The good old faithful ski pub always holds the best apres-ski memories, writes Juliette Sivertsen
There must be a roaring fire. A cosy wooden interior. Good beers on tap. A place to mingle and a place to dance. And ski jackets must be acceptable attire.
Every skier and snowboarder needs a reliable watering hole to unwind in after a day on the slopes. In the major ski resort towns overseas, villages buzz with the apres-ski nightlife and hip bars with fancy themed cocktails. But sometimes you just need somewhere to chill with a beer while still rocking your oversized ski gears, rather than getting dressed up. And that's the kind of apres-ski scene New Zealand does best.
I'll always remember my first trip to The Powderkeg bar, an institution in Ohakune, because I was tremendously overdressed for the crowd.
I was new to skiing and new to the apres-ski concept. I'd only ever seen the glitzy pictures on Instagram of gorgeous European women dressed to the nines in their designer snow outfits sipping on expensive bubbly, throwing their heads back with laughter, barely a hair out of place. How do they look so gorgeous after a day on the slopes? Did they not do any actual skiing?
I wore a jacket not suitable for the freezing temperatures outside but I thought it looked cute, and a full face of makeup, mostly to cover up the blotchy redness from a day spent exercising outside in the freezing temperatures. But it was my shoes that gave the game away that I wasn't from 'round there - some little booties that would have been fine for a night out in Auckland, but offered zero warmth or protection in the cold. My poor little tootsies were like blocks of ice as I spent the night clinging the stones around the fire in the middle of the bar.
Never again. From that day forward my standard apres-ski outfit has been my ski jacket, lace-up Sorel snow boots over thermal pants, with the exception of a slightly nicer top during a winter music festival. But that's the beauty of the iconic ski pub. It's a relaxed environment where you're free to be you and wear whatever you want.
The Powderkeg has been around since 1989 and is part of many a skier or snowboarder's Ruapehu memories. I've had birthday celebrations there, met old friends and new friends, late nights, early nights, pool nights, memorable nights, barely-remembered nights. The inside is always toasty, the beer flows freely and food is nourishing and warming - especially the late-night chips or wedges before hometime.
It's always the place I end up at after a day on the Tūroa slopes, and - unlike my experience at some bars - not once have I ever regretted a night there.
Five more iconic apres-ski institutions in New Zealand
If you're skiing on the Whakapapa side of Mt Ruapehu, the Chateau Tongariro is a stately establishment steeped in history - and even has a few ghost stories to throw into the mix. Located in the heart of the Tongariro National Park, the best place to relax is in the hotel's Ruapehu Lounge on their velvet lounge suites under dramatic chandeliers, next to the log fire.
If you can't be bothered contending with the influx of visitors to Ohakune, then Tūroa Lodge is where the locals hang out. There's frequent live music and gigs, and always a questionable themed event like a wet T-shirt or jelly wrestling contest somewhere in the winter lineup.
The Cardrona Hotel is about as iconic as Kiwi ski pubs can get. Located on the Crown Road Range between Wānaka and Queenstown, the historic building from 1863 is one of the oldest hotels in New Zealand, and proudly rumoured to be the most photographed building in the country, according to the hotel. Gold-rush charm, legendary atmosphere.
Blue Pub, Methven
You can't miss the Blue Pub in Methven, because it's a bright blue pub In the middle of the village. It's right opposite the Brown Pub (guess the colour). Think classic New Zealand country pub. Wooden floors, wooden bar stalls, a welcoming bar as you walk in - all the key aspects of an iconic apres-ski institution.
The Cow, Queenstown
The Cow has been around for more than 40 years in Queenstown with a history of hosting wild apres-ski parties and events through the decades. In a previous life, the stone barn once housed cows, which used to be brought down Cow Lane to be milked during the gold-rush era. Now it's is a cosy bar for locals and visitors. Little has changed since it opened its doors in the late 70s - in fact the menu remains exactly the same as opening night.
For more New Zealand holiday ideas, go to newzealand.com/dosomethingnew