When skiers and boarders hear the term apres, they typically think of slope side decks, outdoor bars, goggle tanning, and half-dressed skiers fresh off the slopes. All that may be, but it isn't necessarily everything that apres means around the world.
Apres for many also means a place where riders gather after the ski boots come off, the nap has been taken, and they are up and looking for evening food and entertainment.
Known simply as a local Keystone watering hole and favorite spot for live music for more than three decades, the Snake River Saloon has now reached international acclaim with its ranking as one of the world's best apres ski joints by Skiing magazine.
How does one achieve such venerable status? Let's be honest: there are a lot of on-mountain bars in the world, not to mention how many there are in Summit County alone. Making it into the top 10 apres joints in the world is no small feat. Ranked right up there with the likes of the Chambre Neuf in Chamonix, France, the Mangy Moose in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Harrah's in Reno, Nev., and the parking lot behind the Denny's in White River Junction, Vt., the Snake River Saloon has now officially made the big time of international ski rag rankings.
"When the term apres is used with regard to the Snake River Saloon, I take it to mean the great live bands and dancing that we have been providing in Keystone for 36 years," said owner Jim Shields. "Sure we have drink specials like many bars, but I feel it's our consistent live music that makes us a great apres joint."
Known locally as 'the Snake,' this food and music venue has been around as long as most locals can even remember. Shields took over the Snake in 1976. The location was previously known as the Loveland Pass Bar, famous for its rowdy partying dating back more than 50 years.
Despite the plethora of apres options in Summit County, Skiing magazine stands behind its ranking. 'I wouldn't say there was any kind of rigorous polling process," said Skiing magazine assistant editor Kevin Luby, "...but we definitely stand behind its inclusion."
The magazine, Luby said, was looking for places that had a true local experience. "They were all places we've been to many times...people that have been around a long time. You're never going to see the Grand Summit at Beaver Creek, for example, on this list. We were looking for places that had a good atmosphere that really gel with our leadership and our personal preferences on cool places to hang out. I've certainly never had a bad time there."
People might consider that a mention like this in a national ski magazine would go to one's head. But that's not the case with Shields. In fact, he didn't even know the ranking existed until several weeks ago. "Nobody mentioned it until just last week," he said. And when asked if this will change his way of doing business, marketing strategy, or outlook? "No changes, we will just keep doing what we do.
"The Snake is just the kind of place to finish out a great day on the mountain," said Shields, who still owns and manages the saloon, along with wife Jane and longtime manager Carole Peoples. "Again, it's our evening live music and dancing that has made us special. We party during happy hour also, but it's our late night stuff that is really memorable."