What are the best apres-ski parties?
Sometimes, it takes a 10-year-old to ask the obvious question. Scarlett is about to be palmed off to childcare, while the adults go to the pub to enjoy themselves.
She looks bored already as she poses her pressing dilemma to the people leaving her behind: "Why do you have to have a party every single day?"
The answer to Scarlett's question is there is no good answer to Scarlett's question. There is no proper explanation for why skiing must be followed by drinking, and none of us had ever stopped to think about it. But after a day on the slopes, it just feels right to cap it off with a little tipple.
Welcome to the world of apres-ski, a parallel snow-sports universe where athletic prowess on the slopes gives way to alcoholic prowess in the pub. Apres-ski is the great leveller. You might be able to tackle double-black-diamond runs on one ski, but can you handle a pint of beer served in a boot?
Apres-ski has become something of a tradition on ski slopes of the world, providing a chance to unwind, a chance to eat, a chance to laugh, a chance to boast and, later on, a chance to awkwardly dance on a table while wearing ski boots.
The bad news for Scarlett today is that she might be hanging around for a while, because she is being forced to sit out one of North America's best apres-ski parties, the fantastically named Untz at Mammoth Mountain. Untz is held at the Yodler, a Bavarian-themed pub. What do you call a dance party at a German pub? Untz, obviously.
The sun is shining today on the big outdoor patio. Actually, it's beating down with force, toasting the revellers at Untz to a shiny pink as the temperature approaches an unseasonable 20 degrees.
Blasting out of the speakers is a mix of party hits stretching from Vanilla Ice to Justin Timberlake. Being served at the bar is a seemingly never-ending supply of margaritas and bloody marys.
Standing around in the sun is a mix of skiers and snowboarders enjoying the music and the drinks and engaging in the usual post-snow "You should've seen what I did" banter.
Across the skiing world, at the bottom of mountains throughout the northern hemisphere, a similar scene will be playing out right now. In Aspen, they will be partying at Cloud Nine, a cosy little hut at Highlands Mountain, which hosts hearty lunches that always seem to turn into dancing-on-the-tabletops afternoons. Guests can plug in their own iPods. Things get out of hand.
At Whistler, the Garibaldi Lift Company Bar serves bloody marys with a crisp rasher of bacon in them. Where else would you get a cocktail with a piece of meat?
The crowds pack in there from mid-afternoon, dashing thoughts of late ski runs with meaty alcoholic concoctions.
It is the same in Europe too. Check out Meribel, where there is the very aptly named bar La Folie Douce ("Sweet Madness"). La Folie is halfway up the mountain right underneath the gondola line. From about lunchtime you can ride the lift and see party-goers out on the wooden deck, guzzling drinks and playing air guitar with skis.
In Austria, in St Anton, a humble little mid-mountain lunch venue called Mooserwirt transforms into a raging party as soon as the afternoon proper begins. Lunch plates make way for ski boots as apres-ski lovers climb on the tables to dance.
But anyway, back to Mammoth and back to Untz, where layers of insulated clothing are being peeled off in the hot sun, the wine is flowing like, well, beer, and four people just drank glasses of vodka that were attached to a ski.
Aside from the name, there is nothing particularly German about this party, but no one seems to care.
It has been another one of those spring skiing days, with soft snow and heavy turns, the sun blindingly bright on white slopes. This is now the hour for the tall tales to kick in, for beginners to think about turning pro, for intermediate skiers to swear they found their way to a double black, for experts to wildly exaggerate the runs that no one else could see.
It's a simple equation: the longer you spend at the bar, the better you were before you got there.
This is probably not the way the founding fathers of the sport of skiing pictured people's days ending. They would have preferred a quiet cognac by the fire. Scarlett, my little 10-year-old friend, would also prefer that everyone go home, where at least she can watch some television.
However, that won't happen for a few hours yet. The truth is we don't have to have a party every single day, but most skiers seem to want to.
The writer stayed as a guest of Mammoth Lakes.
Why do we feel the need to hit pub after the slopes? How often do you cap your ski session with a beer?