I sometimes wonder what a full-tilt après-ski scene looks like to people who have never skied or snowboarded a day in their life.
Do they get the appeal straight away? Or does it seem weird? After all, why not go home, shower and change, and then party?
In any estimation, après ski is a spectacle: Throngs of adults — wearing brashly-coloured ski gear and cumbersome boots — in a state of ecstasy, downing beers and laughing, as though they had just competed in (and won) some championship match.
Though I grew up around après ski, it wasn't until this year, when I moved to Whistler, that I came to a full appreciation of its wonders.
After a long day of riding Sun Peaks — where I grew up riding and my parents own and operate a ski chalet — I typically went home, where I slumped on the couch, watched television, too tired to bother taking off my boots. If I felt ambitious, I grabbed a beer and went for a hot tub.
But Whistler, with its endless options and unbridled enthusiasm for a good party, has converted me. Like a born-again Christian, I'm on fire for après — ready to exclaim my love to whomever will listen.
My moment of clarity came at the end of January.
I was in HandleBar, a dimly-lit tavern with a first-rate selection of reasonably-priced craft beers. All of the forces had come together: A good crew and a first-rate day. And now we were extending the vibe, carrying it on for the next couple hours.
When I looked around, everyone seemed to be on similar plane. It was borderline magical.
Going to a bar can be so drab. Drinks are expensive. Tipping is a challenge. And people, especially in this town, often get carried away. Those few hours after the lifts stop turning seem different. Drawn together over a common experience, conversation flows easily, and smiles (especially on the epic days) are everywhere. You actually have something in common to chat about.
And Whistler, with its multitude of options, is a marvel of après delights. So far, I've tested the waters at a Dusty's, Crystal Lounge and Coast Mountain Brewing — all of which are, admittedly, low-key options.
I am, however, willing to branch out, intrigued, in voyeuristic way, by some of the wilder options available. The Cinnamon Bear offers a Swedish after-ski party, which seems to be positioning itself as the craziest après in Whistler. And while I've only observed from a distance, I recall seeing people literally dancing on the tables of the Longhorn, which is pretty #lit.
There are, moreover, more refined options. As much as I like nachos and pub food (I actually don't — but it seems kind of pretentious not to), over at Bar Oso, you can satiate your hunger with tapas and house-made charcuterie. Sounds great.
I recently asked an older friend — a woman who has lived here for decades and is dead-set on enjoying the finer things in life in a very carnal, very Whistler way — about what she would consider the perfect day.
The answer came to her straight away, as though she'd been considering it for years: "You wake up, have fantastic sex and great day of skiing, and then you hit the Mallard."
The music, the atmosphere, is second to none, she said, singing the praises of the Fairmont's elegant lounge.
With spring around the corner, après is about to kick into high gear. Long days, warm weather, and spring conditions will be here soon.
I've done some investigating, and I can already picture my first beer at Fitz's. Sitting in the sun, taking in the views, reflecting on what an incredible privilege it is to live in this mountain town.