Beer is good.
Beer at the end of a long day is better.
Beer at the end of a long day of skiing is the most beautiful fucking thing in the whole fucking world.
The fancy term for drinking after skiing is “après-ski,” and apparently, it’s a thing. Like, this isn’t just something Kyle and I made up to justify our winter alcoholism, it’s something that other skiers all over the world participate in. As I understand it, après-ski is a phrase that means that after we ski, we go to the bar. It’s a beautiful tradition, really. Apparently, après-ski is a big thing in Europe, with clubs and bars catering to skiers long into the night. Our experience at our home mountain has been that it’s much more of a casual thing, with a smattering of skiers congregating at the bar in the lodge.
On the outset, après-ski at Gore does not look all that exciting. For one, very little about skiing is as romantic as movies and tv have made them out to be. Sure, the views are exquisite and the rush of flying down the mountain exhilarating, but that’s about it. That luxurious lodge with the winged-back chairs in front of the fire? Replace that with a cafeteria/locker room hybrid that smells of wet dog. Oh, and the adorable little snow bunny with the perfectly styled hair, sun-kissed face, and matching fur-lined leggings, sweater, and boots combo? Doesn’t exist. (Well, she might but it’s irrelevant because everyone hates her for being such a fucking poser.) If you set foot on the mountain today your face is likely bright red except for the white raccoon mask in the shape of your goggles. Your hair, which has spent all day under various layers of cap, hood, and helmet, looks like hell. And there’s a really good chance that you’re still wearing your ski pants with your athletic shirt. If you don’t look like shit then you didn’t ski, and we all hate you.
Even the Tannery Pub at Gore is…well, I won’t say it’s the biggest hole I’ve been in this week, but it’s not exactly the swanky joint one might imagine. Despite the wall of windows letting in the snow-reflected sunlight, the bar appears rather dark when you step inside from the main lodge. The green carpeting is worn, and the matching bar seats have played host to more than a few soggy asses in their time. The main decor, aside from the various beer paraphernalia lining the walls and ceiling, is a row of deer heads against the front wall. Everyone at the bar is tired and wind-chapped and smells like wet clown ass. Don’t get me wrong, the bartender’s super nice and the place is clean, but it does lack a certain sophistication that one might expect from a ski lodge bar. I know it was very much different from the one in my imagination.
So why, then, would I trade every other form of alcohol on this planet for an après-ski beer? Because après-ski beer is fucking magical.
It’s a combination of circumstances, really. For one, I’m that special kind of exhausted that only comes after an entire day of outdoor physical activity. It always reminds me of how I used to feel after spending a summer day playing in my best friend’s swimming pool as a kid; so completely and infinitely exhausted physically that I felt as if my body was still floating in water. Spending the day on the ski slopes, we want to spend every available second in the snow, which means that we only stop once for a quick lunch. By the end of the day, we’re exhausted, ravenous, and thirsty as hell. Which is why that first, perfect sip of Shock Top (for Shock Top is the perfect après-ski beer) is the most fucking delicious thing I’ve ever tasted in my life. It is liquid sunshine for my weary soul. They say that hunger is the best seasoning, and it’s the same principle, really. Nothing tastes better than that first sip of beer.
But there’s more to après-ski beer’s power than just it’s exquisite, refreshing taste. That beer does something to us. It makes us warm and fuzzy and happy after just a single beer. A second one has me singing “I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am” in the parking lot. I suppose there’s a scientific explanation to it: alcohol hitting our exhausted, dehydrated brains via blood that’s pumping extra fast probably makes for a quicker buzz. But I prefer not to think of it that way. (It’s more depressing that way.) No, I like to think that it’s the flush feeling that accompanies physical outdoor activity with the pride of the day’s accomplishments, combined with the comradery of bonding with fellow skiers over the hobby that we share that makes for the feeling that I’ve been wrapped in a cozy blanket of love and happiness. (And maybe a little bit of alcohol.)
Après-ski truly is a beautiful thing. But it’s one of those elusive magics that can’t be bought or faked. You can’t just buy yourself a pair of fur-lined boots and go to the bar in the lodge and expect to experience the magic. No, you have to spend the day flying down a mountain strapped to two sticks and thinking to yourself, “This is an asinine fucking sport, why the hell did I think this was a good idea?” You have to do battle with the mountain and the snow and the ice and your fear and come out dinged but whole. You have to find yourself suddenly on your ass, struggling not to slide the rest of the way down the hill while trying to maintain the tiniest shred of dignity. You have to finish out the day tired to your very bones, your legs heavy and your socks damp. Only then will you taste the sweet elixir that is après-ski beer.