We were après-skiing at the contemporary Roost tavern at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vt., sipping Mr. Figgy cocktails (made with local fig and maple infused bourbon, served with a decadent slice of Vermont maple caramelized bacon) and watching the sun set over Mount Mansfield. The fire pits were roaring and the crowd was loosening up, toasting to the day on the slopes and the overnight blessing from the snow gods. The Roost is one of our favorite après-ski spots, a great place to gather for end-of-day camaraderie, fine food, and stiff drinks.
We think a winter day in the mountains is best ended with a night on the town, whether it’s dancing in your ski boots while knocking down shots of Jagermeister or sipping champagne fireside. Lucky us: New England boasts a bevy of off-mountain gathering spots and friendly watering holes; here are some of the best.
Don’t miss the Roost (see above, 800-451-8686, www.topnotchresort.com). But if you plan right, you’ll have at least a couple nights in Stowe, which means you can also check out Sushi Yoshi and the Rusty Nail. It’s only been open a year, but Sushi Yoshi (802-253-4135, www.sushistowe.com) with its fun, friendly vibe, has already become a hot spot. The Chinese-Japanese restaurant has a cool sushi bar, hibachi tables and — our favorite — Prosecco on tap! And they offer one of the best items in town: a free shuttle that will pick you up and drop you off anywhere in Stowe. Oh, how we mourned the closing of the Rusty Nail (802-253-6245, www.rustynailvt.com), and how we celebrated its reopening last winter. The storied nightclub, purchased by the owners of Crop Bistro & Brewery, is back with a full lineup of live music, featuring local, regional, and national acts. This winter, they’ll also be offering free pizza for their 1-to-4 p.m. après-ski.
Looking for scenic views and an on-mountain experience? Consider the Motor Room Bar (800-621-6867, www.killington.com), located in a retired lift station at the top of Killington’s Bear Mountain. After a 30-minute ride on a 10-person, enclosed snowcat, you’ll climb two flights of steep stairs to the motor room of Killington’s first four-passenger lift. There are drinks and small bites included, but the real draw is the mountain peaks and starry sky views. For something a little more down-to-earth, check out fun-loving, come-as-you-are JAX Food & Games (802-422-5334, www.supportinglocalmusic.com), with live music, arcade games, billiards, and above-average pub grub. And, while you’re après-skiing, you can wash and dry your Hot Chillys at the laundromat downstairs — what else do you need?
Follow the Okemo ski instructors and local ski bums to slightly rundown Tom’s Loft Tavern (802-228-5638, www.facebook.com/pages/Toms-Loft-Tavern/129783457050894), dubbed the “Home of warm beer, lousy food, and grumpy owner.” We think that’s false advertising. There’s a nice selection of drafts, served in a cold pint glass (tourists get plastic cups). The food is decent; owner Tom smokes his own meat, and the nachos and wings are legendary. And Tom isn’t all that grumpy.
Stowe, Sugarbush, Mad River Glen, and Bolton ski areas are only 15 minutes away from Waterbury. It’s worth the drive if only to drink and dine at Prohibition Pig (802-244-4120, www.prohibitionpig.com). The convivial, always bustling tavern has one of the largest selections of craft brews in New England, including beers from Alchemist, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and Hill Farmstead, world-famous breweries, known locally as the Holy Trinity of Vermont beer. Order a cold Alchemist Heady Topper, the top-ranked beer in the country, to go with the braised beef brisket sandwich or the pit smoked chicken. This winter, Pro Pig will also open its own on-site brewery and tasting room.
North Country Maine meets the Swiss Alps at the widely popular Matterhorn Ski Bar (207-824-6836, www.matterhornskibar.com). This rollicking après-ski spot is filled floor-to-ceiling with ski memorabilia, including some 895 skis and an impressive collection of old boots, trail signs, and maps. You’ll have to muscle your way through the crowd to the bar, where the mugs of local suds-swillers hang, or grab a table in the quieter restaurant area. There’s live music on weekends, and the wood-fired, Italian-style pizzas frequently win Best of Bethel awards. Equally rocking is the Foggy Goggle (207-824-5056, www.sundayriver.com), Sunday River’s answer to a swim-up bar. A.k.a. the Foggle, it’s located at the South Ridge Lodge, and home to the Bud Light Music Series. Grab a seat on the second-floor deck, order a Shipyard, and sit back to watch fireworks.
The Rack (207-237-2211, www.therackbbq.com), a barn-like structure located just down the road from Sugarloaf ski resort, is co-owned by professional snowboarder and SBX Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott. The packed-to-the-rafters hot spot is crammed with local rippers and wanna-be Loafers, wearing L.L. Bean flannel and swilling PBR. No worries, everyone is welcome here. Fill up on tender BBQ ribs in the dining room, play arcade games in the bar, and dance to live music. It’s all so much fun (until you crawl out of bed the next morning to make first tracks).
Just a short jaunt from Loon Mountain and Cannon ski resorts, the Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery (603-745-3951, www.woodstockinnnh.com), located in a former 1800s railroad station, meets all our criteria for an après-ski sweet spot. Grab a seat near the wood-burning fireplace in the main tavern, especially if live music is playing, or belly up to the bar in the cozier Brew Pub, both are warm and friendly, and serve hearty comfort food, like roast chicken, spicy macaroni and cheese, and meatloaf. Beer geeks will appreciate the brewed on-site craft beers, including their popular Pig’s Ear Brown Ale and Wassail Winter Ale, and savvy locals come for half-price appetizers during après-ski hours.
This town is packed with lively bars and restaurants that buzz after the lifts close, like Red Parka Inn, Horsefeathers, and Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing. But sometimes we can’t work up enough energy to battle the crowds for a spot on the dance floor or a place at the bar. Or, it’s a below-zero, whipping wind day and we wisely leave the slopes early. That’s when we head to the Stonehurst Manor (800-525-9100, wwwstonehurstmanor.com) for afternoon fondue served 2-4:30 p.m., in the frozen-in-time, oak-paneled library lounge. The inn and restaurant, housed in a late 1800s Victorian mansion, is located along the trails of the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring Foundation, and the afternoon fondue is especially popular with cross-country skiers.
It’s perhaps New England’s ultimate après-ski scene: tailgating at the base of Tuckerman’s Ravine. Hike up the trail to Picnic Rocks, a jumble of giant boulders, and join daredevils who come to ski the wild terrain, and the thousands of spectators — a typically wild bunch of adventurers and thrill seekers — who ooh and ahh and high-five skiers who successfully maneuver the mountain. Or, gasp and groan as another skier tumbles, turning into a fast-moving human snowball. Doing “Tucks” is a well-honored tradition, whether you go for it, landing at the bottom with a grin on your snow-covered face, or join the non-skiing hordes to lounge on boulders, eat, drink, and be merry.