10 Ski-Based European Festivals to Hit in 2017

Article by: Marcus Barnes|@mgoldenbarnes

Tue February 07, 2017 | 14:25 PM

Winter used to be a dead zone for festivals, with only very few braving the drop in temperatures and potential bad weather to soldier on and encourage good vibes in the darker months of the year. But Europe’s winter festival market has seen a huge growth spurt over the last four to five years, thanks mainly to the increased popularity of ski-based festivals.

A few days ago we presented a guide to some of Europe’s best beach-based festivals for all the sun worshipers out there, but today we turn our attention to the events that take advantage of the beauty of mountainous regions, delivering top-notch production, unforgettably odd party locations and the kind of views no beach nor field could ever hope to replicate.

Up in the mountains the air is fresh and clean, which can aid recovery from hangovers (apparently). We don’t know about that, but what we do know is that there is something very magical about partying tens of thousands of feet above ground surrounded by snowy white peaks. The following festivals offer all of that and more, so be sure to book at least one in your lifetime.

Snowboxx, Avoriaz, France (March 18-25, 2017)

Taking place in one of Europe’s most beautiful ski resorts, there is no doubt that Snowboxx has the whole awesome location thing down. With lineup curation paramount to this event, past guests have included Blonde, 2manydjs, Jungle, Horse Meat Disco, TCTS, Tom Misch and many more – many of whom come back each year to enjoy the festival’s inspiring sunrises and sunsets, together with its discerning crowd and impeccable production levels. This year Charlie Tee, Karen Harding, Bicep, Karma Kid, Basement Jaxx, Norman Jay MBE, Hannah Wants, and a whole bunch of other electronic music stars and bands are on the bill.

Zermatt Unplugged, Zermatt, Switzerland (April 4-8, 2017)

Ten years on the festival map makes Zermatt Unplugged a veteran in the ski-based fest game. Its focus on unplugged, i.e. acoustic performances, makes them a unique player in this list. The appeal of live music, played acoustically, against the stunning backdrop of snow-covered mountains is unparalleled (and keeps its audience quite devoted). Nelly Furtado, Jess Glynne, Michael Bolton and Paolo Nutini are on this year’s lineup, alongside many more accomplished singers and songwriters. Beyond the music, Zermatt is great for hiking and climbing, as well as skiing, so make sure you indulge in some some outdoor activities while you’re there. Of course, the infamous Matterhorn peak is an absolute must.

Horizon, Arinsal, Andorra (March 26-April 2, 2017)

With the team behind Outlook and Dimensions involved in this snowfest you know it’s going to be a winner in every way. Anyone who’s been to both of the Croatia-based summer festivals will tell you how special they are, not only down to expert bookings (which really are second to none) but also because of the locations. Horizon carries on the tradition of unusual locations and really ups the ante – from abandoned strip clubs to decrepit hotels, it takes full advantage of the out-of-the-way location of the event and goes the extra mile to find weird spots in which its acts can dazzle crowds.

Horizons also prides itself on its community-building ethos; with everyone staying in weird old mountain hotels, there’s a greater chance of making festie friends and, hopefully, friendships what will last beyond the duration of the event.

Caprices, Crans-Montana, Switzerland (April 6-9, 2017)

Bringing house and techno royalty to the mountains of Switzerland is the aim of this festival, which started out in 2004 with a more commercial outlook. Acts such as Robert Plant, Björk, Lou Reed, Portishead, Nas, Iggy Pop, Fatboy Slim, Erykah Badu and Deep Purple have gone up into the snow-covered peaks to give faithful Caprices fans a large dose of high quality music. Crans-Montana is 1500 meters up, making it a “sun-drenched” municipality in Switzerland and perfect for some ski action and sky-high party vibes.

In conjunction with MDRNTY, Caprices have booked acts like Ben Klock, Cassy, Apollonia and Sonja Moonaer to rock the peaks with their 4x4 beats and heavy basslines. It’s one that’s not to be missed.

BERGFESTival, Saalbach Hinterglemm, Austria (December 8-10, 2017)

Nestled in a small German village called Saalbach Hinterglemm, BERGFESTival turns the sleepy little enclave into a rowdy party for a few days every year. It's based on having fun – lots of it – to a soundtrack provided by acts like Zebrahead, In Extremo, Wolfmother and more. So you’ll be rocking all night long, then getting yourself up and into the dizzying heights of the surrounding mountains to clear away the cobwebs the next morning. The beauty of partying in such fresh, clean air is that it really does help with hangovers, especially the exhilaration of speeding down a freshly powdered slope in a postcard-worthy location. You can't fail to feel refreshed after a few runs down the mountains, and soon, you'll be ready for another night of frivolity.

Snowbombing, Mayrhofen, Austria (April 3-8, 2017)

One of the original ski-based festivals, the people behind Snowbombing are masters of the art of mountain parties and take great pride in making the experience at their event one that is full of fun. They hire old-school British kids’ TV heroes, have fancy dress street parties, get the DJs to play in weird locations (including the local butcher shop) and generally create a big silly festival in a brilliant location. It’s fun fun fun, with everyone getting involved.

True to its name, Snowbombing's ski slopes are great quality, so you can spend a day out on the snow and then dance the night away to some of the most talented DJs or bands in the world. It’s a combination that has made them award winners at the European Festivals Awards, and keeps both festies and artists coming back every single year.

Polaris, Verbier, Switzerland (TBA December 2017)

Only two years old, Polaris is one of the youngest fests on this list, but is definitely already holding its own. It booked a serious lineup last year, with big guns like Richie Hawtin, Dixon, Moodymann and Luciano headlining alongside local heroes like Ripperton and Deetron. Ticket price includes access to the slopes (like many of the festivals on this list), which is a massive incentive, even if you’ve never skied before. Verbier is one of the world’s premier "off-piste" ski sites, so not only will you be raving to a classy list of electronic music stars, but you’ll also be raving in one of Europe’s classiest ski spots.

Garosnow (Cauterets), Cauterets, France (February 3-4, 2017)

For five years now Garosnow has delivered excellence in the field of DJ-based festivals in mountain-top locations across France. The latest edition takes place in Cauterets, way down in the south of France where spas and ski resorts are the order of the day. This means you can find spaces to really wind down during the festival – a trip to a spa is always a good idea when you’re a few days deep into those dance floor vibes. Once you’ve decompressed and regained your energy, head back out to the slopes, then get yourself into the rave again with a hot selection of French acts and the infamous Garosnow Soundsystem.

MDRNTY, Gstaad, Switzerland (TBA October 2017)

At the end of 2016 MDRNTY presented names like Guy Gerber, Seth Troxler, DJ Tennis and Alex Niggemann in an awe-inspiring location deep in the Swiss mountains. Gstaad is an upscale resort, so you can imagine the accommodations and local amenities will be high quality. Though perhaps a bit more expensive than some of the other festivals on this list, you do get what you pay for and sometimes it’s nice to splash out a bit on your festival experience. Apparently it’s popular with European royalty and celebrities, which is cool if that’s your thing – if not, well there’s plenty to keep you entertained up in the mountains, like great skiing and next level music.

MDRNTY work closely with Caprices Festival, so there is a similar ethos when it comes to lineup curation in the people they attract and the way in which they utilize their stunning locations to everyone's advantage.

Rock The Pistes, Les Portes du Soleil, France and Switzerland (March 19-25, 2017)

Rock The Pistes calls itself the only high-altitude music festival, which some of the other events on this list may take issue with. However, despite this bold claim, we can vouch for its lineup curation and outstanding location. Taking place in the beautiful snow-topped peaks of Portes du Soleil, which is made up of several interconnected resorts, the ambitious festival hosts music on stages across five of the resorts, giving festies the chance to explore a larger region, all within the festival itself. It’s a novel idea that has made it a favourite with plenty of European festival lovers. The music is a strong mix of underground, from people like Bicep, High Contrast and Hannah Wants through to singers such as Rag’N’Bone Man and bands like Ruby Cube and Chinese Man.