Apres ski HQ - Austria

Austria offers more opportunities to never see the first gondola queue than any other mountain sport location.

Austrians are as passionate about the celebration of coming down the mountain on skis as coming down the mountain on skis. In both respects this is a nation with a rich and long history of total domination. For every would-be Hermann Maier getting in their lunchtime runs, there is an Austrian Ollie Reed in one of the umbrella bars that dot the base-stations of the Austrian valley resorts. Resorts such as Kitzbuhel, Mayrhofen, Saalbach-Hinterglemm and St Anton have long set the bench mark of apres ski excellence and yet there are new kids on the block such as Solden and more recently Ischgl that are redefining the apres ski experience. Ischgl in particular has been so dominant in projecting its apres ski message that there are those arriving who know nothing of the world-beating ski area in the peaks above the resort. Ischgl apres is about excess on a grand scale - the 'Ibiza of the Alps' has everything from rocking mountain huts to table-dancing dirndl-clad models. And the debate that has raged as the apres ski heavyweights of Austria slugged it out for top spot is over - Ischgl is convincingly the best apres ski resort in the world. St Anton am Arlberg, Solden, Mayrhofen, Kitzbuhel, Saalbach-Hinterglemm and others are there or there abouts. But for atmosphere and eye-opening excess it has to be Ischgl. It hasn't always been this way and may not remain that way. Solden, the champion of just a few years ago isn't resting on its laurels and whilst St Anton mixes hard-core alpinism and immune-system-busting apres ski, it remains very close to the top of the apres ski pile. Kitzbuhel is Kitzbuhel - it doesn't much mind what other areas are doing and continues to churn out legendary nightlife, whilst Mayrhofen offers genuine credibility to its ski boot dancing offering with the annual Snow Bombing DJ festival in spring. For the bizarre Saalbach-Hinterglemm allows visitors to drink with goats and it is fair to say that in almost every valley in Austria there will be locals and visitors alike listening to remixed euro-pop or a local pumping an accordion to their adoring audience.

So where does apres ski fit into a polished and immaculately delivered corporate ski trip? Well it can be as good for the non-skier as the skier or snowboarder. It is a great social event - those who leave early or alternatively last till dawn tend to be on the same wavelength. As for team building, the sight of stray team members rolling in over breakfast can engender a real sense of togetherness and respect whilst offering the perfect smart phone Kodak moment - group members can become the heroes in the click of a phone. More than anything, apres ski offers the chance to celebrate a day in magnificent surroundings with friends and colleagues, the opportunity to reflect on falls, super-human resilience or hero descents. And most of all apres ski is a great leveller - when colleagues have been spread all over a peak during the day, the apres ski bar is a great place to meet and level the playing field. And for all this to head to Austria - it has apres ski no equals anywhere in the world.

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