Is Great Après Ski Enough At Thredbo Or Anywhere?

The 2023 Snow Season in Australia rates as one of the worst, and fastest melting, ever – but does that really matter if the après ski was awesome?

Thredbo’s season wrap highlights their huge après calendar, from Sneaky Sound System to Poof Doof DJ’s Wongo & Kinder.

The crowd at First Base Après Ski Thredbo 2023
First Base Après Ski © Thredbo

The lowdown from Thredbo on how they saw the season dropped in our inbox on 18 September, just when we would normally be thinking great spring snow, or at least corny early laps followed by excursions out the back. With maybe even a top up for a last minute pow sessions tiull the sun came out. Like last season, when our Thredbo-for-$12-a-day local & Snowboard Editor Peter Wunder scored the last pow day of the season on 19 September on his way to 113 days off the lifts that winter (every day they were open). For the record, Pete says he scored 84 days this year and missed 5, so that means there were at least 89 days of lifts for skiing (by our unoffical Pete-o-meter) at Thredbo.

Not 2023 winter – the lifts stopped, the resort skiing was all over red rover. At Thredbo, and also Buller, Hotham & Falls within a couple of days. Only Perisher has survived summer-in-September to hang in for a bit longer.

Sadly, the prognosis for future Aussie snow seasons is not great – shorter duration of snow cover, skiable snow cover retreating to higher altitudes, less snowmaking suitable windows, and the likelihood of warmer conditions meaning more rain, less snow.

So partying like there’s no tomorrow actually makes a lot of sense at our snow resorts.

At Thredbo you could. “Boasting Australia’s biggest après calendar, Thredbo took its live music and entertainment events to another level this winter. With eight of Thredbo’s famous festival-style après events taking over Alpine Bar almost every Saturday night, we hosted a massive lineup of Australian headline acts including Sneaky Sound System, L D R U, Anne Lunoe, the Poof Doof DJs, Wongo and Kinder. After a multiple-year hiatus, the return of Rainbow Mountain was an experience that had to be seen to be believed. With three non-stop days of sparkly events celebrating love, community and diversity, the atmosphere was incredible as the whole resort got involved with the celebrations from start to finish” they brag, justifiably.

 Is the party enough? Will you keep going to the snow, or lack of snow, just for the après ski action?

Rainbow Mountain party crew at Thredbo's Cloud Nine restaurant
I think this crew would party in the desert too, so likely a yes from them – Rainbow Mountain returned in style this season © Thredbo

The fact is après ski has been an integral part of the snow fun equation for a very long time.

Starting skiing in the 80s I can’t remember a time when it was separate from our ski experience really. One of my best days ever at Thredbo happened back in 1989 when I was a chef in Canberra and with the waiters in tow we scooted up for a day trip on our Monday off. Two of the lads bought a slab of VB for the drive and cracked it on the way up. The forecast wasn’t great, it was drizzling as we got to the carpark, but Thredbo had a one-run-try-after-you-buy option then.

“It’ll be snowing up top!” someone said, so up we went. It wasn’t, it was raining top-to-bottom. Glue all the way down High Noon. So back to the car and off to Berridale Pub for a very long lunch, washed down by several depth charger schooners with shots.

I got a speeding ticket before Bredbo heading home, but fortunately no breathalyser or random drug testing then (the latter for the waiters, who had medicinal supplies as well as their VB slab for the journey), so we hauled into Bredbo Pub for a recovery session. A local got a whiff of the lads on entry and offered to sell us some cheap “lucerne”. We declined, and wary of further Highway Patrol, not to mention dying, we let Mrs SA, who hardly drinks, drive onwards after a couple more. Next day back at work we all concluded it was one of our best snow day trips ever.

Good as that was, with the cost of getting to the snow, staying there, lift passes and everything else generally a lot worse now, on balance I would rather get more than one run in for the effort of a trip. For an overseas or longer mission, more so.

More recently doing seasons skiing almost every day in Argentina I generally preferred not to even drink at lunchtime, despite plenty of our clients choosing to do so. We ran an “optional après activities” program from 2005 – 2015 that gave everybody a VIP Card that got them at least one free drink with one purchased at almost all the mountain bars and some downtown too. Often the bars would just make it every 2nd drink free, which everybody loved – permanent happy hour!

But Argy après ski is deceptive – it only runs for a couple of hours after lifts close, but then by 8pm everything shuts down and people dissapear. They are off for a shower, a siesta, and re-appearance after 10pm or so to go have dinner.

Then the real après action starts after midnight, with places filling in the wee hours and going until daylight signals time for bed again.

A hard pace to maintain, in which the siesta is critical. We used to get tradies from the Kimberley mines who had flown Kimberley – Perth – red eye to Sydney – Auckland – Buenos Aires – Bariloche, around 36 hours minimum travel time, usually drinking all the way. Their body clocks were in tune with the timetable outlined above and they had a ball. A few hours daily boarding or skiing, at least two lots of sleep/passed out time, and lots of party time. Plus plenty of red meat. Then home, all within their 10 day window of FIFO mines life. Most really didn’t care how much snow time they got, and some had to be virtually stretchered to the plane out having over-aprèsed..

Call us old school, but I still like to get a few runs under the belt before beer o’clock © Owain Price

In Europe RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) doesn’t seem to have got much legs. You can still ski down for miles, stopping for gluwheins and jaegies along the way at bars and stands lining the runs back to the village. Après and skiing are one and the same for most locals. Resorts like Ischgl are Ibiza-on-snow, and partying rules with skandos and brits leading the charge. Most places there will be snow, so the “is-après-enough?” question is a non issue.

Ditto that for North America, where as the afternoon wears on the après kicks in and on – but can peter out fairly early too.

Japan is different. Outside the Aussie influenced resorts, where après has of course got huge these past 25 years (see the winter police station in Niseko, brawls in Echoland Hakuba etc for the downside of that), it still has plenty of areas with virtually no après ski options at all, past vending maching beers.

The places with the least off-snow action in Japan tend to be the least crowded and provide your best shot at repeat powder lines.

So that’s a trade-off in the opposite direction, generally favoured by self-sufficient groups of older skiers & boarders in our experience.

In Australia the LWE season opener has historically always been accepted as a time to party, with any snow a bonus. These days Mt Buller and Perisher at least, thanks to snowfactories & snowmaking, will almost certainly offer a run or two. The speed Perisher get park features up is also commendable. But still, most seasons it’s an après is enough call.

Otherwise, for our main season, what’s your call?

Does après ski alone cut it? Or do you need some decent on-snow time too?

Sneaky Sound System fans wouldn’t really care we thinks! © Thredbo