A funny man with a funny smile and funny-looking glasses sashays back and forth with a Bluetooth speaker balanced on the crown of his toque. Around him, several young women dance in their ski boots, hoisting cans of beer to the sky while belting out the lyrics to "Everywhere," Fleetwood Mac's soft-rock cheese that originally hit the airwaves before most of these people were even born and that you somehow can't not like no matter what age you are. Especially when it's snowing, you are in ski boots, and the song is playing out of a speaker perched on a funny man's hat.
Cheese, beer, wine, and thermoses of hot soup get passed around the periphery of the crowd. The sun goes down and puffies come out. The music switches to ABBA, then Prince, then back to ABBA, then Beyoncé. The girls know all the words. The guys show off their dance moves. Somebody's gonna get lucky.
There are no parking lots near this après ski party, no base lodges or hotels. The gathering is at 9,000 feet, in the snow, hidden off the side of a ski run, and everyone present arrived by skis. What these revelers are doing is not exactly illegal, but it's generally agreed that clandestine ski parties in the great outdoors are better kept out of sight and out of mind.
Think of it as skiing's speakeasy, only instead of a dank underground bar, you've got cellophane-wrapped snacks, cheap beer, flasks of bourbon, and a killer twilight view.
For a variety of reasons, these on-hill celebrations have become more common in recent years. It's no secret that base areas increasingly lack down-home flavor, as resorts replace ski-bum watering holes with wine bars. New West taprooms and restaurants can be expensive with their high-brow menus catering to wealthy tourists rather than work-a-day locals. Instead of paying over $20 for an elk sausage and frites, why not just throw a $4 pack of wieners on a hibachi grill cleverly stashed in the trees next to your favorite run? And instead of ordering a $7 IPA that tastes like fizzy orange juice, why not hunker down with a sixer of macro and a dozen of your best friends to watch a brisk mountain sunset?
Throw in the rise of portable, wireless music and the penchant for skiers to party, and you have the perfect evolution of the time-honored tradition of tailgaiting. But perhaps best of all, when the off-pitch Beyoncé sing-a-long becomes just too much, you can make your quiet exit on skis.
Tools For A Woodsy Party:
Hot Dogs and a Grill
Backpack to carry it in, and for your trash on the way out
Headlamp (or glow sticks, in a pinch)
Avalanche shovel, to dig a bench
Social Media Blackout
How To Put Those Tools To Use:
Stealthily place small grill in bushes by the side of your favorite ski run.
Buy hot dogs.
Place hot dog on hot grill.
Crack open a beverage of your choice.
Move hot dog back and forth as necessary. A stick helps.
Put hot dog in bun.
Garnish, or not.
Eat hot dog.
Leave no trace.
This story originally appeared in the December 2018 (47.4) issue of POWDER. To have great stories like this delivered right to your door, in print, subscribe here.