Nothing compliments a day on the slopes like a well-earned apres-ski toddy, glass of wine, or a pint of cold beer. And, who can argue with the curative effects that a little alcohol has on sore, overused muscles?
And don’t worry if you’ve spent the day reading a book in the lodge. You don’t need a lift ticket to join these post-powder parties. Here are some of our favorite places to grab a drink when the sun slides behind the mountain peaks. (Of course, we know you’ll drink responsibly.)
The Matterhorn Ski Bar
Newry, Maine, 207-824-6836; www.matterhornskibar.com
Wear your L.L.Bean flannels and favorite worn jeans to this lively, mountain town watering hole, located along the Sunday River access road. Old ski gear, trail signs, stickers, helmets and hundreds of skis (we haven’t counted them, but locals say 895!) plaster the wood and brick walls, and hang from the wood beam ceiling of this beloved post-slope pub. It has one of the largest mug club memberships in the East, luring a loyal following, who come for the 20-something draft selection, including pours like the Matterhorn Ski Bar Beer, Sebago Frye’s Leap IPA and Magic Hat Single Chair. If you need a little more antifreeze, order one of the 60-ounce Glacier Bowl cocktails. Of course, you can’t live by alcohol alone, and this place delivers on the food, too. There are the requisite nachos, wings, ribs, burgers and steak, but go for the wood-fired brick oven pizza. We’d come just for that.
Stowe, Vt., 802-760-6066; www.docponds.com
They really know food. They really know beer. What else do you really need to know? Located on Mountain Road leading to Stowe Mountain Resort, this hip pub is helmed by the same folks who own the acclaimed, game-changing Hen of the Wood restaurants. Here, they offer some of the best beers in the country, an impressive collection of nearly 80 bottles and cans, and more than 20 drafts. Snag a table downstairs next to the fireplace, listen to vinyl spinning on the turntable, and decide on your first brew: perhaps a draft from Zero Gravity or von Trapp, or a bottle of Samuel Smith chocolate stout from the United Kingdom. Definitely order food, like the Bayley Blue Balls, made from Jasper Hill Farm cheese, the Knife & Fork Grilled Cheese, with prosciutto and wildflower honey, or the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos.
Waterbury, Vt., 802-244-4120; www.prohibitionpig.com
Look for the pig and a crowd out the door: This brewery + gastro pub, located about 20 minutes from Stowe and 30 minutes from Sugarbush ski resorts, is always buzzing. They hit all the right marks: a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, a large selection of craft beers, an intriguing cocktail menu, and tasty Southern barbecue. You’ll find several of Pro Pig’s own beers on tap, along with “guest” pours. Pair your poutine fries (the best!), crispy fried chicken on buttery biscuits or tender, hand-sliced beef brisket sandwich with bacon barbecue sauce and fried onion strings (one of the best we’ve had) with a Pro Pig Bantam Double IPA or the lighter Hill Farmstead Edward Pale Ale. If you’re looking for something boosier, consider one of the craft cocktails, like the Trailblazer, made with Bar Hill gin, New Deal ginger liqueur, and blueberry-cardamom shrub.
Stowe, Vt., 802-253-5100; www.benchvt.com
After a hard-working, cold day on the slopes, this rustic-chic bar, located on Stowe Mountain Road, is a welcome sight. It’s all wood and warmth inside, with paneled wood walls and ceiling, Edison lights and a wood-fired oven. While you’re waiting for a table (count on it; it’s popular for good reason), decide what you want to drink and eat. An ever-changing handwritten list on a copper back wall tells what brews are available, often more than 25 selections from Vermont (i.e. Larson’s Sip of Sunshine, Zero Gravity Ricky Bobby) and beyond (how about a glass of Aslan Brewing Co. B’ham Brown or the Mystic Aperture?) The bartenders also serve up well-crafted cocktails and wine enthusiasts will find several smart offerings by the glass or bottle. A large menu of crave-worthy comfort food completes the apres-ski indulgence, including addictive duck fat fries, fried chicken, mac and cheese, meatloaf, wood oven-roasted duck, and wood-fired pizzas.
The Bag + Kettle
Carrabassett Valley, Maine, 207-237-2451; www.thebagandkettle.com
It’s the last run of the day, the lifts at Sugarloaf are closing, and you’re thirsty and hungry. Do what skiers and shredders have done for years: Take your weary legs and appetites to this longstanding, fun-loving English-style pub, located at the base of the mountain. Ski boots welcome. Do like the locals: Order a whiskey neat to warm your bones. They have an intriguing list of fine whiskeys and bourbons and a selection of home brews, like Bag’s Potato Ale, made from Maine-grown spuds, which is the perfect accompaniment to their world famous (yes!) Bag Burger. There’s live entertainment on select evenings throughout the season, when the action really heats up.
Wildcat Inn and Tavern
Jackson, N.H., 800-228-4245; www.wildcattavern.com
The good times (and drinks) flow at this come-as-you-are, slightly worn tavern. It’s snug and cozy, with low beams and ski décor. Find a corner to enjoy local beers and hefty pours. In-the-know folks head here early on Tuesday night for Hoot Night, the longest running open mike night in the Mount Washington Valley. It draws some amazingly brilliant local performers and talented musicians who are passing through. There’s also live entertainment on most weekends.
McGrath’s Irish Pub
Killington, Vt., 802-775-7181; www.innatlongtrail.com
This everyone-knows-your-name, feel-good place, located at the Inn at Long Trail, is everything an Irish pub should be: fun-loving, serious about their libations, and atmospheric. They sell the most Guinness in the state, fresh pours with shamrocks embedded in the foamy heads. They also have the state’s largest selection of Irish whiskey. Have a few of these and you’ll be hugging strangers on your way out and making plans to meet up on the slopes the next day. There’s live Irish music on Friday and Saturdays, and the food is tops. Try the shepherd’s pie, Guinness stew, or Irish reuben sandwich.
Ludlow, Vt., 802-228-5200; www.stemwindervt.com
Apres ski can be low-key and elegant, too, like this upstairs-downstairs wine bar and restaurant, with barn wood and stone accents. Wine drinkers will love the smart selection of bottles from around the world, and large choice of wines by the glass. You can even try wine flights, and the friendly and knowledgeable waitstaff is happy to recommend pairings to go with their small plates, like the Vermont cheese and charcuterie platter, beef sliders with pickled veggies and onion jam, chicken tacos with peach salsa, and thin crusted house-made pizzas. There’s also a decent lineup of craft beers.