1. Sugarloaf, Maine: The Rack
The Rack, a mile down the road from the 'Loaf, nudges past The Wobbly Barn, in Killington, VT, to take the title of favorite après bar in the East. Both are barn-like structures. But The Rack is just so easy. Arrive early for $2 beers. Switch to the dining area for some slow-roasted ribs. Play the arcade games downstairs, amidst '80s ski paraphernalia. Then maybe catch a bluegrass band. When the locals get rowdy, nights last till 3 a.m. No surprise that they’re purported to sell more Pabst than any other establishment in the state.
2. Jackson Hole, Wyoming: The Mangy Moose Saloon
Everyone gets an après drink at the Mangy Moose—from local rippers who’ve turned down sponsorship deals to tourists from St. Paul to members of the four-four-four (families of four who stay at their 4,000-square-foot vacation homes four weeks a year). The Western-themed bar, opened in 1967 in Teton Village, gets loud and raucous and festive. Upstairs, a more intimate cluster of tables overlooks any bands playing on the stage below and of course a taxidermies bull moose hanging from the ceiling.
3. Whistler, British Columbia.: Garibaldi Lift Company
The GLC, as its called, is like the après icon of party-rific Whistler. Even before the lifts stop, the cavernous interior fills up with an international crowd that skews young. They sustain the day’s buzz at tables looking toward Peak 2 or relax under the heat lamps on the huge patio. After dinner, it transforms into a proper club. This being Canada, the music often features DJs imported from abroad, playing everything from house to nu-funk.
4. Heavenly, California: Unbuckle
Happy hour at the Tamarack Lodge, at the top of the gondola, is the on-mountain version of late-night South Lake Tahoe. Bumpin’. A bit trashy. And fun. Drinks are half price. DJs spin loud music. It rarely turns raucous—it happens between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.—but professional party fluffers and leggy gogo dancers set an appropriate tone. The gondola ride down at night, with the Lake sparkling below, is hardly a buzz kill.
5. Deer Valley, Utah: St. Regis Bar
The St. Regis strikes a fine balance. The mountaintop bar is less stuffy than its peers and classier than the growing pub scene in Park City. Ride the leather-upholstered funicular directly into the lodge’s reception and you find yourself atop a beautiful overlook, amidst a crowd made up of all ages and tax brackets. Well, most tax brackets. Any of the five Bloody Mary’s, a cocktail purportedly invented at the St. Regis in New York, costs $16. But the champagne toast at sunset is free.
6. Vail, Colorado: Minturn Saloon
We've said it before (in 2010), and we’ll say it again: Colorado is full of great après spots, but none trumps the Minturn Saloon, a one-room bar in a former mining town a half dozen miles from the resort base. Just skip the drive. Exit Vail through the backcountry gate at Lost Boy, thread down the mellow backcountry run known as The Minturn Mile, and unclick at this 1901 landmark. The chips ‘n salsa and margarita will taste all the better.
7. Crystal Mountain, Washington: Snorting Elk Cellar
Best in the PNW. Located in the cellar (read: basement) of a Bavarian lodge (read: affordable inn) in the woods near the Silver Creek (and the parking lot), the Snorting Elk is almost always packed at 4p.m. but somehow maintains its gemütlichkeit (read: homey vibe). How? Maybe it’s the longtime family ownership. Maybe it’s the standout local brews on tap. Maybe it’s the pleasant dearth of TVs. Whatever the case, when the windows start to fog, everyone from Microsoft programmers to ski patrollers feel like friends.