Five of Europe’s Most Quirky Après Ski Venues
Anyone enjoying a winter sports break in Europe will be familiar with the pleasurable experience of après ski after a long day of skiing or snowboarding. Whilst there is a plethora of options to suit every taste and budget, there are also a few truly unusual and unexpected places to explore.
The Zillertal Valley houses some après ski surprises as well as some of Austria’s best slopes. Harakiri has to be the most colourful and unexpected of the drinking options. A landmark structure kitted out with striking lighting and décor, its focus is placed squarely on hedonism. Table dancers, star DJs and cheerful service all combine to create a night to remember.
Nearby Traum Am Wald in the village of Hart offers another significant landmark building, a stunning traditional wood-built chalet for up to nine guests. A world away from Harakiri’s convivial partying, Traum Am Wald has no close neighbours except the local wildlife that may be spotted around the property’s lovely surroundings. Amongst many luxurious touches emphasising relaxation, there is a Finnish sauna, rain shower and a heated mosaic lounger.
Pamporovo in the Rhodope Mountains has a fantastic range of nightlife options, but the most unique is cult favourite The White Hart. Offering the novelty of a British pub atmosphere in the heart of the Bulgarian mountains, it offers hearty all day dining and drinking. Another stand out feature is its wildly popular Thursday night karaoke parties.
Just 17km away from Pamporovo, Villa Gella is a wonderful ski chalet option. With living space across four levels and accommodating up to 15 guests, it is the perfect place to take the party back to after The White Hart. The sensational subterranean spa are includes a 10m indoor swimming pool, massage table and a steam room. A professionally equipped kitchen and expansive dining area, as well as gorgeous fireplaces throughout the property, offer a haven when the après ski festivities end.
Il Cantinone restaurant in Madesimo is a rare find, an excellent Michelin star restaurant right in the heart of ski country. It also has the extremely thoughtful and, in fine dining, unusual feature of a children’s’ menu for mini gourmets. Its seven course tasting menu is legendary and for many this restaurant has become as much of a destination as the ski slopes.
It is not just the après ski venue that is unique in this part of Lombardy. Three lucky guests can be accommodated at Torre Scilano, a rare, architect-designed structure which has featured in numerous style pieces. Torre Scilano enjoys an enviable location in the village of Piuro within the Valchiavenna Valley. The living room of this hugely characterful dwelling offers spectacular views of the valley.
In the region which founded it, enjoying slow cooking is an integral part of the Piedmontese après ski experience, but there are various features which ensure that L’Antica Spelonca in Sestriere stand out. The most striking is its dining room – a vaulted cellar perfect for cosy dining. Antiquities and rugs adorn the ancient setting and it serves up an excellent tartare which is an unexpected feature on regional menus.
Historic elegance is also the order of the day at Baita1697, a perfectly converted seventeenth century Piedmontese farmhouse. Its generous proportions can house up to 18 guests and throughout the house benefits from the impeccable taste of interior designer Lucie McCullough. Everything is geared up for ultra-opulent fun, from the cinema room to the outdoor hot tub.
What might not be expected from après ski in Italy’s classy Val Gardena is a combination of Irish craic and ice hockey, but that is exactly what The Goalies Pub cheerfully serves up to appreciative crowds. It is the best place in the region for a perfect pint of Guinness, complete with foam shamrock on top. Open from 9am to 2am, it offers après ski, “pre-ski” and late night fun all in one. The team are committed to only playing vintage rock and roll tunes, and one of the barmen, Alex, has been known to play the saxophone live too.
If The Goalies is all about traditional tankard-clinking, beautiful Cesa Selva offers a contrasting but equally appealing sleek, modern take on chalet living. Ideal for families, it has an on-site hammam, a great range of entertainment options and bunk beds in some of the five bedrooms.
Each of these lovely properties has their own story to tell, a story which is only enhanced by the quirky memories and anecdotes that the nearby après ski venues can offer.
By Phileas French, Travel Writer