I bring you good news. This winter one tour operator is supplementing the tradition of tea and cake in some chalets with beer and nachos when guests come in from the slopes.
I rarely stay in a chalet as I prefer to be free to eat when and where I like in the evenings and find the ‘sameyness’ of the chalet routine unappealing. However, if, like thousands of Brits, I was a habitual chalet-dweller, I would be drawn to this new tea-time option.
I find that if you get apres-ski done and dusted, preferably in your ski clothes, before supper instead of after, you still feel you’ve had a night out but you wake up on top form the next morning.
For people of my vintage, one downside to the beer-and-nachos chalets – operated by Crystal Ski in Val Thorens and Tignes – is that they are aimed at late teenage and twentysomethings (the clue is in the name, Riders’ Lodges).
So for those who yearn for their own beer-and-nachos rather than tea-and-cake moment, but feel they are too square or seasoned for a Riders’ Lodge, here are my top three ‘afternoon nights out’ in the mountains, all of which are do-able whether you’re a chalet-dweller skiving off tea and cake, or based in a b&b, apartment or hotel.
1st prize: Nederhuette, Obergurgl – When I worked for Inghams as a ski host in the 1990s, I ‘had’ to take my group to this brilliant mountain restaurant three times a week for apres-ski. Owner Rudi Gamper has a winning formula: a rustic, atmospheric interior with rock-solid tables and benches, super-efficient service, excellent food at sensible prices, a decent sun-terrace and an umbrella bar. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4pm he is the star of his own show, taking to the stage with a buddy and singing, strumming and squeezeboxing till at least 7pm when it’s time to locate your skis and wobble down the blue run home (or take the free skidoo if you’re not on skis). Their songs range from the Oetztaler Bergsteigerlied (a song about the joy of climbing), which incorporates a good yodel or two, to Pink Floyd, Europop and apres-ski staples. The Germans go especially wild when Rudi plays U2, and we always enjoy his rendition of Vest Wirginia. There’s much dancing, stamping and whirling, plenty of sweaty and unflattering ‘base layers’ on display, an array of nationalities and a spectrum of ages, from grandparents to ten-year-olds.
2nd prize: Most places, Ischgl – Brits are only slowly waking up to the allure of this now quite large village, where the Germans have been enjoying themselves for years. I skied here aged 10ish and then not until this year, having been discouraged by its reputation for ‘seedy’ apres-ski. However, the couple of girly bars are only a tiny part of Ischgl’s very lively 3.30ish-7pm scene, and if you opt for one of the rustic, pine-clad locales you should be ‘safe’. We spent from 4.30 till 6 in the Trofana Alm, a smaller and more bling-studded version of the Mooserwirt (see below). We liked the Kuhstall, too, and were told Niki’s Stadl, the other end of town, was a winner between slopes and supper. For more on Ischgl see these posts http://tinyurl.com/3rjoenl and http://tinyurl.com/3lhbyxe.
3rd prize: Mooserwirt, St Anton – Detractors say it’s crowded and over-rated, but if you get it right, the Mooserwirt remains one of the most fun places to pile into before supper. Read my blog on how to make the most of it: http://tinyurl.com/3jlzeae.
If the Riders’ Lodges sound more like your thing, as well as beer and nachos you will find modern ski-themed art, X-Box 360s, games (electronic ones, I think, rather than Scrabble), snowsport DVDs, walkie-talkies and a ‘snow guru’ – a sort of 21st-century ski host. Sensibly, though, they haven’t done away with that vital ingredient for a happy chalet: the good old log fire.
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