For several of the world’s greatest skiers, there was an unwritten challenge (until quite recently) to ski from the world’s 7 highest peaks.
It was an achievement that was finally completed in October 2006. American female freeskier, Kit Deslauriers, became the first person to have skied down from the summits of all seven peaks, only 21 years after all seven had first been climbed by one man.
But there is one record, which as far as I know, is yet to be achieved: Drinking in the world’s 7 highest ski bars.
Just determining where those seven bars are is quite a challenge in itself. Unlike mountain peaks, ski bars tend to come and go, particularly with the advent of the ‘pop up bar.’ What was once the highest bar on one continent may no longer exist, so does the new highest bar still count? And should we care so long as the view and the beer is good?
In any case, the results are quite an eclectic collection. Not all of these are grungy, classic ski bars where you can grab a high altitude beer then ski off. Instead, some include fine dining establishments. One bar is even in an Islamic nation where alcohol isn’t served.
Warning: the challenge shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Several of these bars and restaurants are at seriously high altitudes, so that one drink will go straight to your head. Others are not so high, but located in extremely cold locations, resulting in a non-sensible combination of snow and alcohol. Only true heroes should apply.
Bonus: Chacaltaya, Bolivia (Closed)
What was once the world’s highest ski bar is no more. With an elevation of 5200m, the simple hut at Chacaltaya in Bolivia closed down six or seven years ago when climate change melted the once permanent snowfield where the slopes were located.
I did have a beer, at a much lower elevation, with a man who did visit, ski and drink there while it was still operational. Tom Avery (whose many achievements include skiing to both the North and South Poles and co-running the luxury chalet business Ski Verbier) told me that because of the extreme altitude, it was hard for him to lift his limbs and lift a glass to his lips despite his great fitness.
1. La Parva, Chile
With the demise of Chacaltaya, the most reliable, season-long, lift-accessed option in South America appears to be a small café at the top of La Parva’s ski slopes. The café is more modestly situated 3,572m (11,719 feet) up and can be reached by hopping on the Las Agulias chairlift.
2. Alpino Vino, Colorado
North of the equator, it’s no surprise that the highest bars in North America are to be found in Colorado, also home to more of the world’s 20 highest ski lifts than any other country.
At 3,647m (11,966 feet) up above Telluride, Alpino Vino is an upscale, intimate, Alpine-style wooden chalet serving up fine dining and quality wines to those lucky enough to wander in off the See Forever run. Take the Gold Hill Express lift up then turn left, or better still, book an evening visit and arrive in style by snowcat.
3. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, China
Located 4,516m (13,635 feet) up at Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, China claims to be home to the world’s highest ski bar. For those that can’t handle the elevation, oxygen tanks are sold at the bottom of the mountain.
4. Gulmarg Ski Resort, India
Looking across the Pacific, a high altitude ski bar can be found at Gulmarg in India, arguably now the world’s highest ‘proper’ ski area. The mid-station restaurant of the gondola is about 3,050m (10,007 feet) up.
5. Knoll Ridge Chalet, New Zealand
New Zealand claims the highest ski bar in the Oceania with the Knoll Ridge Chalet at Whakapapa on Mt Ruapehu.
6. Oukaimeden, Morrocco
Morrocco in the Atlas Mountains has the highest slopes in Africa, with a bar that’s 3,260 m (10,696 feet) up at Oukaimeden. Because it’s an Islamic nation, no alcohol is served.
7. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Switzerland
The ski resort with Europe’s highest lifts, Zermatt also has the highest bar at 3,883m (12.740 feet). The restaurant at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise opened in 2009 and can be accessed 365 days a year by ski. It is an ultra, energy-efficient green building, which has won awards for generating more power than it uses.