Après Ski

Après ski. There’s no way to say it without sounding like a complete douche, and yet no two words in any language get me as excited. Roughly translated from the original French, après ski means, “I drank too much champagne and fell in the hot tub while still wearing my ski boots.”

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

Sadly, there are no champagne/hot tub accidents where I ski. Because, you see children, my local ski hill is in a dry county. There are no shot skis. No Jager luges. No bar with cougars trolling for ski bums. When the lifts shut down, our only après ski option is to head to the nearest Steak n’ Shake for burgers. N’ shakes. The struggle is real.

I’m not a wise man, but I’ve learned a few things in my 39 years on this planet. For instance, I know that making peace with your own limitations is the key to happiness. Well, it’s one of the keys to happiness. There are probably 12 keys to happiness in total. I don’t know, like I said, I’m not a wise man. But 12 seems like the right number.

A couple of other keys to happiness I figured out along the way: marry someone who’s out of your league. Conventional wisdom says you should stick to your own classifications for attractiveness when finding a life partner. If you’re a seven, marry a seven. But trust me, waking up to someone who’s significantly hotter than you will make you happy.

Also, listen to a lot of Beastie Boys.

But back to accepting your own limitations. What I’m really taking about here is the Southern Appalachians during ski season. We have a lot of really great ski resorts to choose from in the South, and during a banner year, there is even some cross country and backcountry turns to be had. But you simply can’t compare the Southern Apps to the Rockies, or even the Northern Appalachians for that matter. We just don’t have the snow. It’s a matter of math. The South has a lot of fine qualities that make up for the lack of snow (boiled peanuts, bourbon), but you can’t argue with math.

It took me a while to come to terms with the Southern Appalachians’ geographical limitations, but as soon as I accepted those limitations, and made peace with a winter that was less snowy, I started enjoying the ski season more. I’ve accepted a winter full of man-made snow and the occasional dusting of God-given powder. I can accept a ski resort that only gets 60 inches of natural snow a year, but I cannot accept a resort that has no bar in the lodge, or anywhere within a 10-mile radius, for that matter. You have to drive 20 minutes across the county line to get a beer. And that beer is in an Ingles. You gotta drive all the way back to Asheville to hit a legitimate bar, and then you’re the only one wearing ski boots and still sporting goggles. That’s not après ski. That’s just drinking.

Our lack of snow is a matter of geography. The lack of booze at my hill is human error. Fortunately, it’s an isolated situation; there are plenty of great après ski options in the South. Beech has a killer bar on top of the mountain. They even have their own brewery. Whitegrass Café, at the base of Whitegrass ski touring center, is a veritable party after a good powder day. In fact, the resort where I hold my season pass might be the only dry ski resort below the Mason Dixon.

The lack of a bar at my local hill is frustrating, mostly because I don’t want to ski anywhere else. I like the terrain. The ski patrol lets me skin up the hill during the week. The lifties wear denim and blast classic rock from mid-station. Why can’t this mountain have a damn bar? And more snow, but we already talked about that, so I’m gonna let it go. But the bar…the lack of a bar is a tough thing to let go.

Alas, when the world gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Then spike that lemonade with vodka.

So in lieu of a legitimate bar, we tailgate. We pop the trunk on our SUV, brandish a cooler full of quality local beer and crank the Phil Collins, right there in the middle of the parking lot. You’ll see a few other people doing the same, particularly during that hour between the day session and the night session when the mountain is closed for grooming. Dudes retreat to their trunks and sit, nursing a few beers, tired but ready to hit the hill again after dark. We talk about how the mountain needs a bar. How the food could be better. And how much we like the mountain anyway, in spite of all of its flaws. Or maybe because of them, it’s hard to tell. And really, who needs a snooty après ski bar with overpriced Bud Light, when you can après ski in your own trunk. SEC football style.

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