How To Do Après-Ski Right
Illustration by Mr Joe McKendry
What to drink, eat and wear after a day on the piste.
Is there anything more satisfying than kicking back with a cold beverage after a hard day on the piste? Although the French coined the term in the 1920s, it’s actually our Nordic cousins we have to thank for the tradition of après ski. Sometime around the 1870s, it became customary for members of Norway’s Christiania Ski Club to consume copious amounts of aquavit and booze-absorbing potatoes to warm the blood after a tough cross-country session. Today, the post-ski tipple has become a little more sophisticated, with a plethora of regional libations on offer. But what’s the best approach to ensure you can still get out of bed in the morning and leave with your piste cred intact?
Choose your drink wisely
When the mercury is barely touching -20°C, it might be tempting to hit the heart-warming concoctions – glühwein, vin chaud, Jägertee or vin brûlé, depending on your geographical location – but these mulled toddies are a recipe for a severe hangover with their tannin-heavy, sugar-rich content. Try to avoid staying on the hot wine the entire evening and stick to lighter, clearer drinks. Gin- and vodka-based beverages are always a safe bet, as are pale ales. It’s also worth remembering that at altitude, alcohol will get you sozzled twice as fast due to the lower oxygen content in the air, so take it easy – at least until you get acclimatised.
Indulge in the local dairy
Whether you’re in France, Switzerland, Austria or Italy, there’s one thing all the regions that straddle the Alps have in common – an intense love of cheese. From fondue and kaspressknödel to raclette and tartiflette, this part of the world is a turophile’s dream. This culinary legacy is largely due to the hilly landscape – local agriculture was limited to cattle rearing because the steep terrain made farming crops impossible. Fortuitously, cheese makes a fantastic stomach liner if you’re planning to hit the bottle and will (hopefully) neutralise the worst of the morning-after symptoms. In theory, you should still be able to get up in time to make the most of the fresh powder.
Dress the part
It’s going to be pitch black when you leave the bar and you’ll likely be a touch disorientated after hitting the oxygen-deprived air, so it’s definitely not the best time to get lost outside without adequate insulation. Cue a warming down jacket and kitschy-cool chalet sweater – anything with a nostalgic, folky pattern is key. Keep a thin base layer on underneath so you can shed the pullover as the rounds keep coming and things heat up. This is one of the few occasions in life when it’s acceptable to be seen wearing underwear in public. A pair of robust snow boots is also a must, particularly if you have a bit of a trek through the white stuff to reach your lodge.
Don’t drone on about skiing too much
As the night wears on and you’ve had a few, it might seem appropriate to regale your new chalet companions with an account of your day of fearless cliff-dropping on the Olympic downhill run and express the opinion that the black triple diamond runs are a complete cinch. Although you think you’re the next Mr Bode Miller, your embellished self-glorification isn’t likely to endear you to your new ski buddies. Remember, no one likes a show-off.