Where to “Aprés-Ski” in Metro Detroit

The après-ski movement is totally inclusive: It’s for those hitting and skipping the slopes.
Ferndale Project’s Après Ski beer is a saison (a lighter but flavorful ale), and it’s on tap this winter at the brewery. // Photograph courtesy of Ferndale Project

It is a significant understatement to say that I am not a ski person. The first time my parents tried to take me skiing, I somehow managed to fall off the ski lift, then wander off to the other side of the tow ropes and roam happily through the woods for about two hours before anyone noticed I was missing. Later, a college boyfriend tried to teach me how to snowboard, resulting in my left knee bending in a way that was not intended by nature. I hate the cold, I am spectacularly clumsy, and hurtling my body downhill is something I usually end up doing accidentally, not intentionally.

But give me a good puffy jacket and a glass of something hot and boozy while I watch other people risk life and limb and frostbite, and I’m 100% in. I love a good ski lodge. My brain turns on a soundtrack of White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney while I compare the fashions to the greatest ski movie of all time, John Cusack ’80s classic Better Off Dead.

I’m not alone. There’s a whole movement in the bar world that celebrates festive winter clothing, Alpine vibes, and post-slopes libations. It’s called après-ski. Fueled in Europe by late-night DJ parties and with its American home in Aspen, Colorado, it’s also here in some surprising metro Detroit bars this winter.

Take Ferndale: It isn’t exactly Alpine country, but for the third year, Dayne Bartscht and his team at Ferndale Project have transformed their spacious patio into a dog-friendly outdoor skiers’ party, with firepits and s’mores kits. “We deck out the patio with ski gear, and it feels like you’re at the back of the mountain,” Bartscht says. Guests can buy season passes or day passes, which grant discounts on beer.

Ferndale Project produced two specialty beers available throughout the winter: Après Ski, a saison, and a dark lager called Shredder. DJs and dance parties will pop up on weekends in January. The ’80s and ’90s fashionistas will appreciate the ’80s-ski-themed party. The microbrewery even has ski and snowboard waxers available on the patio during select weekend events.

Though it’s about 40 minutes from the nearest ski hill, Ferndale Project is one of a handful of metro Detroit bars and breweries that host ski-themed festivities. // Photograph courtesy of Ferndale Project

“A lot of folks in the Ferndale community will actually use it as an opportunity to get their skis or snowboards waxed before they hit the slopes later in the winter,” Bartscht says.

Après-ski is as much about the vibes as it is about the slopes, and après-ski drinking is a class unto its own. Matt Mergener is co-owner of Two Birds in West Village as well as The Apartment Disco on Detroit’s east side. Both bars are featuring après-ski-inspired drinks this winter.

“We’re trying to lean into the cozier feel,” he says, “and definitely take inspiration from those ’50s and ’60s classic after-skiing drinks.”

Hot mulled wine and other soothing familiars like Irish coffee and hot toddy top the list of classics for après-ski. Two Birds “feels almost like a lodge you’d sit in after skiing,” Mergener says, so its Chai Not? variation of a hot buttered rum fits right in. “There’s nothing like coming out of the cold and having a nice little hot cup,” he says. “It’s appealing and it warms your bones in a way that just liquor can’t.”

It’s not just the hot drinks that shine in après-ski, though. A long-standing tradition for skiers in Italy, where it was invented, is the Aperol spritz, which combines the bright orange aperitif liqueur with sparkling wine and soda water. In fact, anything from the mountainous regions of Europe, especially if it’s spritzy or herbaceous, fits right into the après-ski tradition. All things aperitivo are on the menu at The Apartment Disco, which features a Solstice Spritz with kumquat and hosts weekend dance parties.

“I don’t know if there are any healing benefits,” Mergener says, “but the herbal side of the aperitivo, I think, just feels good in the wintertime.” And on these cold, gray, and dreary snow-covered nights, whether we’re drinking hot or cold, bubbly or buttered, donning our brightest neon ski jackets and partying to some raucous music can help shake away the winter blues — even if we never made it past the ski lift to begin with.

How to Make Two Birds’ Chai Not? Cocktail

Try this rum-based cocktail by Two Birds Bar Manager David Mitchell at home.

  • 2 ounces butter washed Old Monk rum
  • 3 ounces masala chai
  • 3 ounces steamed oat milk

Two Birds Detroit is located at 8130 Kercheval Ave., Detroit. Visit twobirdsdetroit.com for more information. 

This story is from the February 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.