Serious skiers and snowboarders look for so many factors when choosing a destination: the best powder, highest concentration of black diamonds, gnarliest moguls, and more. But really experienced powder hounds know that the terrain is only half the decision. For a truly unparalleled experience, you need to know what happens in a ski town after the lifts close, and it needs to be awesome.
With winter closing in quick, the time you have left to book the ski holiday of your choosing for the season is running out. That said, we've picked these 10 party ski towns so you can truly get the best of both worlds.
It’s time to live out your own Olympic glory on the legendary Canadian slopes of Whistler Blackcomb. After you've tackled both mountains, ski right into Dusty’s patio in Creekside for a cozy end to your day that may very well lead to a long night of beer, potato wedges, and of course, butt rub mayo. Inside you'll find snowboarding movies playing their hearts out, and if you have any doubts about the food, know that Dusty’s is home to the National BBQ Championships each summer. If that sounds more like your game, we highly recommend the massive portions of poutine served at Merlin’s for a true north of the border experience. At the base of Blackcomb mountain, the atmosphere starts out chill before morphing into a raucous good time with live bands and DJs. If you feel like carrying the party into the night, bar hop between Moe Joe's, Tommy Africa's, and Maxx Fish in Whistler Village for a memorable (albeit blurry) experience.
Steamboat Springs, CO
In addition to their legendary ski runs, Steamboat Springs hosts a slew of activities for after the sun goes down. Check out Schmiggity’s, a dance bar with live music that’s as fun to pronounce as it is to experience. If you’re lucky enough to visit during their Winter Carnival (an annual festival that’s part rodeo and part X-games) in February, you’ll get to some hear some amazing live music in their heated outdoor tents as you sip the night away. And while you’re out there, enjoy the fireworks and live skier who carves the mountain while carrying glow sticks and roman candles. In all honesty, it looks downright miraculous after you’ve thrown back a few.
Vail boasts a ton of cool features in addition to its gorgeous terrain, but the best one? Its compact, pedestrian-friendly set-up that lets you tackle as many bars and clubs as you want without worrying about finding a cab with snow tires at 1 am. Start your après ski with Los Amigos, where you'll have a full view of your friends flying (or face planting) down the mountain as you down authentic Mexican food. Then head over to Altitude Bar, where they offer a free keg on the weekends to help you get a head start on your drinking. Also don’t forget to check out the local breweries like Crazy Mountain — if you overdo it in their tasting room, you can always indulge in some hair-of-the-dog therapy the next day with the Crazy Mountain beer body products (yes, it's a thing) at the Four Seasons.
Known for having an upscale vibe and some of the most expensive real estate in the country, Aspen tops the list of well-loved ski destinations. But despite its classy, moneyed crowd, there’s still tons of fun and mischief to be had here. The Wheeler Opera House lets its hair down with awesome rock and pop bands on the regular, and if you’re looking for more danceable music, try Escobar, which features countless portraits of the drug lord himself inside a building that looks like the interior of an airplane. The owners have also built a free-for-all stripper pole, if that's your kind of thing. Don’t forget to stop by Belly Up, which squeezes some pretty big music names into its intimate, friendly space. And if you’re looking for inspiration to keep upping the ante with your snowboard, the X Games arrives January 27 for your viewing pleasure.
Gone are the days when Alberta, Canada was considered a frozen arctic wasteland in the winter. In fact, Sunshine Village offers a bustling nightlife scene that perfectly compliments the resort town’s incredible views of the Canadian Rockies and pristine powder. Start with pizza and pork tacos at the Bear Street Tavern, then swing over to The Banff Ave. Brewing Company for some tasty craft beers. If you’re up for a very Canadian dance party, Dancing Sasquatch is your place, whereas if you want something a little more laid back, High Rollers lets you perfect your bowling technique while enjoying an extensive selection of tap beers. Either way, be sure to end your night with some live music at the always-rowdy Wild Bill’s.
Even if you have the luxury of staying in Teton Village at Jackson Hole, it’s well worth your while to venture into the city after a day on the slopes. For classic Western fare like ribeye and pasta with elk medallions, check out the trendy, fun atmosphere inside The Local. Or if you have a more eclectic palette, try Bin22, which is tucked inside of a wine shop and serves a wide variety of tapas along with its immense selection of vino. Once you’ve classed it up with some fine dining, it’s time to move on to the very authentic Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which was the first bar in Wyoming to start serving liquor after the prohibition was repealed. They haven’t stopped since, and tourists will love the real saddle barstools, pine interior, and steady stream of live music. Oh, and don't forget to mark your calendars for Rendezvous Festival in March — Zac Brown Band will be playing.
Mammoth Lakes, CA
If tackling Mammoth Mountain is on your list this season, start your après ski under the bottle cap ceiling at Clocktower Cellar Pub with happy hour specials and an easy atmosphere. Or, check out the German-themed Yodler where you can sit fireside to enjoy the ideal après ski snack: a fresh, giant pretzel and beer. If you’re up for a classy seafood and steak dinner, Petra’s Wine Bar boasts killer gnocci, crab cakes, and delicious vintage bottles of wine. Then lower your class level (just a bit) to finish the night at Rafter’s Lounge, where you can often hear live music, or bust out your own tunes with their karaoke night. If you’d rather splurge on something really special, Parallax is just a short snowcat ride to the top of the mountain for four courses of awesome.
Park City, UT
Cold and tired after a long day on the slopes at Park City? Ski straight into High West Distillery to sample their house made whiskeys and select vodkas, which will warm you up with your first sips (though you don’t have to stop there). Later stop by the Egyptian Theatre to see where the stars hang out during the Sundance Film Festival every year. If you’re looking for more local flavor, slide on over to the No Name Saloon which has “been helping people forget their names since 1903” amid the antique Western décor. And if you still have your wits about you after that, try Liquid Joe’s which features live music most nights, including an amazing 80’s cover band for those of us looking to get our nostalgia on.
South Lake Tahoe, CA
After you’re done exercising your superb skills on Heavenly's moguls, test them on one of South Lake Tahoe’s several casinos. Because when the ski lifts close in this town, the shenanigans are just getting started. Aside from the myriad games, most of the casinos offer amazing views of Lake Tahoe that you can gaze at while contemplating how to spend your new fortune. If no matter how hard you try you still suck at blackjack, try Whiskey Dick’s for some old-school darts, shuffleboard, and beer. Or for those of you German beer lovers, Himmel Haus offers an array of German and Belgian style beer with delicious schnitzel and sausage. If their famous Bingo nights don't quite sate your nightlife appetite, sign up for the Tahoe Club Crawl to get an insider’s guide to the coolest bars around.
Idaho may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think exotic ski locale (though it was in fact the first ski resort in the US), but there’s a reason people keep returning to Sun Valley. After you carve up the mountain's fresh powder, you can take to The Sawtooth Club for a steak dinner, or keep it real casual with a burger at Grumpy’s. In case your competitive streak continues even after you’ve taken off your skis, try out the foosball, darts, and pool tables at the Sun Valley’s favorite dive bar, Casino. It's an awesome spot for some no-frills, old-school, cash-only fun. Afterwards, head over to Whiskey Jacques for live music and a chance to catch the hockey game on their big screen TVs.