In need of refreshment? You’ve come to the right place. These days, there are all kinds of ways to celebrate the end of the skiing day in the Tirol in Austria. But a buzzing bar is by far the most popular. And no wonder: many people think the Tirol’s après-ski venues can’t be bettered.
Here are six of the region’s most enjoyable après-ski bars. Not all of them require dancing in your ski boots…
The Mooserwirt, St Anton
Sometimes the playlist at the Mooserwirt can be a bit, well, Germanic. The Teutonic techno-hits pile up, and you’ll start to wonder if it isn’t time to click back into your skis and tackle the final stretch of piste, back to St Anton. But then, just as you’re about to leave, the DJ breaks out a song the whole world seems to know.
I don’t want to get sentimental about après-ski. But you know what? Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Because when you’re standing on the tables of a bar with 200 other people, surrounded by spectacular snow-drenched Alps, and you’re singing yourself hoarse to an irresistible tune – well, it feels like you’ve taken flight. Complete strangers are grinning at each other from ear to ear: and any sense of otherness dissolves in an instant. All that matters is what you have in common. Especially this moment together in the Alps.
Just be sure to stow your skis away somewhere safe before the party starts. Once it’s dark, and you’ve had a few drinks, finding them again can be a challenge.
Adlers Rooftop Bar, Innsbruck
But you shouldn’t miss the nightlife in the city itself. After all, the whole point of skiing in the Tirol’s capital (aside from the quality of the slopes) is to mix urban life with the mountains. And when it comes to Innsbruck après-ski, nothing quite matches the 12th and 13th floors of the Adlers Hotel.
The 12th floor is where you’ll find the bar and restaurant: warm, weather-proof and blessed with double-height, floor-to-ceiling windows. But even this is upstaged by the rooftop terrace, one floor up – which hosts DJ sets from 9pm on Saturday nights. Ringed with mountains (some of which you’ve probably skied), there’s no better place to understand city’s unique appeal.
Kristalhütte, the Zillertal
It’s a tough choice, singling out the best bar in the Zillertal. This long, steep-sided valley is packed with skiing, and pulls in a young and spirited crowd. As the lifts close, its resorts (especially Mayrhofen) are buzzing.
But if you want a drink while you’re still up the mountain, the choice is simple. It has to be the Kristalhütte, in the Hochzillertal ski area. Over the last decade its owner, Stefan Eder, has turned it into one of the coolest, most upscale haunts in the Alps, without ever making it snobby. He’s also made sure there are lots of different ways to enjoy it. When it’s blowing a blizzard, everyone congregates round a giant, circular fireplace, topped with a gorgeous copper chimney. When the sun’s out, they’re all fighting for a deckchair overlooking the valley, or lounging on the sun deck listening to DJ sets.
Not everyone goes home as darkness falls. Because the best thing of all about the Kristalhütte is its overnight accommodation. If you’ve got something big to celebrate, book one of its stylish, glass-walled bedrooms – and make sure you try the slope-side spa.
Plangger Wine Lounge, Ischgl
Alongside St Anton, Ischgl is one of the capitals of Austrian après-ski. But although it’s the Trofana Alm – a giant party barn at the bottom of the pistes – that’s made it famous, what’s remarkable about this upmarket resort is how much choice there is. So yes, you can sing your way towards dinner between foaming half-litres of lager. But you can also sip your way there with top-quality wines courtesy of the Italian-flavoured Plangger Wine Lounge. Super-Tuscan reds are something of a speciality here. So too, delicious antipasti snacks: cheese, air-dried hams and bruschetta. So maybe, you can skip dinner altogether…
Zugspitz Resort, Tiroler Zugspitz Arena
Careful now, if one of the locals in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena suggests you go out for a white wine and club soda (aka a Spritzer), they might expect you to go ski touring up the mountain to get it. They’re a healthy bunch. Here, “après-ski” sometimes means “in-between-ski”.
If you don’t fancy the hike, then can I suggest the bar and lounge at the newly-refurbished Zugspitz Resort, at the bottom of the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn cable car? It’s not your average après-ski venue. There’ll be no dancing on the tables here after dark. But it is a great example of the way the après-ski scene in Austria’s Tirol has diversified in recent years. Here, you can settle at the bar with a G&T, head into the wine lounge for a tasting, or settle by a crackling log fire with a game of backgammon. The views onto the Zugspitze mountain are sensational.
The Beer Tower, St Johann in Tirol
Love your beer? Then finish your skiing day early and head to the Beer Tower at Huber Bräu in St Johann in Tirol. They’ve been brewing here since 1727, and are famous for their wheat beers. But if you want to taste one (or two) of them in the spectacular bar and restaurant at the top of the brewery’s tower, don’t wait till the lifts close. Don’t wear your ski boots either. There’s a staircase to climb before you reach this slice of beery heaven.