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BANFF, AB - You don’t have to hit the slopes to enjoy the end-of-day ritual known as “apres ski,” the stint of socializing that starts after the last run of the day and goes for as long as your burning legs can stand it.
Sometimes it’s just a pint and a plate of nachos shared with a group of flush-cheeked friends at the on-hill lodge. Sometimes it’s heart-warming special coffees at a fireside lounge. And then there are the après skis of legend that start with a couple pitchers, continue through a couple rounds of shots, and end with everyone still in their ski boots doing the Frankenstein shuffle on the dance floor (then stumbling through town on a late-night quest for takeout poutine).
Any way you slice it, après is the beating heart of the social scene of any ski town. Check out some of the following hot spots the next time you’re looking for a little après action in Banff, Alberta:
Sunshine Village skiers have the option of indulging in a little après before they get on the gondola or embark on their final run down the Banff Avenue “ski out” trail back to the base lots. For many, this means a visit to Mad Trapper’s Saloon, the historic lodge at the base of the Standish and Strawberry lifts, where the rustic, log-cabin walls are hung with vintage photos of the legendary characters and events of local lore.
Chimney Corner Lounge at Sunshine Village has had a major renovation turning it into part sports bar, part fireside lounge for the apres ski crowd.
Photo courtesy of Sunshine Village
A more recent story at the resort is the renovation of the Chimney Corner Lounge in the on-hill Sunshine Mountain Lodge, which has been opened up with cathedral ceilings and sunny windows. Set up to be part sports bar, part fireside lounge, it’s where those seeking a more modern atmosphere can kick back with a pint and a plate of fries or a coffee and slice of cake. The leather couches in front of the taxidermy-adorned central fireplaces are the prime spots, though if you get too comfy you’re just going to wish you were staying the night.
Right in the heart of the Banff Avenue bar and restaurant strip, the Elk and Oarsmen is an airy, open-beam, second-floor space with its own cozy fireplace. Built around a slate-topped central bar, the restaurant offers an extensive menu that allows you jazz up après basics like nachos and potato skins with braised elk. There’s an extensive beer menu, a whiskey menu and a list of “thirsty desserts” like the lip-smacking Snowy Lane — hot chocolate spiked with Kahlua and vodka and topped with whipped cream. The pub often hosts live music, including a Sunday jam night, which is a good bet if you’re wanting to mingle with the locals.
119 Banff Avenue, 403-762-4616, Families welcome until 10 p.m.
Brandy Hot Toddy at the Larkspur Lounge at the Rimrock. $8.
Photo, Shelley Arnusch
For those looking to après with a touch of class, the fireside lounge in this classic Banff hotel, located up by the hot springs, is all polished wood and luxe leather armchairs. While the menu does feature a $149 cocktail called “The Magestic” featuring Louis XIII Cognac, the regular menu items are priced comparably with other lounges in town — a classic hot toddy with Maker’s Mark brandy, hot water, honey and cloves, for example, will set you back $8. The Larkspur also offers après ski specials on domestic beer, highballs, house wine, nachos and wings Sunday to Thursday from 4-6 p.m.
300 Mountain Avenue, 403-762-3356
Located underneath the foodie-favourite Bison Restaurant (one of those “good luck getting a reservation” types of dinner places and a must-do for brunch-lovers), the Bear Street Tavern is a more laid back joint, famous for thin-crust pizzas and baked mac and cheese with house-made ketchup. On Wednesdays, from 4 p.m. on, Bear Street is also après ski central, with specials on jugs of draught beer, super-sized mugs of glühwein (the mulled red wine that’s a staple at all Austrian and Swiss ski hills) and platters of après appies. There’s also a weekly Wednesday prize draw. Nothing beats drinking yourself into some brand new gear.
211 Bear Street, 403-762-2021
Perched above the highway overlooking the town of Banff, the lounge at this boutique hotel is an ideal après spot for those coming down from the Mount Norquay ski area or those who want to après en route back to Calgary. In addition to a stellar view, the cozy, fireside room also offers one of the best après-ski specials in town: seven appetizer items (bison sliders, perogies,mushroom bites, stuff like that) for $7 each, until 7 p.m., seven days a week, seven months of the year. Those who aren’t driving should warm their hearts and hands with a “hottini” — a potent combo of hot tea, Grand Marnier Amaretto and Butterscotch Ripple liqueur. While you sit and sip, see if you can spot materials and items the Juniper was able to salvage from a former renovation at the Banff Springs hotel.
Juniper Way and Mt. Norquay Rd., 403-762-2281
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