We certainly hope you already know this, but just in case: "après-ski" is French for "after skiing." According to good ol' Merriam-Webster, its first known use was in 1951 and today the term is as much a part of mountain-town culture as skiing itself. From hitting the infamous poolside party at the Sky Hotel to toasting a great day from Base Camp's sun-splashed deck–and all of the classics in between–few resorts rival our local après ski scene. Here, we round up a dozen top spots to head straight off the slopes, because there's nothing better than recapping the day's adventures and cheers-ing with your crew.
*Note: Bars and restaurants are listed by mountain, not in any particular order.
Snowmass might not be known for as happening of an après scene as its neighbor to the east, but Chef Richard Sandoval’s slopeside cantina stands out. Grab a bucket of beer ($22) or a sangria roja ($6) and a trio of street-style tacos ($8) with tableside guacamole ($9) from the après-ski menu (3–6 p.m. daily) and hang by one of the fire pits on the patio. richardsandoval.com/vengavenga
Base Camp Bar & Grill
This Base Village standby has "beachfront" views of the mountain, but it’s the “8 for $8” après appetizers and specialty drinks that sweeten the deal (3–6p.m. daily). Classics like Frito pie, chicken tostados, and pork belly tacos are our top food picks; pick a drink based on the signature beer pairing suggestions. It's always a party on the patio or in the upstairs bar, but this place is also family friendly. Keep an eye out for a new Redbull-sponsored après-ski cocktail program launching later this season.
Executive chef Steve Sterritt's innovative and seasonal restaurant, just a block from the slopes in the Stonebridge Inn, is also a favorite among locals and ski instructors for its laidback après vibe. Grab a seat at the bar or in the lounge, where an après menu is offered 4:30–5:30 p.m. daily (a separate happy hour menu starts in the bar at 3 p.m). We go for the tapas when we're here and order a board (smoked salmon, meat, or cheese for $17), citrus marinated olives ($4), and grilled artichoke ($7) to share, along with a stiff seasonal drink all for ourselves. gosnowmass.com
Home Team BBQ
All hail Chris Lanter, head chef and co-owner of Cache Cache, for helping to bring an outpost of the popular Charleston-based BBQ chain to the base of Buttermilk at The Inn at Aspen. It's on-site pits smoke everything from pork butts and racks of ribs to half-chickens and wings for a menu of modern yet classic Southern comfort food. Even if you don't ski here on the reg, this food is so good you'll want to hit it no matter what mountain you've wrapped up at. Fresh off a December opening, the restaurant will have a special bar menu (and plenty of athletes) during X Games (January 26–29) and other aprés happenings soon. hometeambbq.com
Highlands Ale House
There's nothing better than a big plate of wings, nachos, and a beer after a lap or two in Highland Bowl, and the crew here does bar food damn good. Choose from any of 16 Colorado brews on tap and more than 50 bottles and cans of beer (as well as cocktails). Located right at the base of the "locals mountain," the Alehouse has a big patio, too, which becomes a sea of retro skiwear during Highland's infamous closing party each April. highlandsalehouse.com
The Little Nell (Ajax Tavern & Chair 9)
Although this list isn't ranked, we kind of have to give an "epitome of après ski" award to The Little Nell. Located at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Tavern’s outdoor patio has prime views of skiers making their way down the mountain along with a parade of jet-setters going in and out of the renowned hotel. There’s usually a wait for a table to dine on stellar French-American bistro fare (the truffle fries are a must, $17), but an additional outdoor bar, the occasional Veuve Clicquot pop-up, and a DJ spinning beats will help you pass the time. Inside, the new-ish Chair 9 lounge opens just as the lifts are closing, featuring DJs (3:30–7:30 p.m. daily) and football on big game days. Find your place at the bar or upgrade to the VIP "private chair" for bottle service and room for up to eight guests. thelittlenell.com
With more than 30 beers on tap and 200 in the bottle, there’s definitely something for everyone at this heaven for hop heads (including signature mules and wine, too). Belly up to the bar and nosh on pretzel bites ($4), loaded fries ($6), and pork cracklins ($4) with a Colorado draft beer ($4) from the happy hour menu (3–6 p.m. daily). Warning: the pretzel bites come warm ... with cheese. Can you say highly addictive? hopsculture.com
The Red Onion
Sometimes, there's nothing better than the original, and the Red Onion is still going strong as one of Aspen's first watering holes, openeing its saloon doors in 1892. Local ski bums and fancy folk alike hang here (and sometimes stay in their ski boots until late night) for $2 PBR's, solid bar fare, and live music. Oh, and there's a shot ski, of course. redonionaspen.com
Après is a way of life at the Limelight Hotel, which offers specials seven days a week (3–7 p.m. daily) in its lobby lounge. A community living room of sorts, it's a place where both guests and locals love to hang and nosh on wood-fired pizzas ($10) and sip on Bud Lights ($3), draft beer ($4), house wine ($6.50), or specialty cocktails ($8) while sinking into cozy couches. A roaring fireplace and a rotating roster of live local bands keep the scene hot. limelighthotels.com
Aspen Brewing Company
Aspen Brewing Company is Aspen’s only microbrewery and just opened a new and improved tap room downtown a few blocks from the Gondola where you can enjoy inventive bar fare and craft brew with a view of Aspen Mountain. Its patio is open year-round on a prime downtown corner for people-watching or partying with a "Brewski" tasting flight ($15) served atop a custom-branded Folsom ski. aspenbrewingcompany.com