Some are predicting that the showers of champagne and shots will dry up and the sound of stomping ski boots will cease. They say après ski will not happen this season and may even be changed forever. However, in resorts where the venues are based, the story is much more positive and plans are already afoot for a socially distanced après ski vibe across the Alps. For some, this spells big changes to the way they do things. For others – very little change at all.
What is Après Ski?
With an expected rise in Covid cases, as the cold weather sets in nationally, everyone is assuming the worst for ski resorts. Early articles about the state of après ski in Austria where “après ski is banned” naturally amplifies this sentiment. However, in the eagerness to post articles about this, no one has actually stopped and asked the question, “What is Après Ski?”
According to several venue owners we know personally, they will be continuing their live music programs with very few changes – things may just have to be a little more ‘chilled’ than it usually is high up on those mountain slopes. The Cocorico venues and the Folie Douce are some of the largest après venues in the Alps where the vast majority of the entertainment occurs outside. Some venues are abandoning their inside performance area altogether, embracing their outside stage and terrace space like never before. Other indoor venues are temporarily changing-up their evening programs to work with bands and other forms of entertainment that have a strong interactive offering. However, the main message across the board is; everyone seated and no dance floors.
For some, the ‘raison d’être’ of their venue is a small indoor space, rammed with drunken revellers, pogo-ing to their après ski band’s beat, with a spot of booze-soaked crowd surfing thrown in for good measure. These venues will find things tough and they may have to adapt quickly to survive the winter. Many of these establishments will reduce their entertainment programs with the time-honoured reason that ‘the band takes up the space of a table’ – they will have to reinvigorate food menus and revisit opening hours.
Live music isn’t always 4 to the floor
What we’re experiencing at Après Ski Bands (the Alps’ main live music booking agency) is that we are continuing to be in full programming mode. We have well over 1000 confirmed live music bookings already in the book and another 1500 expected by early November. We’re seeing a slight drop in demand for late night pub gigs but more demand for gigs in the afternoon or during lunch times. Richard Lett, CEO & founder of Après Ski Bands & Piste Productions pointed out that this is on trend (though accelerated) with recent years. As discussed in this October’s online LISTEX event – the UK’s only B2B event for the snowsports industry – Rich shared that he’d noticed a significant shift from late night to daytime bookings over the past 5 years. He puts this down to an ageing ski resort clientele and the younger generation either being less likely to go skiing due to increase in University fees or when they do ski, they’re less interested in mindless drinking and late night partying. They want to be on the slopes!
“However, interactive quality live entertainment is still booming”, Rich says. 4 and 5 star hotels that offer more subdued entertainment are already booking, too. Lucy Villerbrun of Le Yule in Val d’Isère explains that, as long as they have clients in the hotels, they must offer the ‘full service’ to their clients. Entertainment and après ski is part of that full service. This may not be the classic après ski on everyone’s minds but next time you are in resort, do check out places like Le Yule or the Aigle des Neiges in Val d’Isère and Fahrenheit Seven in Courchevel and Val Thorens. You may spend a bit more on drinks in these places but the services will be high quality, accompanied by delicious amuse bouches. Live entertainment, a super comfy sofa and a roaring log fire… What’s not to like?
This summer in the Alps, bar staff and patrons have been wearing masks routinely. Other prescribed sanitary measures have been adhered to in a professional manner. Customers have felt safe in gig environments that have either been all seated and well spaced or outside. It’s been a busy summer, with most resort venues actually reporting record sales.
No one knows what the future actually holds. Anyone thinking that they can predict the next 3-5 months is somewhat deluded!
Piste Bash Festival – a comedy and DJ festival in Méribel, will still be taking place from 15th March. The organisers agree that most events can be converted to seated only and outdoor areas if the local legislation allows. If needed, they say that they can reduce numbers easily per event and create a program centred on a more intimate vibe. ‘Keep optimistic and carry on creatively’ is the mantra coming from Piste Bash HQ!
The Knight Frank City Ski Championships taking place 18-21 March 2021 in Courmayeur, always incorporates a very healthy entertainment program. They are expecting a strong turnout this year and planning is in full flow.
The live stand up Altitude Festival in Mayrhofen is currently going ahead from March 29th to April 2nd. As a mainly seated event anyway, event organiser Brett Vincent is looking forward to bringing the laughter back to the Austrian hills. It’s been a hard summer of cancelled comedy events in the UK.
It’s evident that all interested parties within the industry will have to work together to ensure sensible measures are in place. They will need to communicate well to incoming tourists with regards to measures being taken but also, the correct ways to behave.
France Montagne has been spreading this infographic that sums it up really nicely. It says that bars will be open but staff and patrons must wear masks. It states that everyone must be seated as well as a host of other sensible measures to allow people to enjoy the open air and fresh mountain environment safely.
source : France Montagne
One venue owner recently told us, “If they want to close us, they will need to close the resort. Why would people take the ‘risk’ to get on a flight, a train, get in a ski bubble, go for dinner, catch a resort bus and then not come and have a beer at an après ski?”
The recently launched Ski Safely campaign offers information dedicated to anyone planning a ski or snowboard holiday following the 2020 Covid-19 crisis. Ski Safely has also been sending out information directly to journalists and more content will be published soon. It’ll give more clarity on the 20-21 winter season ahead, providing up-to-date details about the effects of Covid-19 and how this will and won’t impact specific areas within the ski industry. Follow them online for more information!
What is Après Ski really like?
Media presentations of these events have a lot to answer for our impression that après ski is all about high-octane, crazy fun. Individual social media and our toffee-vodka tinted spectacles, too. We all remember the busiest and best of après parties, but they certainly don’t happen every single day in every single venue. Of course, everyone through their various media channels will promote this image of an après – along with their photos of perfect ski conditions, blue skies and exclusively spacious slopes!
We all know that in reality, it isn’t really like that. Next time you’re at an après venue (in normal conditions) just count the number of seated (and non dancing) people. After a long, hard day on the slopes, battling the elements and tricky off-piste pastures, ask yourself this; how often are you dancing on tables, with your top off chanting “Down it! Down it!”? A beer, a bottle of rosé, some snacks, a seat, some quality après music and a good natter with mates about the day’s exploits is all that’s needed. We’re looking forward to getting there in just a few short weeks..!
The Shnow must go on!
So it’s time to go boutique, people! This is the year of the boutique festival, personalised dining experiences (with a soloist to serenade!), exclusive VIP packages (with an harmoniously, socially distanced duo!), bespoke offers for unique moments in the mountains and above all – seated après ski. Your après experience may be a little different this year, but it’s still après and it’s still happening.
So we at Après Ski Bands say, “Vive Après Ski!” because when it comes to après this winter, sitting down is the new standing up and the hearts of ski resorts still deserve to be beating. And by the looks of things so far, they’ll be beating more rhythmically than ever.