Après ski, i.e. the party at the base of the slopes after the ski day is over, is a huge thing over here in Europe. In fact, skiing is so much more of a scene over here. I'm not sure whether I'm totally on board with that, being a bit of a skiing purist, but I do appreciate the atmosphere that draws in many people who would otherwise not give skiing a chance, because of intimidation or some other such hesitation. I often like to explain to my European cohorts that skiing is actually a sport in North America, and people treat it as such, pushing themselves to ski more difficult terrain and constantly working to better their technique. It's like with all things sport in America - if we choose to participate, we tend to take it seriously. That also means holding off on the beer until the day has ended and premature inebriation will not interfere with our ability to perform on the slopes.
Not over here. Beer or Glühwein with lunch is almost de rigueur.
And yes, I do think there are actually a lot of drunk people navigating the slopes, though for the most part this doesn't really seem to cause problems. I guess most people stick with one beer at lunch, and wait until the après ski to really let loose. And when I say "let loose" I mean it to the fullest extent of the phrase. Think Oktoberfest-style drinking slope-side after a day of skiing. And everyone is wearing ski gear and looking slightly disheveled with smashed-down helmet-hair, no make-up, and wind or sunburned cheeks and noses (all of which is somehow so attractive). Beerfest-style Schlager music is undoubtedly being piped through the speakers. Clouds of smoke fill the air from the numerous chain smokers crowding the terrace (here's an interesting little tidbit: Austria still allows smoking in restaurants and bars and it often seems like the entire population of the country supports this law by smoking with great abandon everywhere you go). And the atmosphere is just electric. At a good après ski like the one I experience this weekend, one will even have the opportunity to master dancing on table tops in ski boots (really really difficult), there will be numerous shots of schnapps passed around the table, and there will definitely be young Euro boys and girls, complete with gold chains, bad haircuts, and 80s style ski suits. Luckily there are also the attractive, sporty skier types that aren't there only for the party, but who join in nonetheless after a good day of hard skiing.
So après ski, while not my reason for being and the sole motivation for my zealous commitment to skiing in the winter, can be a really fun part of the experience. It's definitely worth checking out, and the Mooserwirt at St. Anton is the best slope-side party that I have yet found.