Après ski 2.0 – the future of ski boot dancing in a socially distanced world

In theory, 2m distancing and caps on group sizes should spell the end of après ski as we know it. The schnapps ski, long seen as a team unifier would be seen screwed to walls, a relic of past joy and intemperance. Whilst the musicians who stamped timeless classics with Eurobeat rhythms will become crestfallen hotel staff. So, what will après ski look like going forward?

Après ski is both hugely popular and a big driver of local economies - 2 reasons why it is possible that there will be a post-covid return to the status quo. Overnighting in St Anton usually meant parking the skis at the doors to the Mooserwirt or the Krazy Kanguruh after a day of skiing. And for those with an immune system made of tungsten carbide, an event in Ischgl was divided between the world-class ski area and the world-beating après ski bars. In small doses (après ski is not a sustainable part of any routine) - the post-ski revelry was the chance to network, bond and offered the perfect opportunity to write oneself into company folklore.

Despite the popularity and business case for après ski continuing unaffected, it is reasonable to predict a change is coming. In the past, a post-ski drink with colleagues meant a rendezvous at a predominantly indoor venue, packed to the rafters with like-minded people. The atmosphere was uniquely alpine and the result of densely congregated customers and a sealed airspace to prevent the transfer of temperature and sound pollution. Mass transit systems around the world feature similar densities of people and it would be hard to justify the prohibition of such gatherings based on entertainment as opposed to transport needs. So, from a legislative perspective, certainly at local level, there will be pressure to allow a return to the past. There are also cultural drivers to consider – après ski is long synonymous with a trip to the ski slopes and a legislative curtailment of activities seems a non-starter. But perceptions change and it going to be harder than ever to square a day of exercise in pristine air with that of compromised air quality in claustrophobic settings – whilst a whole lot of fun, the 2 are just not natural bedfellows.

My crystal ball is suggesting more choice in future. The market is likely to offer further options to those seeking more space and comfort at the expense of shoulder-to-shoulder partying. In a way, the trail has already been blazed by the La Folie Douce brand in the French Alps. Austria has après ski in its DNA. All that was needed in previous winters was an outdoor bar to lean against at the base-station and before long, the crowds of Austrians, Dutch and Germans would create a party atmosphere. Nothing fancy or elaborate, just the basic building blocks. Indoor venues across the big resorts in Austria were covered but their offering was still as basic – music, beer and toilets. And for years, the French have been offering ‘après ski lite’ with trappings not seen in Austria, taking away from the raw potency of Germanic après ski. This though, may now make up a greater portion of the après ski market. La Folie Douce for example offers quality live entertainment, stage performances to eclipse the traditional après ski DJ and their ever-present CD playlist. They serve quality food where traditional après ski huts might offer a Pretzel and a tinned pear to float on your schnapps. And there is space – tables, outdoor terraces and sofas (albeit in the reserved areas) are a feature of the La Folie Douce experience. What seemed luxurious paraphernalia in pre-covid times, now appear like the answer to the conundrums which hang over the shuttered après ski bars of Austria.

This is not to kick a cultural pursuit when it is down. Traditional après ski rightly has a central place in the hearts of many, it is culturally woven into the very fabric of skiing in the alps. That time after the lifts have closed, when teams come together for shared social bonding, is often the time when company folklore is written. For years it was mostly harmless fun, managed excess without the problems of summer drinking holes. But perceptions are changing and that incongruity between sport taking place in such pristine, expansive nature and over-capacity, indoor venues has never been starker. So, expect more gentrified après ski offerings, with sunny terraces, sofas, blankets and wine served to the table.

Après ski 2.0 – more quality and exclusivity, as well as the chance to get down and dirty through throwback après ski – it will be your choice.

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