Think festivals are just a summer thing? Think again. In winter, the parties head to the piste, and ski resorts come alive with music and comedy. Check out some of our favourite on-mountain events.
Rise Festival: Les Deux Alpes, France
If you want to start your ski season in style, this week-long musical blowout held every December will definitely fit the bill. Les Deux Alpes is also the ideal place to find your ski legs again, with wide, gentle runs on Europe’s biggest skiable glacier. Once you’ve warmed up, there’s 220km of piste to tackle, as well as some excellent off-piste if you’re more advanced.
When it comes to the music, the festival organisers really rise to the occasion, with seven different venues dotted all over the resort. Step straight out of your skis and onto the dancefloor at the High Altitude stage, hosted 2,600m up at the Pano Bar. Down in the village, the huge Alpine stage always attracts the biggest crowds and has been headlined by Grammy award-winners Clean Bandit, as well as old-school legends like Craig David. Eager for more? Make tracks to the after-party at L’Avalanche club for late-night gigs and DJ sets that’ll see you through ‘til dawn.
Rave on Snow: Saalbach and Hinterglemm, Austria
This weekender in December has come a long way since it started in 1993. Originally an under-the-radar event organised by a group of mates in Zell am See, it found a permanent home a few years later in Saalbach and Hinterglemm. Nowadays, it’s a fitting way for two of Austria’s liveliest resorts to kick off the winter, and attracts some of the biggest names in house and techno music.
You’ll get plenty of bang for your buck, with 13 venues to explore in just three days. Stamp your ski boots to electro tunes at mountaintop stages, then grab your glow sticks for the underground car park rave. And when you’re not moving your body to the beats, get your ski fix cruising 270km of wooded slopes in one of Austria’s top ski areas. Saalbach’s got easy-to-reach beginner runs in the valley, and the surrounding slopes are scattered with over 60 mountain huts – spot-on for when you need a mid-morning pick-me-up.
Rock the Pistes: Avoriaz, Châtel, Les Gets and Morzine, France
Spend a week in March racking up the miles and rocking out to international acts like Rag’n’Bone Man and The Kooks. Hosted in the huge Portes du Soleil area, there are over 30 stages to explore across 650km of piste. Grab your lift pass and take in slopeside gigs to discover up-and-coming artists, then end the day at packed-out concerts back in the resort centres.
As for the skiing, click-in for run after run of excellent intermediate terrain. There are heaps of open and tree-lined blues and reds to tackle, and you can even ski over the border to Switzerland. Need somewhere to practise your turns first? Avoriaz is your ideal base, thanks to its great nursery area and gentle runs. Or for somewhere with heaps of traditional Savoyard charm, try Morzine or Châtel. And pick Les Gets to have some of the steepest slopes in the area on your doorstep.
Altitude Comedy Festival: Mayrhofen, Austria
Switch up the usual cast of DJs and musicians and give your funny bone a workout instead. Held over a week in March, there’ll be gags and giggles galore as some of the UK’s top comedians take centre stage in Mayrhofen. A regular feature on the stand-up circuit, it attracts a stella cast of comics, including the likes of Jo Brand and Jimmy Carr.
For intimate après gigs that’ll have you splitting your salopettes with laughter, hit up the Hotel Strass. Then later on, head over to the Europahaus exhibition centre to see the headline acts step into the spotlight at sell-out gala shows. When they’re not behind the mic, you might even spot a few famous faces around resort – perhaps picking up a pastry in the cobbled centre or practising their parallel on the wide slopes of the Penken mountain.
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Snowboxx: Avoriaz, France
Head to Avoriaz in March for seven days of madcap, music-fuelled action. One of the biggest music fests in the Alps, it’s got an impressive back catalogue of headliners, featuring artists like Basement Jaxx and Gorillaz. There are some pretty unique venues too, which could see you riding piste bashers to secluded forest stages or getting down to DJ sets in slopeside igloos.
It’s not just about the music either. Set yourself up for a day of festival shenanigans at the mountaintop brunch – with bottomless prosecco and hilarious hosts, you might find yourself staying long after you’ve finished eating. You can also swing by the purpose-built arena to get stuck into some epic snowball fights. And it’s ‘on your marks, get set, go’ as you whizz downhill on lilos and inflatable donuts in the race to become a Sledgend of Snowboxx.
The resort itself is the perfect place to put on a festival. The village is filled with snowy, car-free streets and all the main stages are walking distance from the centre. There’s also loads of ski-in, ski-out accommodation, so you can quickly nip back to drop off your gear before getting your party on. And if you’re looking for somewhere to perk you up after an all-night session then the Aquariaz water park will hit the spot, with its saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs.
Tomorrowland Winter: Alpe d’Huez, France
Famous for its incredible stages and special effects, this huge dance music festival started as a summer event in Belgium and now has a winter edition too. The week-long extravaganza in March takes over the entire resort, with specially built sets just for the event. There are giant, fantasy-inspired props, costumed actors and plenty of pyrotechnics, all soundtracked by electronic music heavyweights like Lost Frequencies and Martin Garrix. And with the highest stage set 3,300m up, near the top of the Pic Blanc, you’ll struggle to find a more impressive setting to party in.
It’s also a great pick if you’re looking to mix festival fun with your first ski trip. The beginner slopes are wide and gentle, and there are lots of them. Alpe d’Huez also has a great weather record, racking up over 300 sunny days a year, so you’ll get soft snow and warmer weather while you’re learning. And with some of Europe’s must-ski blacks in the area, it’s ideal for mixed-ability groups too.
Electric Mountain Festival: Sölden, Austria
You don’t need to book tickets for this one – it’s free for anyone with an Ötztal Valley lift pass. The massive piste-side party takes place over two days at the start of April, and with two glaciers in the ski area, you’ll get to enjoy some of the best spring snow around too. Experienced skiers can tackle the 50km Big 3 Rally route that links viewpoints on the resort’s three highest peaks. Or if freestyle’s your thing, check out the ramps and rails in the excellent Area 47 snow park.
The music kicks off after the pistes have closed, so nip back to the village and ditch your ski boots, before heading back up to the purpose-built venue outside the Giggijoch mountain station. Find a stage-side spot and dance along to artists like David Guetta and Robin Schulz as the sun sinks below snow-capped peaks.
Snowbombing: Mayrhofen, Austria
One of the biggest names in the winter festival scene, Snowbombing turns the whole place into a 5-day party every April. There are tons of venues to explore, from classic resort spots like the Brückenstadl bar to pop-up piste parties. For state-of-the-art sound systems and fresh beats that’ll keep you moving ‘til dawn, don’t miss the Racket Club. Or grab your glitter and face paints to get down at the Street Party – an open-air shindig that was once hosted by Fat Boy Slim. And with a past roll call that includes drum and bass artists Pendulum, as well as legendary rockers like Noel Gallagher, you should find something you’re into, whatever your music taste.
As well as the star-studded line-ups, the organisers also put on a packed schedule of events that are guaranteed to get you into the festival spirit. Break out your most off-the-wall outfits for the fancy dress ski day, limber-up with Mr Motivator’s pre-party workouts and enjoy a different kind of après at Bongo’s Bingo, where you can win cash prizes and some more unusual items – think vacuum cleaners and boxes of cereal. Speedy on a sledge or a sure shot with a snowball? Sign up for the Snowlympics and bring home the trophy for your festival squad. Or take a break from the non-stop action and find your flow with a mountaintop yoga session.
If you’re eager to ski as hard as you party, you can tackle the Harakiri run – it’s Austria’s steepest slope. And for first-timers, there are great nursery areas up the mountain, which means you’ll still get crisp snow even if you’re heading out to practise later in the day. Or for some of the best late-season skiing in Austria, you can hop on the free ski bus to the nearby Hintertux glacier.
Zermatt Unplugged: Zermatt, Switzerland
A traditional Swiss atmosphere and rustic wooden chalets – Zermatt’s the perfect setting to enjoy five days of chilled-out acoustic music during April.
It’s also one of Switzerland’s top ski resorts, with some of the best intermediate terrain around. Carve down long, linked reds, cruise the wide-open glacier and take in iconic Matterhorn views from every part of the resort. And with the highest pistes in Europe a lift ride away, you’ll struggle to find better snow conditions at this time of year.
As for the festival, there are concerts taking place throughout the resort, from open-air gigs surrounded by panoramic views, to sets in authentic stubes – picture a cosy mountain pub. So when you’re done skiing for the day, grab your favourite après tipple, kick back, and enjoy easy-listening artists, like Norah Jones and the Mighty Oaks.
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