Apres Ski can be the Main Event | VailDaily.com

Apres Ski can be the Main Event

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado
Preston Utley/ Vail DailyPianist Mickey Poage has been playing tunes for tourists for more than 30 years. He's at the Lodge at Vail.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” It doesn’t matter how good your day was on the mountain, sometimes getting those soggy ski boots off your feet is all you can think about. The kids are tired, you just realized you haven’t eaten since breakfast, and you’re in the Back Bowls of Vail trying to enjoy the last remaining rays of sunlight before the cold darkness sends you to the front-side for the last run of the day.

For most families on vacation, a week on the mountain just isn’t enough. Each day must be stretched out to its fullest potential, each memory captured on camera, and each turn in the snow greeted with the child-like joy that tends to be forsaken back in the real world of 9 to 5.

Alas, every day must come to an end, even in Colorado. But with each sunset comes a special time of day: apres. You’ve heard the term, but what does it mean?

Strictly speaking, it’s French for “after skiing.” But colloquially it means going out, dancing, drinking and socializing after a day of snowplay. Seems obvious enough, right?


The apres-ski scenes in Vail and Beaver Creek are two different worlds. At Beaver Creek, the atmosphere is family-friendly and it’s the spot to sit down after a day on the steeps and enjoy a frosty one with good friends and close relatives. Describing Beaver Creek as a “party town” just because it rests at the base of a mountain would be a misnomer.

Just ask Ryan and Nancy Corley. The couple got married in Beaver Creek in May but they live in Denver. Every weekend they come in from the Front Range to ski the Beav’. They prefer the mellower apres ski scene to Vail’s more rowdy one.

“You go skiing as hard as you can all day then have a drink with your friends,” Nancy says. “We go everywhere.” That everywhere includes The Chophouse, Coyote Cafe, McCoy’s and The Dusty Boot, all staples of the Beaver Creek apres scene.

The Chophouse sits at the base of Centennial run and its massive heated deck sings a siren song of relaxation and tasty spirits.

“It’s just a beautiful deck to hang out on a sunny day. You can’t really beat the atmosphere or the cocktail selection,” says Danny McGuckin, now going into his fourth winter as bar manager at the Chophouse. “On a nice sunny day it’s location, location, location.”

A selection of hot and cold drinks and the fact that it basks in the afternoon sunshine makes The Chophouse a good place to chill after an epic day on the slopes. If the weather’s nice, you can poach some tunes from the musicians who play McCoy’s. And don’t resist the urge to chime in with answers to the trivia questions they’re famous for asking.

The Coyote Cafe is the oldest bar in Beaver Creek, and is known unofficially as the “employee lounge” for mountain workers. They’ll have a live DJ on the weekends and a ski movie projected onto a wall during dinnertime every night. “Buzz” Busby, general manager of the Coyote Cafe calls it “dinner and a movie.”

“I’m trying to bring back a little bit of that old-school, apres-ski party environment,” Busby says.

While resting up a bit you can dive into the Beaverita, the Coyote Cafe’s signature fishbowl margarita: 36 ounces of alcoholic goodness.


Vail’s apres-ski scene has been thriving for decades. The pounding of guitar strings and sing-along songs can be heard filling the air like Heidi’s yodel in the Alps. On restaurant decks clinking glasses and laughter are exchanged as skiers and boarders relate their tall tales and impossible feats to one another. Good vibes hang in the air like snow clouds.

The most popular hangouts can be judged by the lines of people waiting to be seated inside. If you’re craving Mexican food then hit up the deck at Los Amigos or La Cantina. For a more traditional American taste try The Tap Room, where 13 televisions beam in sports from across the country.

Bart and Yeti’s in Lionshead was recently commended by the Associated Press as one of the best apres-ski joints in the country. Named for the owners’ two dogs, Bart was a political favorite ” the father of canines belonging to Henry Kissinger, Nelson Rockefeller and Clint Eastwood by way of the late president Gerald R Ford’s dog Liberty. They don’t have lots of bells and whistles at Bart and Yeti’s, but they’ve always had a solid old-school vibe. Just across the way is Garfinkel’s, which lays claim to the largest deck on the mountain and the most dangerous shot-ski. Stop by if you wonder what that is.

After a big day of shredding you may be too tired to go dancing ¬” or it may be just the kind of mischief you’re looking for. The Ski Bar and The Club have full dance floors that allow you to move any way you want, though it’s best to leave your ski boots behind for this one. Hopefully you can still make first chair the next morning.

Everybody knows that apres skiing would be nothing without a little live music. Rod Powell and Jonny Mogambo, two legends of the slope-side music scene, will be playing throughout the winter at Pepi’s.

Music is integral to the end of a ski day and perhaps nobody knows that better than Phil Long, a 22-year veteran of the Vail apres society and owner of The Red Lion, where he can be heard almost every night of the season.

“Probably the greatest thing about playing in a resort is that you feel like you’re on the road without having to leave. You get this new, fresh energy every weekend. It’s great,” says Long, whose arsenal of crowd-pleasers seems to be never-ending.

Whatever your reasons for coming to the mountains of Colorado, boredom is not an option. There’s a spirit here that is very, very contagious. Play hard.

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