Snowbombing - Chill out at the coolest festival of them all

 

It started as a gimmick to sell more ski holidays, but these days Snowbombing, a dance bonanza in the Austrian Alps, is a highlight of the musical year.

In a tiny, crammed room, 300 people are dancing to the cutting edge beats of DJ Seth Troxler. But this is no ordinary club night – there's no sticky floor, no stale smell of beer hanging in the air – it's in an igloo perched 2,000 metres up a mountain. The air is fresh – in an igloo, it's always minus degrees, after all. We're at the Arctic Disco at Snowbombing, the week-long festival where 200 live acts and DJs, and more than 5,000 dance music fans, take over a tranquil Tyrolean Alpine village.

In the morning, when keen snowboarders and skiers have taken to the slopes alongside some of the acts playing at the festival (guitar-pop band The Vaccines stayed five days to make the most of the skiing) and others are sleeping off the night's excesses, Mayrhofen is in its natural state. By the evening, the village's quaint chalet-lined streets are transformed into a party site, where streams of revellers in outlandish fancy dress make their way to the venues to enjoy some musical après-ski.

Festivals in the snow, blending live music and DJs with snow sports, are a recent phenomenon. Several have sprung up in the past few years, such as the Big Snow in Serbia, which launched in 2010, and the tiny electronic music festival Basscamp, new this year to Morzine, in France. But Snowbombing, launched back in 2000, was the first, and still does it best. With its bill of big-name indie-rock bands, live dance acts and DJ sets which has in recent years included The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, Doves, Ms Dynamite, Pendulum, Wild Beasts, Editors, Friendly Fires and De La Soul, it's no surprise that it's been dubbed the Glastonbury of the Alps.

This year's attendance was 10 per cent up on last year, the number of people attending limited by the amount of accommodation that the ski village has to offer. As many as 85 per cent of Snowbombers are British, drawn to the event for its reliable line-up, which this year included Dizzee Rascal, Labrinth, The Vaccines, Wretch 32, Example, DJ Shadow and Groove Armada. Chase and Status, whose live set featuring Maverick Sabre and Delilah, the rising stars of their album No More Idols, was a hit last year, returned to DJ at the site's largest of 10 venues, the Racket Club.

It's the venue where the 26-year-old Tottenham rapper Wretch 32 performed his anthemic rap, his expressive delivery pouring emotion into "Forgiveness" and its follow-up, "Don't Go", his first UK No 1. The crowd sang back his thoughtful rhymes.

The biggest headlining acts were to be found on the festival's final night, at the Forest stage, nestled deep among the trees. Labrinth played a greatest hits set, including a cover of rising dubstep producer SBTRKT's "Wildfire" and a collaboration with chart-topper Tinie Tempah, reminding us of his beginnings as a producer before he sought out more exposure as a performer. Flanked by a live band and performing as both singer and guitarist, Tinie Tempah's "Pass Out" was a highlight, as was his uplifting "Let the Sun Shine".

He was supporting Dizzee Rascal, an inspired choice of replacement for the cancelled Snoop Dogg, having cemented his status as a national treasure at Glastonbury in 2010. "I was snowboarding today," the London rapper told the crowd. Accompanied by mesmerising green lasers slicing through the trees, his set warmed up to its riotous finale of "Holiday" and "Bonkers", the latter proving such a success that he performed it twice. As fireworks erupted to his chart-topping hit, the crowd followed.

When it was first launched, Snowbombing was dedicated to dance and electronica. Four years ago, it expanded to incorporate indie-rock; this year The Vaccines performed an energetic set. But as guitar music has fallen out of favour, this year the festival's focus returned to its dance roots. It's a winning formula: the high-octane mix of electronica, dubstep and house is an exhilarating follow-up to the adrenaline rush of the ski slopes.

The Arctic Disco, hosting sets by Mr Scruff, Seth Troxler and the Cuban Brothers among others, is said to be Fatboy Slim's favourite venue of any festival, which is why you'll find the DJ spinning records here year after year. It's not often that the instructions for a night out include wearing the most sensible shoes, to keep dancing (to stave off the freezing temperatures), to not keep your hands in your pockets (if you slip, you'll need them to break your fall) and to watch your alcohol intake (factoring in the heightening effects of altitude). Smoking is strictly forbidden (a cigarette will leave its trace for up to 24 hours as the smoke can only seep into the igloo's ice walls). The igloo also became a chill out venue during afternoon hours, when Mr Scruff took to the decks as festival-goers laid in deck chairs soaking up the vibe of his soulful set.

There were five music parties on the mountain each day, from the Reggae Shack 1,900 metres high, to the Good Times Carnival party 2,100 metres up, where Norman Jay played party music for 1,000 fans from a London bus.

It's the festival's eighth edition in Mayrhofen, but when Snowbombing was launched, it was merely a clever marketing ploy designed to sell ski holidays. Festival founder Gareth Cooper recalls: "It was just a gimmick – we thought we'd put some DJs on the mountain." Success was far from instant, though – it took him seven years to turn a profit. What made him continue? "We just didn't give up," says Cooper. "We believed in it." And the 5,000 fans that went this year will be glad that he did.

Peak times: 5 more snowy treats

Winter Sessions Weekender,  Chamonix, France

Hip-hop, reggae and dubstep abounds at this two-day festival in the French Alps. Zero 7, Norman Jay and Trojan Sound System were some of the names appearing on and off piste with parties going on until the early hours this March.

Zermatt Unplugged, Zermatt, Switzerland

For five years Zermatt has presented big name international musical talents. This year, Lauryn Hill (right), Aloe Blacc, Amy Macdonald and Chris de Burgh and James Walsh were on the bill.

The Big Snow Festival, Sauze d'Oulx, Italy

There's a dance and dubstep vibe at this festival, which moved to a new venue for its third edition. Now situated at one end of the Milky Way ski area, the Big Snow saw performances and DJ sets from Modestep, Judge Jules and Eddy Temple-Morris.

SnowBall Music Festival, Vail Valley, Colorado, US

Competing with the summer festivals with its strong dance and indie-pop line-up, round two of SnowBall saw performances from Snoop Dogg, The Kooks, Big Boi, Rusko and TV on the Radio. The multi-stage event at 2250 metres welcomes 15,000 people.

Caprices Music Festival, Crans-Montana, Switzerland

The ninth edition of Caprices featured Charlie Winston, Earth, Wind and Fire Experience feat. Al McKay, Carl Cox, Sean Paul, Gorillaz Sound System and Lamb across its five stages.

Maria Vallahis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor