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Let’s get one thing straight: You don’t have to be a skier (or a snowboarder) to partake in après ski. Sure, the term literally means “after skiing” in French. But après-ski culture transcends snow sports, welcoming anyone looking for a stiff drink and a good time, regardless of their willingness to fly down snowy slopes.
That’s why you’ll find bars galore in Colorado ski and mountain towns, many of which revolve around work-of-art (sometimes literally) cocktails and Champagne showers. But how can one know which spots to find the best drinks without trying them all (which is not conducive to responsible drinking when you’re above 10,000 feet)?
We’ve rounded up seven of the best après-ski stops in Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen, and other Colorado mountain towns so you can spend less time chewing over where to go, and more time sipping out of the cold.
The whole après-ski tradition started in Europe, and Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at Aspen Highlands might be as close as you can get to that richly rowdy, why-not-spray-a-bottle-of-$200-Champagne-style of party stateside. Atop the Cloud Nine lift, this former ski patrol cabin can get pretty wild; it’s not unusual to see people dancing on tables in their ski boots covered in Champagne in the middle of the afternoon. And yes, the fact that Cloud Nine is rumored to sell the most Veuve Clicquot Champagne in the country might have something to do with the revelry. 76 Boomerang Road, Aspen
You know the saying: When in Vail, you must drink a cocktail that features a disappearing work of art printed on edible rice paper. Or something like that. That’s what you’ll get when you order the Carrington Club at the Gambit Bar—a rice paper rendition of surrealist painter Leonora Carrington’s Mascara Azul con Zorro melting into vodka, tequila, salted preserved blackberries, amaro, and an egg white sour foam. Or maybe you’d rather try the Shiffrin 75 (named, of course, for local ski superstar Mikaela Shiffrin), a bubbly cognac and lingonberry riff on the French 75. Whatever drink you order at this brand-new bar inside the Sebastian hotel, it’s going to be pretty darn photogenic. 16 Vail Road, Vail
When it comes to après-ski drinking, socializing, and eating—in that order—A-Basin’s 6th Alley Bar & Grill is pretty legendary. The A-Frame building houses a two-story deck and indoor-outdoor lounges prime for partying. While the casual bar boasts a healthy roster of local brews, most people are there for the bacon-topped bloodys. Order one with a double pour of Elevate bacon vodka for a drink of après champions. 28194 US-6, Dillon
The people of Vail know that the Gothic Line cocktail at the Hythe’s Revel Lounge is where it’s at. After all, they voted it People’s Choice Best Cocktail at the 2023 Taste of Vail. Mixologist Sarah Smith created the Negroni-meets-espresso-martini-meets-tiki-drink to fuel post-ski adventures. A blend of local 10th Mountain rye and brandy, pineapple syrup, and coffee-washed Pilla apéritif, all topped with a pineapple-Demerara foam and orange zest, it’s a satisfyingly sweet, bitter, and creamy sip. Smith’s other cocktail creations, like the Figgie Smalls with strawberry syrup, fig-infused gin, and balsamic pearls, at Revel Lounge are just as tasty. 715 West Lionshead Circle, Vail
Most Aspen bars are going to deliver on the people watching, but how many of them blend up boozy milkshakes for your celebrity spying? Hotel Jerome’s J-Bar serves the not-so-secret-menu Aspen Crud, a whiskey-spiked vanilla milkshake that might be the most delicious way to replenish all the calories you burned on the slopes. For something lighter, the Western-style bar’s mostly California-sourced wine list is one of the best in town. 330 E. Main St., Aspen
There may be no better way to warm up in Breckenridge than with one of the hot cocktails at Robbie’s Tavern, the only locally owned restaurant at Breckenridge Ski Resort. The Irish Winter with whiskey, espresso vodka, coffee, and whipped cream is certain to warm your cockles, or go a little less decadent with a cranberry-lemon mulled wine. Stop in slopeside inside the Grand Colorado on Peak 8 hotel. 1627 Ski Hill Road, Breckenridge
Here in Colorado, we do tend to like our beers, so it’s no surprise that this on-the-way-home brewery gets packed with skiers and boarders thirsty for a post-run IPA. Frisco’s Outer Range Brewing Co. is more than just a stop-in to avoid I-70 traffic; it’s a storied destination for good beer and good conversation, which is what après is all about. With 11 IPAs (and lagers, sours, and stouts) on tap and plenty of room for its legions of fans, Outer Range is a see-and-be-seen spot for those who’d rather crack open a beer than sip a fancy cocktail. 182 Lusher Court, Frisco