The alarm jolts you from a much-needed sleep. As you rub your bleary eyes, you assess the situation: ears ringing, muscles aching, mouth tastes like stale spirits, only a few hours of sleep. And did we mention it’s only 8am?
Under any other circumstances, you would never be up at this hour during a festival. But these are not ordinary circumstances. This is Snowbombing – a week-long whirlwind of fresh air, blue skies, black runs, and white-hot parties – and you couldn’t be more ready to start the day.
At the Glastonbury of ski resort festivals, held in Austria every spring, days are spent skiing, snowboarding, and unwinding in spas at luxury hotels. Evenings deliver cutting edge nightlife in some of the world’s most unique venues, from a sky-high igloo to an enchanted forest clearing. There’s a reason they call this “The Greatest Show on Snow.”
Want to see it for yourself? Read on for our beginner’s guide to attending the one-of-a-kind Snowbombing festival.
Before Snowbombing was the epicenter of high-altitude hedonism, it was an après-ski nightclub promotional exercise held at the French resort of Risoul. The event remained there from 2000-2004, then relocated to the Tyrolean resort of Mayrhofen in Austria in 2005. From its new home Snowbombing evolved into Europe’s biggest snow and music festival, an exceptional combo of DJs, live bands, winter sports, and parties.
Artists who have appeared at Snowbombing include Fatboy Slim, Pendulum, Example, Tinie Tempah, Mark Ronson, Dizzee Rascal, Grandmaster Flash, Foals, The Prodigy, Kasabian, Disclosure, Skrillex, and more. But it’s not just about the music. The festival has also become known for its whimsical side. Traditional Austrian culture (think oompah bands and lederhosen) is given surreal twists. Fancy dress is encouraged. A table tennis tournament called ‘Pongathon’ tests your sporting side.
And then there’s the location. Mayrhofen is a town so picturesque it could be the illustration on a chocolate box. Traditional architecture somehow blends with an in-your-face après scene and vibrant nightlife. For your active hours, there are 487km of piste and 53 lifts – including Austria’s steepest marked run, the Harakiri. For your downtime, you’re never far from a spa, sauna, or pool. The scenery alone makes it worth the journey. Mayrhofen’s pristine peaks, panoramic snow-covered plateaus, and fragrant pine forests are powdery perfection.
The Hills Are Alive
The hills of Snowbombing are alive with more than their fair share of music. The event snowcases performances from a wide spectrum of international artists – from Sub Focus, to Carl Cox, to Basement Jaxx, to Sven Vath – in an intimate alpine setting. Dizzee Rascal once called it “Ibiza on ice.”
Snowbombing’s nightlife scene takes place in venues so special they could come from a Tolkien story. A vast underground tennis centre becomes The Racket Club, a subterranean discotheque that packs in 2000 pogoing partiers. Head into the literal woods for The Forest Party, where you can dance the night away surrounded by Mother Nature. Experience sub-zero sub-bass at 6000 feet at the Arctic Disco, a real igloo that comes complete with two dance floors, a chill out space, and a roaring bonfire to keep you warm.
And that’s just a snapshot. The entire village gets into the spirit of Snowbombing. You’ll find pockets of pleasure dotted all over Mayrhofen, waiting to be explored.
The Nitty Gritty
Before you pack your bags, here’s what you need to know. Planes, trains, and automobiles all offer transport to and from the fest. Start by flying into Munich, Salzburg, or Innsbruck. From there you can either take one of Snowbombing’s official airport transfers (leaving every 2-4 hours for an additional fee) or, if you fancy making your own way, you can travel by train. Once you’re in the resort, Snowbombing’s officially sanctioned taxi services can shuttle you around.
Tickets to the event are sold in accommodation and entertainment packages only. Snowbombing’s lodgings cater to pockets of all depths, from budget-friendly pensions to self-catered apartments to 4-star luxury. A variety of optional extras – like equipment hire, lift passes, and lessons – can be added to enhance your experience.
Day tickets are not available. Your package includes a wristband that earns you entry into all Snowbombing venues, parties and events, with the exception of the Arctic Disco and Backcountry Party which must be purchased separately. If you’re in the mood for premium post-piste partying, upgrade to VIP. A VIP ticket grants fast-track access to several venues, early access to high-demand tickets, and other A-list perks. Talk about snowballin’.
5 Things Not To Miss
About that 8am wakeup time. If you’re going to be up at the crack of dawn (not actual dawn, but what passes for it during a festival), you’d better make the most of it. So what should you be doing with your five-days of Snowbombing bliss? A few highlights are below.
Before the madness moves to Mayrhofen, it starts with a legendary launch party series. The warmup bashes team up with a bevvy of brilliant promoters and party starters in Europe’s most prestigious nightspots. Each weekend a new city comes alive with a Snowbombing club show, helping to light the way to Austria in April.
If you’re not in a hurry to get to the mountains, Snowbombing’s official Road Trip is a must-do. The route covers four countries in 150 cars in a mad-cap, two-day gad-about. It’s not a race or a rally, but rather a leisurely European adventure with a serious sense of humour. Each year has a theme, creative costumes to match, and entertaining activities planned along the way.
Ride & Seek
Ride & Seek is a no-holds-barred boardfest that provides a platform for some of Europe’s most piste mad (and party mad) young ‘bombers. The three-day event pits pro skiiers and snowboarders against each other in the quest for the Snowbombing title. Kick back and sip schnapps while they flip and twist their way to victory (or agonising defeat).
Snowbombing becomes its most charmingly bizarre at the annual Street Party, an anarchic cavalcade of fancy dress, DJs, live acts, and more good hearted oompah cheer than the finale of Oktoberfest. The list of previous themes includes Superhero Road Trip, Space Odyssey Europahaus, Let’s Get Physical, and The Lederhoedown.
If the Street Party is the most famous and highly anticipated event of Snowbombing week, the Backcountry Party is its most surreal. Guests are taken by coach to “the forgotten valley” of Floitental – up a steep-sided valley, through a wild forest, past a waterfall, to snowfields which lead to the Tux glacier. There the revelries commence in the 300 year old Tristenbachalm, a lumberjack’s mountain paradise. Traditional musicians play while plucky souls ‘challenge the lumberjack’ in a series of tree trunk-lifting and log-carrying tests of strength, spirit and sobriety. Once in a lifetime? Snow question.