes great and is one of the cheapest ways to top up on your carbs if you are watching the pennies, and if you aren’t then you will find it on the menus of the finest Italian restaurants in the ski resort.
An Austrian/Swiss form of pasta is Spätzle and Käsespätzle are smothered in tasty cheese which melts, this is something not to miss out on.
A great way to beat the cold is soup and there are as many soups as there are kitchens, everyone has their own version, obviously passed down through the generations and which are always the best, but funnily enough when you are hungry and cold this is exactly what they are. Along-side soup another great winter warmer is chili and this can be served in many guises, either in jacket potatoes, on nacho crisps, inside bread rolls or a big favourite, on french fries with a heap of grated cheese melting over the top. From Italy, and popular world-wide, is the Pizza, great for sharing, eating alone, with a salad, but best of all with a large drink and friends. A new-comer and a favourite with children in-particular, is the burger and these will be found in most of the ski resorts. Besides all the aforementioned foods there are the traditional local dishes which will be on offer in the restaurants in all the ski resorts and these are nice to sample especially when you are looking for a quiet, romantic evening for two. Whatever you are looking for you are sure to find it in the many eateries of Europe’s great ski resorts.
Night Skiing is offered in many resorts and mountains and is the sport of skiing and snowboarding after sunset. The pistes will be lit up with electric lights, which make the piste look very pretty. Normally it begins around 8pm and lasts until 10.30pm. It is a great way for those who are unable to join in during the day to get in a few runs, which are generally quieter at night. There will be fewer runs open at night and due to the drop in the temperature the trails will tend to be icier. Many resorts will organise groups to ski together down the runs with hand-held candle torches, which viewed from a distance is a wonderful sight to watch.
Snowmobiles have become very popular over the last years as a recreational vehicle used for fun, but they are also very useful in mountain rescue. Snowmobiles are land vehicles designed to travel over snow and ice with tracks at the rear and skies at the front which provide directional control. The various designs also allow some vehicles to be driven through forests and in deep, powdery snow. They usually are designed to carry two people and are similar to a motorbike. These are seen in most ski resorts now and can often be hired by the hour or the day.
Snowshoe Hiking is a good way of getting about and taking exercise in deep snow. Snowshoes were once the chosen footwear of fur-trappers and traders and anyone whose livelihood depended on getting about in the snow. The snowshoe works by distributing a person’s weight over a larger area so that the foot does not sink into the snow. Today’s snowshoes are a far cry from our ancestor’s stick and strap versions, and if you enjoy walking in mountaineering boots then hiking in snowshoes is perfect for you. Snowshoe Hiking will take you through glistening snow in undisturbed and silent landscapes far from the busy pistes. Resorts will give you details of marked walks.
Tobogganing is a pastime that can be enjoyed by all the family and can be taken in short runs at the resorts or can combine an enjoyable long walk before the final exciting descent on the toboggan. Switzerland boasts many wonderful runs especially designed for the toboggan in the beautiful settings of places such as Grindelwald, which has Europe’s longest toboggan run with the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau for a backdrop, the 3 km run at Flumserberg which also holds illuminated night-time runs on Thursdays and Saturdays, Disentis-Sedrun from where you can take a chair lift to the summit from where the Milez-Ruereas run is 3.5 km long and of course there are many, many more.
Ice Skating is an excellent activity that can be enjoyed by all the family and many of Europe’s Ski Resorts offer open-air ice skating rinks in the centre of the resort, and skates can be hired nearby. A wonderful way to spend an evening with family and friends with the snowy landscape illuminated all around and the aromas of warming food and drinks drifting on the night air.
Horse drawn sleigh rides feature in many people’s romantic dreams and have been viewed in many an old-time film that we enjoy, especially around Christmas time, but it is something that is real and can be enjoyed in many towns and villages around Europe. Take a sleigh ride for an hour or for a full day (around 8 hours), but whichever you choose it is certain to be a memorable event. Sleigh rides can be taken through the trees of the Black Forest in Germany, the landscape is so silent and the snow seems to glisten even brighter than usual, look out for the different footprints made by the animals who live in this winter wonderland. It is advisable to book beforehand as these trips are very popular. From Salzburg one can take an unforgettable 8 hour sleigh ride along the Salzach River and up the Dachstein Mountain to 3,281 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level at the base of one of the Alpine glacier massifs. Wherever you take your sleigh ride it is sure to be everything you dreamt of.
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