Après ski means “after ski” in French, and refers to fun social activities after a day of skiing. The phrase stems from ski resort night life culture in the Alps, and is pronounced “a pray ski”. I always thought it was pronounced ski apree, which is totally wrong. On a recent ski trip to Idaho and Utah, I finally learned how to say it correctly, thanks to my brother-in-law, Kevin. Two weeks ago Maria and I flew out of Alaska, rented a car in Seattle and started our ski/beer trip in Yakima, where 77% of the nation’s hops are grown. Our first stop was the local homebrew supply store called Yakima Valley Hops and Brew Supply, where we bought small packages of four different hops, and got great tips for places to sample local IPAs. We visited Bale Breaker Brewing, situated on a 41-acre hop field, and sampled several IPAs, right at the source. In the evening we visited a great little beer bar called Public House of Yakima, where we sampled numerous types of fresh IPA from several breweries around the region.
The color of IPA at the Public House of Yakima.
The next day we drove to Walla Walla (to visit Grandma), and Pullman where my Aunt and Uncle live. I hear they are engineering new varieties of barley at Washington State University in Pullman, specifically for malting. We stayed the night there, and then drove to McCall, Idaho on a scenic road along the Salmon River. The drive was very beautiful through the natural river canyon. We skied at Brundage Mountain and had some Salmon River Brewing beer for après ski. We also made a trip to McCall Brewing, but neglected to visit Broken Horn. The Salmon River IPA was spot on, and I loved the hip brewery vibe at McCall Brewing. Maria and I enjoyed McCall and were sad to see this leg of the trip end. Excited to see what was next, we headed east to see what was happening in Boise.
Skiing at Brundage Mountain near McCall, ID.
Aprés ski at Brundage Mountain.
I never knew Boise was such a hipsters’ hangout, but I have never really given it a chance — always flying in, and driving straight to Sun Valley Ski Resort from the airport. I was dead wrong thinking it was just an industrial hub — Boise is teeming with fun! Upon arriving we drove the 18 mile, 45 minute drive up to Bogus Basin. This ski area is pretty big, with 1,800 vertical feet and 2,200 skiable acres, featuring three high speed quad chair lifts and a very low ticket price ($39.99 when purchased in advance). We were already sunburned from skiing at Brundage, but Bogus nailed me right in the nose. There is a special little brew pub right at the base of the Bogus Basin Road called Highlands Hollow Brewhouse where people traditionally drink beer after skiing. We sampled a couple brews there (only $3/pint) and then ditched the car at the hotel. Highlands had a great skier vibe, and a festive rubber chicken dangling above the bartender.
Decor at Highlands Hollow Brewhouse.
We walked from our hotel down a lovely paved path along the river to downtown where our first stop was Woodland Empire Brewing. I sampled all the IPAs at the brewery, and the So Juicy was my favorite. We also visited Barbarian Brewing, which specializes in odd and barrel aged beers. I tried the IPAs, and a few extremely strong malt beverages. All were very good. We finished up the evening at Payette Brewing where I could only try one IPA, as I was pretty much done from sun, skiing and probably too much beer at that point. We awoke the next morning to search out delicious beers to take to Utah with us, which we found at the Boise Co-op. A great variety and really cool silver-can offerings were to be found. We also went to Whole Foods and grabbed a sandwich, some sushi and a nice salad. The drive to Ogden from Boise isn’t that long, but going the speed limit at 80mph on a windy day was stressful, and I was white-knuckled as we pulled into my sister’s driveway!
In Utah we skied at Snowbird, Alta and Snowbasin. I am not sure which was my favorite. All of these places are huge, and I think I could ski them all endlessly. All good things come to an end, and what’s better for after skiing than beer? The Church of Latter Day Saints has a large influence in Utah, and the current alcohol restrictions are pretty harsh. All draft beer has to be less that 4% ABV, but bottled beer can be served at higher alcohol content. While we were in Utah the local government raised the limit by 1%, but the change doesn’t take effect for a few months. The strict rules and alcohol repression isn’t really working, as we tried a thing at Alta called the “Alta Bomb.” It’s like an Irish Car Bomb, but instead of dropping the shooter of whiskey and Baileys, you drop a double-shot of espresso into a pint of PBR. Note that coffee is also not approved by Mormons. It was a gut-wrencher, but sure did help the afternoon fatigue. After Alta we went to a very new brewery called SaltFire Brewing, serving beer with high point ABV in bottles. The SMASH Citra IPA was on point, and the place was nicely decorated, with barrel tables and a light show on the brewery equipment. Our day at Snowbasin was epic with rain, snow, and sun all in the same day! We didn’t drink on the mountain, but did stop at a little place called the Shooting Star Saloon in Hunstville, UT. It was a western, last-frontier style saloon that served 4% draft beers and had a strange collection of taxidermy animal heads on the walls, including the head of a giant St. Bernard. I can only imagine how much slobber that dog must have generated! The ceiling was covered with $1 bills. We all split a pitcher of very session-able 4% IPA by Epic Brewing.
The decor at Shooting Star Saloon.
The last day of our trip we didn’t ski. Instead, we visited Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, and Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. The LDS headquarters were very interesting and quite impressive. I felt like I was in a different country, somewhere in Europe, while we explored the vast campus of religious buildings. The Lake has a lot of birds, flies and…salty water, as well as awesome views of the surrounding mountains. We checked into our Air BnB in the afternoon only a mile from Epic Brewing! Epic is a really spectacular brewery with some really creative beers. Yes, they only served from bottles (so wasteful). I enjoyed a 9% West Coast Style IPA, which was spot on, and Maria had a lot of little barrel aged beer samples ranging from a coffee imperial stout to a rose sour brew. While in the tasting room I met a guy who was wearing a Templin Family Brewing hat, and he gave us a ride there next. On the way, he pointed out Fisher Brewing (we specifically picked our Air BnB location based on proximity to breweries). We drank a robust imperial stout at TF (served in a can). Then wrapped up the evening at Fisher Brewing — a historic name in Utah beer. We just tried a couple session IPAs on tap, and walked back to our room as we had to catch a flight back to Alaska at 5am!
Templin Family Brewing
The coolest beer fridge at Fisher Brewing.
Overall, we were impressed with the sunny weather in Idaho, the hip nature of Boise, and the awesome ski areas in Utah. We’ll have to make ski/beer trippin’ an annual tradition, but next year we’d like to visit Colorado.