The popularity of winter music festivals is on the rise with ‘not to be missed’ events like Snowbombing and Tomorrowland Winter attracting audiences comparable with many major summer festivals across the world. They offer the opportunity for winter sports fanatics to combine their passions for snow and music in some of the most scenic locations in the world. Something about a festival in the snow creates a certain kind of ‘magic’ that can’t be manufactured at summer festivals. For some, this kind of festival is more of a holiday than the 3-day bender you’d expect at a normal festival. Winter festivals offer day time winter sports activities, altitude bars, apres pub crawls, games, competitions, chair lift speed dating, altitude yoga and hot spa’s.
Popular Global Winter Festivals
An exciting new addition to the Tomorrowland festival family and testament to the booming popularity of snow sports music festivals. 2019 saw the dance music giants hit the slopes for their first ever winter event in Alpe d’Huez, France.
SnowGlobe is held over New Year’s Eve in the rowdy ski town of South Lake Tahoe. Between extra activities, the after hour parties, and the riding at Heavenly, you’ll be hard press to make it to the festival grounds!
Set on top of Europe’s largest skiable glacier, Rise Festival has miles of runs for skiers and boarders of all abilities right on its doorstep. As après-ski turns into late night revelry, a line-up of stars from the worlds of House, Garage, Grime, Drum & Bass ensure the party doesn’t stop.
In view of the mammoth Mont-Blanc, Chamonix Unlimited Festival offers one of the most respected line-ups for underground House and Techno-heads in one of the most treasured ski resorts in the world. The festival makes innovative use of the mountain – expect to party in a gondola station or at 3842m high atop the Aiguille du Midi.
Caprices is one of the heaviest hitting electronic festivals on the slopes. Bringing athletes and ravers alike to Crans-Montana, Switzerland for a weekend of cold bliss.
The French literally invented “apres-ski” so expect this week long festival in the Alps to completely pop off. The madness includes igloo raves, concerts held right on the slopes, and their very own club XX right in the heart of Avoriaz. Heading into its 6th year of Alpine adventure, Snowboxx is firmly entrenched as one of the best slope side festivals in Europe.
Those young whippersnappers on this list can’t compete with the history of the Snowbombing Festival. Clocking in at a venerable 15 years or so, Snowbombing is the forefather of the modern-day winter music festival. Mayrhofen, Austria hosts festival goers for a week in April each year.
- Slips Trips and Falls – With snow and ice comes the increased risk of slips, trips and falls. This is something our health and safety team pays particular attention to in Winter Festival projects.
- Access and Infrastructure – Building altitude stages is not easy and increased resources must be expended like cranes and additional cladding.
- Winter sports and drunk/hungover festivalgoers – two things that definitely should not mix! Additional medical and safety resources must be accounted for.
- Resort Venues – Winter festivals usually take place across ski villages, resulting in festival goers freely moving between stages, village activity locations and their accommodations. It’s a lot harder to manage security and safety in this kind of set up.
- Access to altitude stages for pedestrians – Not everyone who attends the festival is a winter sportsman; festival organisers must ensure altitude stages are accessible for non-skiers too.
- Getting artists to stages – Particular attention to artist liaison and scheduling is important at a festival where the only access to some stages is a half hour chair lift ride!
- Drinking at altitude and getting punters down lifts safely – Bar staff and security at altitude stages must pay close attention to alcohol regulations and the wellbeing on punters who have to ride chair lifts back down to accommodation at the closure of the stage. In addition, alcohol effects the brain faster at altitude.
- Egress from altitude stages – Most altitude stages will close around the 4pm/5pm mark before it gets dark and ski lifts close. As a result, hundreds of punters need to get down the mountain from 1 chair lift!
My Experience at E-Wax Winter Festival
This year I was lucky enough to attend the ‘premiere’ year of E-Wax festival in Valmorel, France. This new festival hosted some of the biggest names in the bass and hardstyle communities as well as offering over 60 ski run’s for boarders and skiers of all levels. Beginners like myself included.
E-Wax was easily the most beautiful festival I have ever attended. The sights, as is the case with most winter festivals, were the highlight of the weekend. The altitude stages were breath-taking and the apres bars made the festival. E-Wax festival was a 24 hour experience, each day started early and finished late as festival goers made the most of what Valmorel had to offer. The resort was exactly what you would expect from a French ski village. You could easily walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes and the stages and ski lifts were in close proximity.
Apart from a group of Americans we befriended, my mate and I were the only English speaking people at the event (including organisers and security). Subsequently, this made the weekend a bit of a challenge but overall didn’t affect the experience that much, if anything made it feel a little more authentic. The cashless bracelet and ‘ewax’ currency system was a little flawed and we felt like we were ripped off. We also had some issues getting up to the altitude stages as pedestrians towards the end of each day. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience. I will definitely be returning next year!
Top Tips for Winter Festivals
- Take gloves to the night time sets and rug up in layers – it still gets cold in the mosh!
- If you are travelling to a European festival, learn the basic local language before you go and translate the basic event information BEFORE the event – it’s not worth the added stress of a language barrier when you arrive.
- Wake up early! Make the most of the event, regardless of how late you’re out the night before, and give the snow sports a go, getting the full experience makes it.
- Don’t go too hard the first night, snowboarding hungover is not the best!
- Invest in a battery pack, phones die fast in the cold!
Written by Natalie Oakes