What is it that makes a place magical after a day on the slopes? An open attitude toward dancing on the tables? A steady send out of shot skis? Maybe it’s a sunny deck, a pool table, a dude strumming nostalgic, happy tunes, or a live DJ spinning bumping dance melodies. Perhaps it’s simply your favorite rare brew among the draft offerings or an especially exquisite batch of wings. All of these characteristics have been taken into consideration when compiling this list of the best haunts to hit after a day of ripping the goods in the Colorado Rockies.
Increase your social circle at the large wooden picnic tables on the cozy indoor deck as you dance, sway, and sing along to “Brown-Eyed Girl” and other classics with live music daily. On Bridge Street, steps away from Gondola One, the Red Lion’s patio is top-notch for recruiting party buddies as the masses file off of the mountain. While there are no winter après food or drink specials, the Lion’s prices are more reasonable than many nearby haunts. The food portions (mountainous nachos) are geared toward carbing up weary skiers for an evening of getting back on their feet. The beer menu is expansive and includes several Colorado microbrews and the cocktails are decidedly strong.
It’s not the cheapest joint on the block, but it’s where the foodies flock. Coming to you from the same geniuses behind neighboring fine dining institution Sweet Basil, this pork-loving après sensation is just a short jaunt into the village from Gondola One and serves its entire menu all day. Yes, the other white meat comes in many creative incarnations at Mountain Standard: pork fritters, whiskey-braised Pork Belly, and even a pork reuben stuffed with caraway-flecked kraut. It doesn’t end at the pig, though. The expansive raw bar features oysters, snow crab, and yellowfin crudo so fresh you’ll swear you’re seaside.
The Coyote Café
Beaver Creek’s very first bar and restaurant, the Coyote Café attracts the ski patrol, mountain staff, and pretty much all the regular Beav powder junkies for their hard-earned margaritas. One glance at the tequila selection and the fact that this is the only joint at Beaver Creek to find PBR in a huge can is explanation enough. Although the bar is narrow and the crowd often five-deep, if you come early, you can grab a bar table for your crew’s Coronas and guac, or better yet, nab a patio spot for the best people-watching in the village as the nearby escalators host the day’s mass exodus. The Coyote is famous for getting a little crazy during big events and following huge powder days. You can expect the tiny corner dance floor to grow rowdier by the hour after dark.
Since opening in winter 2012, this little spot on Beaver Creek Plaza has transformed into the epicenter of après for everyone from locals to visiting food snobs. Launched by local culinary luminary Riley Romanin, Hooked is arguably the freshest sushi joint in town and also home to a unique menu of fish preparations ranging from flash-fried to “gift-wrapped” with market options flown in daily. Cocktails are equally creative and include tropical rum delights served in coconuts. The party starts on the patio with beer and sake specials as well as a scrumptious, fresh daily bite of some kind.
If it’s a sunny deck you crave, it’s not uncommon to strip down to your T-shirt at this Peak 9 end-of-the-day hotspot. With afternoon beer specials coinciding with a steady soundtrack of live music, catching some rays is simply a bonus. The sunniest spots are typically spoken for early but an inside table is ideal for snowy afternoons when nothing tastes better than a messy gyro or a steaming plate of chicken sliders.
Its location on the very south end of Main Street does nothing to deter the mobs of hungry and thirsty après ski seekers of all ages. The Breckenridge Brewery’s daily beer happy hour only helps, as do the tasty appetizers, including the sumptuous, steamy hot artichoke dip or shrimp soaked in wheat beer. The lunch and dinner menu is stacked with offerings that range from enormous fresh salads to doctored up burgers to slow-braised short ribs soaked in…you guessed it, ale (the signature Avalanche, no less). The dinner crowds remain steady until well into the night and a handful of staff have been in place for a large majority of the original brew house’s 26-year lifespan.
Goat Soup and Whiskey
Going strong for 20 years, the Goat’s popularity is evidenced by its permanently sticky floor and dedicated crowd. Pabst Blue Ribbon trumps soup and whiskey as the joint’s true specialty and the pool table is occupied almost continuously. This is the place to line up some friends for a shot ski. The rotation of live music (sometimes nationally acclaimed Bluegrass acts) keep the place hopping and the loud narrations of the day’s powder pursuits hang in the air from afternoon until close. It’s a local institution but warms to the steady stream of visitors stopping in for a pint or four.
Chair 9 at the Nell
Formerly known as the Terrace Bar, Chair 9 is part of Aspen’s most established institution, The Little Nell and is situated at the base of AJAX. Named, tongue-in-cheek, for the ski area’s non-existent ninth chairlift, there is more standing than sitting happening at this classy haunt, where half the crowd sips on champagne or martinis while the other half downs beer and hot pretzels. A live DJ spins daily and dancing is certainly not out of the question. If you’re feeling swanky, you can even reserve a VIP table replete with bottle service.
If it’s a taste of the Old West you crave, this saloon has been serving the hard stuff since 1895. Sure, plastic and buckles have replaced spurs and hip belts, but 10-gallon hats are still spotted every now and then and this iconic hotel bar keeps it real with $5 Jack Daniels all the time. The mahogany paneling and hand-carved bar gleams behind its small army of beer handles offering largely Colorado-based brews. While it tastes like dessert, keep in mind that the Flatliner cocktail is aptly named. The cowboy vibe is offset slightly by the busy pool and foosball tables. As your appetite kicks in, the place serves a yummy club sandwich and a mean elk chili.
The 6th Alley Bar
Let’s not forget that A-Basin’s entire parking lot is pretty much an après party all day, all winter long, making it an unsung hero among Colorado’s hottest après haunts. The small ski area’s A-framed base lodge serves as the overflow area, specifically, its 6th Alley Bar, which goes off at the end of the day at least as much as shinier venues at larger resorts.
Named after some of the Basin’s gnarliest terrain (the five alleys off of the steep Pallavicini lift), the 6th Alley has stepped it up in recent years to offer items like crispy brussels sprouts and truffle tots alongside its mainstay après items like jumbo wings and quesadillas. Not only does the Alley pour a long list of Colorado brews all day, but also offers a monthly Beer Maker’s Dinner featuring one of the state’s renowned brewers.
No matter which resort you go to, you can rest assured you’ll have no trouble finding all the drinks, tasty plates, and live music you could want for your après ski experience. Having everything so close maxes your vacation time, which everyone wants. To ensure you don’t miss one minute of fun, consider renting your gear. While après and ski rentals may not seem like they go hand-in-hand, they actually do. Think about it, convenient rental shops right near or at the mountain that oftentimes offers on-snow valet, storage options, and heated boots (yes, please). No going back to your room to drop off gear and no-hassle remembering where you left your bags. Not to mention, the team member at the ski shop can make additional recommendations for après spots around town. It’s just pop off the mountain and straight to the best margaritas, craft beers, and french fries.
There you have it. Easy access to everything you need to make the most of your vacation. Cheers!
Featured image provided by Bochen Chen