This winter's most exciting mountain festivals
The hills are alive... with the sound of electronica, techno, indie, jazz and Beethoven. Patrick Thorne puts down his skis and selects the best festivals
Wednesday 23 January 2013
What's the attraction?
A day on the ski slopes isn't enough to exhaust many young skiers, and, perhaps as a result, the mountain music-festival scene has blossomed. The majority take place during the final month of the season and there are now dozens of options across the Alps, with nearly every genre of music catered for. Long-established events include the BRITS in France (the-brits.com) and Snowbombing in Austria (snowbombing.com), which can each attract up to 5,000 visitors. Many festivals offer packages of accommodation and lift pass, with the music and parties a free bonus, helping to make ski holidays more affordable.
Andorra – perfect for festivals
Andorra's mix of sunny slopes and duty-free bars make it ideal for festivals. The Big Snow Festival (not on in 2013) started here five years ago and a new event, Snowboxx (0843 2896728; snowboxx.com), tag-line "Ibiza on Ice," launches in Arinsal from 22-28 March. While the festival is reported to have sold out, organisers say more tickets should be released on 26 January. A third option in the Pyrenean principality, Pas Rocks (11-15 March) in Pas de la Casa, offers lift pass, ski rentals and and Ibiza DJ club nights for £255. Crystal offers seven nights' self-catering at the Manzano Apartments at £297pp including Gatwick flights on 10 March (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk).
Who said that?
"Snowbombing is Glastonbury on ice." – Fat Boy Slim
"[At] Altitude ... people are seeing acts who can sell out 1,500 capacity theatres, in the back of a bar." – Marcus Brigstocke
"I love the apres-ski scene in Ischgl. You guys party like it's your job." – Katy Perry
Choose your genre
There are many smaller events that focus on a particular musical genre. Classicaval (festival-classicaval.com) is a classical music festival with performances including Beethoven and Schumann staged in Val d'Isère's old baroque church from 19-21 March. There's a week devoted to jazz in the Jazz Up festival in Avoriaz (avoriaz.com; 6-12 April) with live music in the French resort's bars, cafés and restaurants as well as gala concerts. If you prefer acoustic sounds then Zermatt Unplugged (9-13 April; zermatt-unplugged.ch) features Brian Ferry. Or immerse yourself in the sounds of the Hapsburg Court of two centuries ago. Emperor Francesco Giuseppe spent time in Italy's Madonna di Campiglio (campiglio dolomiti.it) and the resort recreates his visits each winter with a week of events (10-15 February).
At the other extreme, La Plagne's Mix Mountain (28 Jan- 1 Feb; montalbert.com) is for electronic music fans, with internationally renowned French house and electro DJs banging out the tunes for free.
It's not all music: the Altitude Comedy Festival (altitudefestival.com) arrives in Mayrhofen from 18-22 March just before Snowbombing. It was established by comedian and keen snowboarder Marcus Brigstocke, and while the festival's 2013 line-up has not yet been released, in 2012 stars included Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle, Ed Byrne, Tim Minchin and many others. Crystal Ski (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk), offers a week's B&B at the three-star Hotel Obermair from £399pp from 16 March including transfers and flights from Gatwick.
"You need to remember why you're at the festival and how much you've spent. For me, the snowboarding and camaraderie come first and the music/parties are a bonus. If you can burn the candle at both ends and crash when you get home, then go for it. Luckily, hangovers clear quickly in the mountains." Duncan Worrell, director of Snowboard Club UK (snowboard club.co.uk).
Ischgl in Austria is proud of its five-month ski season and helps publicise it by staging two of the biggest music concerts in the mountains at the beginning and end of the season. Top of the Mountain's (00 43 5444 100; ischgl.com) alumni include Mariah Carey, Mel C, Rihanna, Pink, Kylie, Katy Perry and Elton John (twice). This year's headline act is yet to be announced but it's likely to be a big name, attracting up to 20,000 fans. The spring event ends on 30 April and you need a lift pass to get up there, but the gig will be free. Ski Solutions (020-7471 7700; skisolutions.com) offers four nights' B&B at the four-star Hotel Sylvia from 27 April for £665pp with Gatwick flights and transfers.
Party on the piste
Snowbombing (1-6 April; snowbombing.com) is the biggest of the British-run festivals in the Alps, attracting the biggest stars (this year Kasabian and Katy B headline) and the biggest crowds to the Austrian Tyrolean resort of Mayrhofen. It is sold as an accommodation and entertainment package and you cannot buy access if you're already in resort. Packages are available, ranging from £319 for accommodation and all the entertainment, to £529 for B&B at the four-star Hotel Mannis. Travel not included, but return coach travel can be booked via the Snowbombing website from £118 return from Dover, to £134 from Manchester. A 36-hour road trip is arranged by festival organisers, costing £259 per car.
World-class snow and music
The BRITS (23-30 March) is – at 24 years old – one of the longest established festivals. Providing a week of fun on and off the piste, it combines music and events with world-class freestyle ski and snowboard events as the UK's best compete for points and prizes. After a long spell in Switzerland, the festival moves to the French resort of Tignes for 2013; the Nextmen are headlining. Packages, starting at £279 per person, include seven nights' self-catered accommodation, a six-day lift pass and festival wristband (the-brits.com/tignes-accommodation). Travel not included.
Ski for free entertainment
Most ski music festivals bring the party to the resort. However, Rock The Pistes (20-24 March; en.rockthepistes.com) asks you to ski or board to the free lunchtime concerts. The format emphasises the fact that gigs are staged in one of the world's biggest ski areas, Portes du Soleil (en.portesdusoleil.com) with 12 resorts on each side of the French-Swiss border, including Champéry, Chatel, Les Gets and Morzine. There's an eclectic mix of performers and the concerts take place in stunning locations at 1.30pm each day. Thomson (0871 971 0578; thomsonski.co.uk) offers seven nights' B&B at the two-star Hotel Igloo in Morzine, departing 18 March, from £479pp, including flights from Gatwick.
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