Nothing caps off a long day of maneuvering the slopes like taking part in a little après-ski. A French term meaning “after skiing,” après-ski is a long-standing Alpine tradition that started in the French Alps back in the 1950s. It saw skiers ending their day by socializing or indulging in fun winter resort activities, usually accompanied by a drink. While downing a few beverages is indeed still a popular post-ski pursuit, you’d be surprised by the number of diversions made available these days for powderheads of all ages. And, in Japan, where there are more than 600 ski resorts from Hokkaido to Fukuoka, sampling their wide selection of sake and local beers merely scratches the surface.
Relax at an onsen
What better way to ease those muscles after hours of skiing than a therapeutic soak in one of Japan’s beloved onsens. In Nozawa alone, where Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is located, there are more than 30 natural hot springs that supply the ryokans and sotoyus (public baths). It is also home to the hottest spring named Ogama Onsen, which heats up to about 90 degrees Celsius. But don’t limit yourself to just Nozawa; with the country’s abundance of active volcanoes, it is blessed with thousands of onsens and a number of them sited in its ski resorts. You are guaranteed a relaxing après-ski option whether you are in Nagano, Niseko or Hakuba, among others.
Sample local food
We don’t know about you, but the best way for us to recover after a tiring day of grinding the slopes in Japan is heading to a local joint for our fill of this island nation’s glorious food. If you fancy yourself a foodie, choose Niseko in Hokkaido; it is not only famous for its powder and over-all amazing terrain, but its fabulous dining scene as well. Don’t miss the Anthony Bourdain-approved, 12-seat soba restaurant called Rakuichi Soba and Bang Bang in Hirafu for its excellent yakitori.
Or learn how to cook it
Want to take your love for Japanese cuisine a step further? Enroll yourself in a cooking class. A number of ski resorts and accommodations offer classes; just inquire with your concierge to find out which ones are the best in town. You’ll even find some that offer classes in the comfort of your very own kitchen (if you do rent a place with one). Best part of the class? You’ll get to eat your kitchen masterpieces afterwards.Search for flights to Japan
If you choose to spend your ski holidays in Sapporo. Apart from the Sapporo Brewery and an annual snow festival called Yaki Matsuri, the city is also home to numerous shopping malls such as the Tanuki Kōji Shopping Arcade and the Sapporo Factory.
Be a tourist
If you still have some energy in you, we suggest exploring the area surrounding your ski resort to soak in the local culture, breathtaking scenery and, perhaps, a quirky “ice village.” At Hoshino Resorts Tomamu, you’ll find the beautifully-illuminated Ice Village, a compound that features a restaurant, bar, shop, a wedding chapel, a snow slide and skating rink constructed from ice (not to mention nightly fireworks until Feb. 14). This winter wonderland is just too cool (literally) to pass up.
Traditionally, après-ski is all about enjoying a post-ski drink. Although après-ski drinking in Japan is not as wild as in its western counterparts (looking at you, European Alps), Japan’s ski resorts do offer a fun and enjoyable nightlife scene. Bars are aplenty, especially in popular destinations such as Niseko and Hakuba, where you can discuss the day’s wipeouts with fellow skiers over rounds of sake and beer.
Sing your heart out
After indulging in a few rounds of après sakes, beers or cocktails, put that newfound liquid confidence to good use by taking part in Japan’s favorite pastime: karaoke. In Japan, these sing-along sessions usually happen in rented private rooms, so there is no reason to be shy. Feel free to sing your heart out and embarrass yourself. At any rate, you can just blame it on the sake.
Main image: istockphoto.com/logoff