Northstar Village
Fovea Centralis/Flickr

Great Places for Après-ski

Kicking back after you kick off your boots is a snow-country tradition, and there’s plenty of post-slopes fun at California’s top alpine resorts. Have a beer or warm up with an Irish coffee, dance, toast handmade marshmallows around a fire ring, go tubing, or dine in high-country splendor. Après-ski California style isn’t exclusive: you’re welcome to hang out even if you haven’t had a workout on the mountain.

There’s Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows’s lively base village, for instance, which boasts an open-air bar where you can enjoy a gorgeous view of Squaw’s KT-22, the famous 2,000-foot peak. Or, take in the family-oriented après scene at Northstar California, with its central ice rink and plentiful spots to sit back and enjoy a hot cocoa. For a more adult vibe, there’s Heavenly; the nightlife options on the mountain and around South Lake Tahoe are many and varied.

Après hangouts at smaller resorts such as Sierra-at-Tahoe and Homewood are more intimate; roast s’mores by a fire pit or enjoy a hearty meal. If you prefer a more gradual shift to full-on relaxation, Mammoth Mountain offers moonlight tubing runs, which are the perfect activity after a few craft beers from the local Mammoth Brewing Company. And down in the Inland Empire, at Bear Mountain, a favorite après-ski pastime is to strap on a pair of snowshoes and go for a walk through the magical San Bernardino Mountains. Read on to learn more about where to après in style; locations are listed north to south.

Skiers Enjoying Craft Beers in a Hot Tub at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Courtesy of Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows

Après-Ski at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Après-Ski at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Hot tubbing near the summit

With ski-tan smiles and serious gear propped in the racks, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is clearly the place for elite skiers. But there’s an easy, relaxed feel at the end of the day, with live music, a beer garden, a bungee-jump trampoline, and countless tail-wagging dogs.

On the Squaw Valley side, après ski finds a perfect place to unfold on the outside deck at the Village at the KT Base Bar, with tilt-your-head-back views of legendary KT-22. Another option—if you remember to pack a bathing suit—is to take a hot-tub soak surrounded by Squaw’s High Camp complex (if you don’t ski, just ride the 10-minute aerial tram to access High Camp). And High Camp itself has its own relaxation quarters: Grab a drink at the Terrace Bar with dramatic views of Lake Tahoe or the Granite Bistro Café, which looks out over the slopes.

The après party is always buzzing at Le Chamois, home to one of the most popular outdoor drinking scenes in all of Lake Tahoe. The loft-like vibe of The Chammy, as it’s called, means there’s plenty of room for all kind of skiing memorabilia, from old lift chairs to loads of artfully displayed vintage skis and framed Olympic ski jerseys (the town hosted the 1960 Winter Olympic Games). And three-foot tall beer glasses. Also paying tribute to Squaw’s Olympic heritage is the Olympic House, a mid-century complex that encloses several staples of the après scene: Bar One, on the first floor, The Pocket, on the lower level, and The Plaza Bar, on the second.  

Pint-size racers can keep the fun meter in the red even after the lifts close at the SnoVentures Activity Zone at Squaw. Kids ages 6 to 12 steer mini-snowmobiles on a groomed, oval track. There’s also snowtubing on site. And though it’s only open until 4 p.m. daily, the Squaw Valley Olympic Museum is well worth a visit, if only to marvel at how far skiing technology has come in almost 60 years.

On the Alpine Meadows side, another great après-ski destination is The Chalet at Alpine Meadows, a Bavarian-style beer garden that specializes in not just delicious brews but that ultimate of winter dishes, raclette (melted Swiss cheese). Gourmet pressed sandwiches are also on the menu.

 

Me, my brothers, we all come to Squaw Valley. We get a beer, let the kids go on the bungee tramp, hang out in the Adirondack chairs—perfect après ski.
Jonny Moseley Olympic Gold Medalist - Home Mountain: Squaw Valley
A Hot Tub at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, California
Courtesy of Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe

Après Ski at Northstar California

Après Ski at Northstar California
Sip champagne and rejuvenate with a massage after a day on the slopes

This popular resort on Lake Tahoe’s northwest side lets you start celebrating right out on the slopes. Kick off après with Northstar’s “daily tōst,” where guests are invited to raise a glass and sip bubbly on the mountain each day at 2:00 p.m. 

Down at the base, all the après action centers around the lively ice rink anchoring the handsome Village at Northstar. Scan the crowd chillin’ by the ice rink and you can see this place is all about families—happy families—on the ice, sprawled on cushy sofas, in shops and in restaurants. Kids bust their moves (or their buns) on the ice, then take breaks with mom and dad (sipping Irish coffees in heated rink-side cabanas) to make marshmallow-y treats with ready-made s’mores kits, complete with toasting sticks and all the sweet ingredients (for sale at a rink-side stand).

Another fun option for all is the Family Après Snow Play area, where you can build snow sculptures, have snowball-tossing competitions, dance to popular tunes, and play games.

A favorite après-ski hangout spot for grownups, including gold medalist Shaun White (Northstar is his home mountain), is romantic Petra, in the village a short walk from the ice rink. Slip into a pillowy banquette at the edgy urban-meets-mountain-hip hangout, then sip delectable wines paired with sophisticated small plates, like cumin-lamb meatballs.

After a day in ski boots, getting a massage can be an awesome way to après. Try the 80-minute “Après Recovery” at the swanky spa at Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. Rehydrate with cucumber water then steam, soak, or swim in a heated lap pool, included with all treatments. 

The Unbuckle Apres-Ski Party at Heavenly Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Courtesy of Heavenly Mountain

Après-Ski at Heavenly

Après-Ski at Heavenly
A mid-mountain blowout and a sunset cruise

Epic Tahoe views, awesome groomers, great bumps, and plenty of nightlife make Heavenly Ski Resort hugely popular, especially with out-of-state and international skiers. Maybe it’s the allure of nearby Stateline* (the border of California and Nevada) and its round-the-clock entertainment and casinos, but Heavenly definitely knows how to create a high-altitude party scene.

At elevation 9,150 feet, The Unbuckle Après Party, held every day of the week in the 15,000-square-foot Tamarack Lodge (at the top of the gondola) offers live DJs and drink specials from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. But it’s the weekend edition, on Fridays and Saturdays, that stands out as Heavenly’s signature end-of-day blowout, with DJs, dancing, and slinky go-go girls in knee-high fur boots. Once named the best après-ski scene on any mountain in North America by Forbes, it’s frequented by many who skip the skiing entirely.

On Sundays, enjoy Tailgate at Tamarack, showcasing NFL games and drink specials. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, Heavenly’s secluded East Peak Lodge keeps the party atmosphere going with an afternoon bash, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

For an unusual off-mountain option, consider a ride on the charming leisure craft M.S. Dixie II, a paddlewheel boat that’s the largest cruising vessel in South Lake Tahoe. Climb aboard for a 2.5-hour daytime scenic cruise or a 3-hour evening dinner cruise; all depart from Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina four miles south of Stateline. A free shuttle is offered to and  from the marina from Park Ave., near the Heavenly resort. Cruises operate daily, year-round. Book an evening outing for an après cruise with knock-your-ski-socks-off sunset views. 

A Group Enjoying an Apres-Ski Drink at a California Ski Resort
Courtesy of Sierra-at-Tahoe

Après-Ski at Smaller Lake Tahoe Resorts

Après-Ski at Smaller Lake Tahoe Resorts
Big decks for snow bunnies and a fairytale retreat

This trio of Lake Tahoe resorts may not nab all the headlines, but they quietly deliver some appealing options when it comes to après ski. Here are highlights. 

SIERRA-AT-TAHOE

This smaller resort on Lake Tahoe’s southwest side, home mountain for a fleet of gold-medal-winning skiers and boarders, invites you to relax in Solstice Plaza, a 30,000-square-foot sun deck, and tuck into a meal at Solstice Eatery for a relaxed après-ski experience. The menu is geared toward healthy eating, and you can sip on a cocktail from the indoor/outdoor Corkscrew Bar.

HOMEWOOD

After a long day of tackling the slopes, treat your kids (or yourself) to complimentary s’mores from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at West Shore Café. The longtime favorite spot, which prides itself on pairing old Tahoe charm with fresh California cuisine, sources everything they can locally. Grab a beer from local breweries Lake Tahoe Aleworx or Alibi Ale Works, lean back by a lakeside patio fire pit, and talk about the day’s thrills.

SUGAR BOWL

This resort in Norden (10 miles from Truckee) is one of the oldest in the state and the first to have a chairlift. It’s also home to California’s largest cross country resort, Royal Gorge. Some of its après options have had a presence on the mountain for more than a half-century, including The Dining Room at Village Lodge and The Belt Room Bar. Drop in for dinner or a cocktail before retreating to the Sporthaus, a luxurious 2013 addition that features a pool, hot tub, sauna, steam rooms, and massage rooms. What better way to shift gears into total relaxation? If craft beers and comfort food are more your après style, head over to FiftyFifty Brewing Co., in nearby Truckee, to try the highly coveted, award-winning Eclipse on draft.

A Pint from Mammoth Brewing Co. at Mammoth Lakes, California
Courtesy of Mammoth Brewing Company

Après-Ski at Mammoth Lakes

Après-Ski at Mammoth Lakes
Relax in the mountains with a craft beer

Knowing how to relax seems to be a requirement at this laid-back (but A+) resort, perched smack-dab in the middle of the High Sierra’s tallest peaks. So it’s no surprise that there’s no need to leave the mountain for some great apres-ski spots. Across from the main lodge there’s The Yodler, where you’ll find great drink specials and Bavarian fare, while The Mill, at the base of Chair 2, is famous for its house-made BBQ favorites like pulled pork and smoked tri-tip.  

You can also venture into the town’s Village at Mammoth for plenty of places to chill out while you warm up. One easy destination is the lively tasting room and eatery at Mammoth Brewing Co., offering 13 of its artisan beers—and its own root beer—on tap. On the menu are such exotic mash-ups as Naan Tacos, Carne Asada Fries, and Banh Mi sandwiches with Berkshire pork belly (and they have burgers too). For an island ambiance and oversized multi-person drinks and a dance floor, get your tiki on at Lakanuki, also in the village. 

The Lakefront at the Tamarack Lodge, located on the banks of Twin Lakes, offers more upscale dining, including such local specialties as elk and MacFarlane Ranch pheasant, in a rustic but elegant atmosphere. Dating back to 1924, the lodge also features a fireplace-heated sitting room where you can play a quiet game of chess.

Want something a little more active than just picking up a menu? Try tubing or surf sledding after dark (with light sticks) at Woolly’s Tube Park, where fans of snow and speed of every age can hurtle down the groomed lanes. Or aim for some ninepins at Mammoth Rock ‘n Bowl, where you can also show off your skills on three golf simulators, foosball, darts, and ping pong, or shop at the golf-and-bowling pro shop. It’s also where the après crowd goes to catch pro sports on TV while enjoying a drink.

 

Goldsmith's Ski Sales and Rentals at Big Bear

Après-Ski at Big Bear

Après-Ski at Big Bear
Fine wines, craft brews, and snowshoes

While there are watering holes and wine bars aplenty at Big Bear Mountain Resort, one of the coolest ways to unwind is to kick off your skis or snowboard and step into a pair of snowshoes. After all that hammering through the terrain parks and carving it up on the trails, there’s something especially alluring about escaping into the wintry beauty of the San Bernardino Mountains. Snowshoe trails lace the area. Get tips—and rent equipment—at various outdoor shops; a popular one is Goldsmiths. There are also businesses such as Action Snowshoe Tours that offer guided treks along trails, many of which are inaccessible to skiers or snowboarders.

Wind down after your snowy tromp with some choice libations and “high-altitude Mediterranean” indoor and sundeck dining at Skyline Taphouse, located at the top of chair 1, or for some comfort food and a beer or Bloody Mary at Slopeside Speakeasy, at the base of chair 2. Or warm up with a meal at Bighorn Smokehouse, also located right next to the slopes, where BBQ pork and chicken, beef brisket, and traditional sides like potato salad and cole slaw are the standbys.

Down in the village of Big Bear Lake, you’ll find plenty of après options within a few doors of each other along or near Pine Knot Ave. Try Himalayan food (Himalayan), a rock ‘n’ roll pizza and pasta spot (Saucy Mama’s Pizza), a craft brewery (Big Bear Lake Brewing Company), or a classic old-school tavern with curious antique furnishings (Nottingham’s Tavern).