Après ski in Japan used to mean sipping malt whisky in Swiss-style mountain lodges while listening to generic smooth jazz. But in recent years this model has got shaken up a bit with the arrival of live music festivals and organized ski trips that target a crowd who like to mix socializing with their snow time.

“Powder inna day, louda inna night,” is the motto of Snow Splash Japan a live music event organized by Outdoor Magazine that is now in its fifth year. “We started Snow Splash in the 2005-2006 winter because we love winter sports and music festivals and at the time there was a lot in summer but nothing in winter,” said Gardner Robinson, the creator of Snow Splash and editor of Outdoor Magazine. The event is getting increasingly popular. “We had more than 450 people in Minakami this year and expect Hakuba to go off.” Robinson is referring to their next event, on Feb. 27, which will feature live music and DJs both local and international.

Another festival that has been, um, snowballing is WeSky a Go-Go, which started out in March 2005 with 60 to 70 participants and grew the next year to around 500. Held in Niigata at the same resort that hosts Fuji Rock festival in summer, the event is organized by Smash Japan in aid of victims of the Niigata earthquake. Aimed at a more clubby crowd than Snow Splash, DJs Takkyu Ishino, Dexpistols, Gold Panda and The Samos will be spinning the decks from 7 p.m. till midnight on March 13.

Package tours that organize après ski parties are also a popular choice. Tokyo Snow Club specializes in events for groups of foreigners and Japanese and provides not only transport, lift passes and equipment hire but also includes social events in the price.

Customers are not only interested in making friends at organized ski/snowboarding events, go-kon (group blind dating) weekends are proving a hit with young singles. While many young people organize their own go-kon weekend through acquaintances, companies such as Fujiten are offering blind dating trips for men and women between the ages of 20 to 40. After hitting the slopes, there are parties in the evening where participants can flirt while discussing the day’s action. One event in Osaka, held one day after Valentine’s day; completely dispensed with the snow. For singles who enjoy skiing and snowboarding, Kool Party offered of a full-course meal and 90 minutes’ worth of  free bar time to help break the ice.

Whether it be live music, DJs or dating, things are definitely heating up off piste.

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