Refined boozing: Stepping up the après ski experience

Jessica Colley, Special to CNNPublished 17th February 2014
(CNN) — When it comes to post-slopes imbibing, not all drinks are created equal.
The long-beloved tradition of après ski is changing, as curated experiences and educational opportunities become more popular from Aspen to Jackson Hole to the Dolomites in Italy. Whether the brew comes to you (a pop-up champagne bar) or you go to the source (a ski-in distillery with tours and spirits geeks to answer all your questions), après ski is becoming more engaging and cerebral.
Take your ski vacation this year with a side of spirits knowledge at the following spots.

Pop-up champagne bar in Aspen

Veuve Clicquot takes the concept of the pop-up bar even further this year in Aspen. Each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through the end of ski season, the Oasis 3.0 Veuve Clicquot Bar will change locations on Aspen Mountain. Clues leading thirsty skiers to tall flutes of champagne can be found on Twitter. Stationed at approximately 11,000 feet, this ski-in, ski-out pop-up is serving Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, Rose and La Grande Dame in addition to small bites. Find the location clues by following @TheLittleNell on Twitter and look for the bright yellow umbrellas on the mountain.

Wyoming whiskey tastings

In Jackson Hole, the Clear Creek Group of luxury rental homes is coordinating specialized tastings and après ski sessions. Staying in any of the portfolio's homes grants access to exclusive at-home tastings featuring local producers. A partnership with Snake River Brewing and Wyoming Whiskey brings the après ski action to your own rental, allowing guests to become familiar with small-batch bourbon or local beers in the comfort of their living rooms. Concierges can tailor these at-home experiences according to individual interests. The tastings are available through April 6, weather permitting.

A different kind of safari in Italy

Some après ski experiences are available throughout the season, while others are specific events worth traveling for. Wine Ski Safari, locally called "Dé dl vin in Ladin," is scheduled for March 30 at the Alta Badia ski resort in the Dolomites of Northern Italy. Four mountain huts, each dedicated to a specific wine region, will offer tastes of Italian wines beside the ski runs at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Wine lovers can raise a glass with members of the Italian national ski team, who will join the festivities celebrating Italian wines, served with local bread, cheese and charcuterie.

The Aprés Ski Cocktail Classic

Cocktail lovers will have another excuse to travel to Aspen this year with the Aprés Ski Cocktail Classic scheduled for March 13 to 16. This winter spirit festival will feature a range of tasting events, such as an Irish coffee pop-up bar sponsored by Tullamore Dew. This ski-in, ski-out bar will serve up classic Irish coffees in the style of San Francisco's Buena Vista Café. Other events on the calendar include an advanced session to learn about agave and mezcal, a tasting village full of premium spirits and upscale dinners with cocktail pairings. Some events are complimentary and open to the public, while others have limited seating and require tickets purchased in advance.

Bloody Mary drinking in the valley

Skiers can savor a taste of Utah at the St. Regis Deer Valley with the 7452 Bloody Mary. The in-house Bloody Mary at the St. Regis Bar (each St. Regis creates its own signature Bloody Mary) features oat-distilled vodka from the local High West Distillery. Named after the resort's altitude of 7,452 feet , this après ski cocktail has a local flair and is finished with a touch of salt on the rim and a celery/wasabi foam. Light fare from Jean-Georges is also on the menu here.

Ski into this Park City distillery

After tasting that Bloody Mary at the St. Regis, you might want to track down that vodka. High West Distillery in Park City is a ski-in, ski-out distillery and saloon with distillery tours, handcrafted cocktails and James Beard award-winning pub fare. Here you will learn about a variety of craft spirits, all made in small batches, such as Rendezvous Rye, Vodka 7000', aged and un-aged whiskeys, and even bottled cocktails, such as a barrel-aged Manhattan. Three distillery tours are offered each day; reservations in advance are suggested.

Snowmelt spirits in Breckenridge

If skiing brings you to Colorado this year, focus your après ski action on the Breckenridge Distillery, a facility set at an elevation of 9,600 feet. Here, small batch bourbon, whiskey, rum, bitters and more are created from the snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains. How does this impact the final product? Take a tour and sip in the tasting room to find out, with the opportunity to speak directly to the experts. Distillery tours are available on the hour and half hour during distillery business hours, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The tasting room on Main Street in the heart of Breckenridge is open later (8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday).