Aprés ski — commonly shortened to “aprés” — literally translates from French to “after ski.” The origin of aprés is unclear — some say it dates back to the mid-19th century when Norwegian skiers would gather at each other’s homes after a day in the mountains, while others trace it back to the mid-20th century, when technological advances led to the rise of commercial skiing in Europe. Others claim that aprés has existed since humans first figured out how to slide on snow.
To an extent, there is likely truth to all of these claims. Over the decades, aprés has evolved, with its most recent and notable evolution occurring during the start of the pandemic — March 2020. Since the pandemic took hold of our ski season and overall lives, there was a shift from enjoying after-ski beers and food at the local resort pub to posting up in the parking lot, emptying a cooler filled with beer and tossing burgers and dogs on the portable grill. And while some version of “parking lot aprés” existed before COVID-19 for most local skiers and riders, it seems like a lot of out-of-town skiers have discovered the joys of skipping the bar.
Now, with the pandemic seemingly on the decline and bars returning to normal, there is a semblance of normalcy indoors intertwined with this new “parking lot aprés” scene, offering skiers and riders the option of burgers and beers in the lot, or grabbing a stool to check out the resort bar scene.
Regardless which you choose, there are a number of tips, tricks and unspoken guidelines that will help you get the most out of aprés this spring, when the resorts truly come alive.
How to dress
Unless you’re headed to a fashionable hotel like W Aspen for aprés, there is no need to dress up before heading out. In fact, most skiers show up in the clothes they skied in, seamlessly making the transition from the hill to the bar (or parking lot). Of course, ski and snowboard boots can be a bit of a hassle to wear, so consider at least having a pair of shoes to slip into. If you decide to opt out, make sure the bar you’re headed to allows ski boots, and make sure not to slip on the wooden floors.
Since you’re likely not going to change between the hill and aprés, make sure you’re wearing appropriate layers while skiing. In the spring, people tend to dress how they would if they were skiing on a mid-January day at Wildcat, which is known for its cold and windy conditions, layering up despite the sunshine and warmer temperatures. A pair of gym shorts under your ski pants and some lighter layers up top will do wonders preventing you from having to soak in your own sweat during your aprés session.
Although this should be true of all aspects of skiing year-round, it’s especially true for aprés ski in the parking lot. There’s nothing worse than pulling a bag of burger buns out from under a pile of skis and snowboards only to find them crushed, soggy and barely edible.
While there are a number of ways to do this, a good idea is to simply have coolers or plastic bins to keep food and beer organized and in good shape. Some even choose to build themselves a little adventure-mobile, utilizing plywood and 2x4s to create organizational bins, often under a platform that can be used for additional storage, or even sleeping.
Some companies, like Decked, offer premade storage systems designed specifically for truck beds, perfect for keeping the ski gear, burger buns and beers separate and safe. These systems do tend to be on the pricier side, so you may have to find other uses for them outside of ski season, which shouldn’t be hard to do.
Find the right parking lot
At many ski areas, there is a specific parking lot that people tend to hang out in. For instance, Lot 1 at Smugglers’ Notch is a lively scene come spring, with sounds of reggae and smells of grilled burgers and hot dogs floating through the air, all with a sense of camaraderie and joyfulness that rivals what can be found at almost any aprés bar. Making friends with the locals or simply searching around for the grills and lawn chairs is a surefire way to find these spots — just make sure to be friendly and respectful toward those around you. And if you really want to get in with the local crowd, offer your parking neighbor a beer or burger.
Even at the resorts that only have one lot, parking on the outskirts often will allow you to pull out a cooler and portable grill without being bothered or bothering anyone else.
The do’s and don’ts of aprés ski
There are no written rules on how to grill a burger in the parking lot or have a beer at the pub after a day on the hill. But there are a few things to keep in mind so you’re not “that guy.”
After you’re done skiing, take a few extra minutes to head to your car to stash your skis and gear. A lot of popular aprés spots can get pretty full as the lifts close, especially in the spring. And you don’t want to be the group taking up a full table to store your skis, gloves, helmet and goggles, all of which will be soaking wet and drenching everything around it. Not to mention, taking those few extra minutes to stash your equipment will give you one less thing to worry about, leaving you to enjoy your beer and focus on telling the story about how much air you got off that jump earlier in the day.
If you decide to head to the bar with your ski boots on, leave them on. No one wants to sit next to you as you pull your boots off, revealing your gnarly socks, soaked with sweat from a day of spring skiing. If you feel like you may have the desire to do this, change into something more comfortable ahead of time.
Know where to go
Every mountain and ski town in New England has an aprés bar, a lively parking lot or aprés events to keep everyone’s thirst quenched after a day of ripping spring corn. But some tend to go harder than others.
Killington, for instance, has a pretty lively night scene throughout ski season. There are a number of bars and restaurants there, perfect for aprés, but the Wobbly Barn stands out as one of the most popular spots in New England — especially for those looking to burn the candle at both ends.
Sugarloaf is another, with its annual Reggae Fest, which takes place from April 8-10 this year, serving as a major highlight in the spring.
If venturing that far into Maine isn’t on the agenda, Sunday River has a pretty lively aprés scene, with many heading to the Foggy Goggle for their aprés-ski beer.
And in North Conway, a town that often makes “best of” ski town lists with many of the West’s greats, Zip’s Pub at Cranmore is a popular aprés spot that has made quite the comeback after a quieter COVID season last year. While many of the people gathering at Zip’s spend the day skiing at Cranmore (it’s located at the base of the mountain), it’s not uncommon for skiers to head to other mountains during the day and end up at Zip’s.
Josh Laskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.