The Rake's guide to dressing for après ski
Wherever you’re jetting off to in search of that adrenaline rush down the slopes, The Rake’s expert après-ski guide will certainly help ruffle a few feathers back at the chalet.
A few post-piste steins or a restorative vin chaud are as much a part of skiing as hitting the slopes themselves. The custom dates all the way back to the 19th century, arriving shortly after the introduction of skiing as a leisurely pursuit. What began as an informal drink to warm the bones became après-ski as we know it by the time the Christiana Ski Club was founded in 1877, with history books regaling us of afternoons spent drinking aquavit and eating large, starchy dishes to reinforce the constitution. Today it is all but mandatory to down skis at 3.00pm and settle into an afternoon of mirth and merriment, with the change of pace (and location) necessitating that you slip into something slightly less cumbersome than on-piste clobber. The aim of the game when dressing for après-ski – aside from proving your sartorial nous – is to choose layers that can be added and removed as and when needed. A down-filled gilet is precisely the sort of thing to help you traverse the path from open air bar to fireside debauchery with class. Those from the Edmund Hillary collection are tailor-made for such pursuits, taking inspiration from the classic mid-century styles worn by Sir Edmund and his 1953 expedition team. Those looking for something less technical might consider an alpaca gilet by Grenfell, or a sumptuous sheepskin body warmer by the Cromford Leather Company, either of which would look just as dashing layered over a half-zip sweater and a flannel plaid shirt.
Speaking of knitwear – while wool has been supplanted by technical mid-layers on the slopes, a chunky sweater remains de rigueur away from them. Traditionalists will plump for a textural roll-neck: a cashmere cable knit, like those from the Abruzzian brand Cordone 1956, which are slim enough to slip underneath a suede blouson, or a chunkier design like those by the Irish Inis Meáin Knitting Company. Intarsias and jacquard knits offer a slightly more modern – and eye-catching – take: the Alpine brand Alps & Meters, for example, does an excellent line in crew-neck jumpers with a mountain graphic design and specially-fashioned elbows, taking you from slaloming through to Glühwein-fuelled bar-dancing. Of course, après-ski isn’t just about libation. Fine dining is also on the menu at most well-heeled resorts, with Courchevel alone boasting a dozen or so Michelin-starred institutions. Suitably then, it would be wise to pack a smart jacket – but not too smart, after all, for this still remains an off-duty occasion. An unstructured wool blazer from The Gigi is most ideal – founded by brothers Pierluigi and Mario Boglioli, the cut on offer is slouchy but smart, a continuation of the soft-shouldered style they pioneered at their former, eponymous family brand. Corduroy gives a similarly louche look, with Oliver Spencer’s treading the fine line between undone and elegant. In both cases, a slim cashmere roll-neck is the natural companion.
The very last thing that anyone wants after a long day of skiing is to put tired legs through any further ordeal, which means sheathing them in trousers that are soft, comfortable and forgiving. A pair with a drawstring waist ticks all three boxes – Connolly’s navy cashmere version, for example, balances the insouciance of the stretch waistband with a smart pin-stitched pleat front. Moleskin chinos are another smart-casual style ideally-suited for relaxing at high altitude, with some woven so densely that they are essentially wind-proof. New & Lingwood’s come in a vivid shade of mustard – wear them, and wait for the Roger Moore comparisons to come rolling in. Any excuse to bring out a pair of trusty leather boots is a good one in our opinion, but perhaps none more so than tramping around snowy foothills (or, if you happen to be at La Folie Douce, dancing on tables). Hiking boots are a foolproof option: Grenson’s have shock-absorbing Vibram rubber soles and padded ankle collars – ideal for weary feet – in either warm burnished brown or classic black. Cheaney is another English heritage brand that excels in durable, handsome boots. Like Grenson’s, they handmake their boots in Northamptonshire using the Goodyear welt technique, which offers reliability and repairability. Cheaney’s shearling-lined boots are a particular delight, but be careful to first waterproof the suede upper. Your final consideration is outerwear. A quilted parka in a technical fabric has been standard around the slopes since the 1950s, like the expedition-grade designs from British label Shackleton. These translate well to après-ski, especially when in a smart colour such as navy or black, with this doubling-up saving precious room in your suitcase for other essentials such as sunglasses (a classic Aviator, since you asked), leather gloves and a bright merino wool beanie.