Ski, Don't Sleep, Rave, Repeat: A Week At Snowboxx Festival 2018
What's it like to see Fatboy Slim, Loyle Carner, Becky Hill & Snakehips in -20ºC?
Boasting insanely good music, stunning landscapes, crazy fun crowds, cheap prices and one of the best ski areas in the world, Snowboxx festival in French Alps resort Avoriaz had to have a catch.
And it’s this: you will come home tired. Very, very tired.
I spent a week trying to do everything on the jam-packed schedule and can confirm, to sleep is to miss out on something expelled by this week-long fun machine. If your experience of après ski is a few beers with your Dad while he complains about his creaky knees, or even an afternoon dancing on tables in your ski boots, you’re in for a shock at this mile-a-minute, seven day snow rave. Buckle up.
Whether it’s Fatboy Slim spinning certified bangers to a crowd of thousands, Loyle Carner asking to borrow your salopettes or three blokes in Disney princess dresses stacking it during a 4am blizzard, you can’t waste a second napping - just have another Jagerbomb and carry on.
It’s just as well then, that crisp mountain air demolishes even the most killer hangovers. I’ll admit, getting up and out of bed is savage (eco-friendly hotels designed to stay warm *will* suck out whatever moisture was left in your face) but get yourself on a chairlift with the sun on your noggin, breakfast beer in hand and the headache melts away.
By day you can zip around the Portes du Soleil ski area, with dozens of blue and green runs for Bambi-like snowploughers, miles of off-piste for Actually $%£*ing Gnarly snowboarders and even more for show offs in between. Freeriders can’t get enough of 100% natural snow park The Stash, with so many slopes, rails and picnic benches dotted between trees that it takes several goes to try them all. Look closely at the wood cabin hidden in the middle and you’ll find non-preachy, environmentally friendly messages scrawled in the wood.
Arriving home battered and bruised, you could hit the spa for a well-deserved massage or have a stretch in the sauna - but that’d mean missing a bass-heavy après party hosted by Shy FX in an igloo, human bowling with giant inflatables, or the world’s most intense snowball fight complete with hundreds of competitors and pre-made snowballs.
If you do fancy chilling, you can stuff your face with nom food at street stalls (skiing all day means tartiflette calories are cancelled) shop for awesome merch or cycle for miles on turbo-charged eFat bikes developed especially for the resort. Alternatively, spectate at the totally wild Skim Pool competition, where (mostly naked) snowboarders compete to aquaplane across a stretch of water cheered on by hundreds in retro skiwear - a hilarious way to end the day.
Use the hours you would have spent horizontal scrolling Instagram to catch class comedy acts in the bars (I saw Irish freestyle rapper Abandoman and Sunderland-born Matt Reed), sample incredible snacks in a rustic French bakery (the world’s best almond pain au chocolat can be found at Le Fournil de Canelle, fact) or adventure over to Switzerland for more music at Rock The Pistes - another live music festival drawing the likes of Oscar and the Wolf.
It’s even fun to explore the local supermarkets - we grew far too fond of Carrefour’s camembert and dangerously cheap wine (€3.50 bottles of Bordeaux, HELLO). Stock up on food for mountaintop packed lunches and you’ll save a fortune in beer money for the biggest nights (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday) with huge artists like Chase & Status, Becky Hill, Snakehips and Youngr kicking off to a beautiful backdrop. When the show’s over, a programme of DJ sets and club nights cover every hour across multiple venues until 5am. On alternative days the main stage is dark, but the pace never slows.
I caught Steve Lawler and Artful Dodger absolutely having it in the smaller venues, then met some ravers who’d bought Snowboxx tickets just to see Ibiza record label Abode do their thing.
Though one night was so cold my portable phone charger broke (-20c, snow joke), a few layers and whiskey shots kept me toasty (always wear proper footwear. You have been warned). Though tough at times, there’s one guaranteed plus to these hardcore raving conditions: your beer is ALWAYS frosty.
When Ubers are horse-driven carriages with jangling sleigh bells, ‘work’ means sweating it out building a kicker and ‘commuting’ is popping your skis off at the bar, it’s hard to picture the grimy cityscape you flew in from. For a whole week, Snowboxx will help you forget it entirely, even hosting a bottomless brunch on the Saturday before a final day’s skiing, rounding off seven nights you’ll never remember with music and mountains you won’t forget.
MTV Travelled With: Snowboxx, where packages including festival tickets, travel and accomodation start at around £400.