I’m back from my first ever non-UK festival! I’m currently broken on my sofa as I try to summarise the week I spent at Snowboxx – a ski & snow festival in the French Alps. A week’s skiing holiday is always awesome, the idea of adding a festival into it was one I was beyond keen to try!
I’ve written a day by day review of our experience at Snowboxx so you get an idea of how the week pans out, and at the end I talk about some of the little things that I thought were particularly awesome about this festival. Despite how tiring it was, I absolutely loved my first snow festival, and am so keen to repeat the experience again in 2019!
SATURDAY – ARRIVAL & ACCOMMODATION
My friends and I flew from Bournemouth Airport on Saturday 17th March to Geneva Airport, landing about 5pm. We’d booked private transfers, which turned out to be a godsend as we’d had a few drinks on the plane and were a little tired. We were able to have a little nap on our 1.5hr ride up the mountain… I’m almost 30 you know!
We arrived in Avoriaz at about 7pm, and got dropped in the underground car park of L’Amara residence, (#19 on the above map, far left) the luxury accommodation choice we’d chosen. Check in was surprisingly simple; there were Snowboxx representatives who we collected our wristbands from, then we got our room keys from the front desk which was the longest part of the process as there was a bit of a queue. Three of my group including me had pre-booked rental ski gear (I have my own skis but had rented boots) so while half my group queued for check in, we went to go get our gear from the rental place conveniently across the road.
Once we got to our 6-person apartment with our luggage and rental gear, I was glad we chose the luxury option. The apartment was gorgeous, it had a balcony with an incredible view. For next time however, if there are 6 of us, I would suggest we book an 8 person apartment, as in our 6 person one, two of our group had to sleep on a sofa bed in the lounge meaning they got no privacy, plus it would be nice to have the extra space for luggage (more room for activities!)
I was bunking in the twin room with Andy, and we lucked out by getting the ensuite! The couple; Stafford and Harriet, had the double, and Chris and Ell shared the lounge/sofa bed. Once we’d dropped our bags and ski gear off, we were all starving so went out to find food.
We came across Chapka – a modern alpine restaurant that ticked all our boxes! I had an amazing margarita cocktail and a beautiful burrata pizza, and we all shared some wine. It was a great start to our week. We decided to head back to the apartment after dinner as all of us were excited to get up early and hit the slopes. Plus it was the first big day of the festival on Sunday so we wanted to recharge our energy reserves to maximum! We stopped off at Sherpa (the supermarket) on the way back to pick up some necessary essentials – beer, vodka, soft drinks, breakfast cereal, chocolate bars. 😉
SUNDAY – FIRST DAY SKIING & FIRST FESTIVAL DAY – FAT BOY SLIM
Three of our group were getting snowboarding lessons (Ell, Harriet and Chris), so that left Stafford, Andy and I to explore on our own. We set off on the morning of our first day skiing to discover the blue run down from our apartment building was awesome. It was nice and wide, went through to the Lil Stash snow park then down to the Proclou chairlift that would give us access the rest of Avoriaz and beyond. We were early enough that the run was empty and perfect corduroy (has just been pisted), it was exactly what I needed to ease myself back in, as previous to this trip I hadn’t been skiing in 3 years! We even got down early enough to be the very first lift on the chair.
We explored the Avoriaz area, skiing down to Les Prodains to pick up our two other friends (another Andy, let’s call him Andy C, and James) for the day, back up the gondola, then down towards Les Brochaux. We spent our morning getting our bearings skiing around the resort, enjoying the fantastic snow conditions, then met the others who’d had lessons to join as a big group for lunch at the Pizzeria Falaise.
Lunch was delicious! I went for a Savoyarde pizza which was essentially a tartiflette on a pizza; bacon, potato, onions reblochon cheese. Of course we had a few carafes of house wine for the table too (this would become a recurring theme!). It was pretty reasonable at about 15 euros a head for a pizza and wine. We skied a few more runs then headed to the Snowboxx Après area; a festival stage in itself positioned on the slopes so we could ski in to it.
Après was definitely one of my highlights. When we got there on Sunday the vibe was awesome, and even with the snow coming down hard everyone was dancing to So Fresh, So Clean on the decks. Drinks were again pretty reasonable compared to usual ski resort prices; pints were €6, a glass of wine was €4, and a spirit and mixer was €6 (they only serve 50ml in the Alps so this was quite good for a double!). My only complaint with the festival bars was they never had Diet Coke! Only ever full sugar Coca Cola. But hey, I got over it pretty quickly.
We stayed at Après for a few hours and got quite merry! The tunes were epic and the atmosphere was great. It really got us in the mood! At about 6.30pm we quickly blitzed home to shower and get dressed, ate some pasta in our apartment, had a few rounds of drinking games, and drank jäger shots from a ski:
We made it in to the festival area at about 8pm (it had opened an hour earlier at 7pm). It was situated opposite Après at the apex of Avoriaz resort. Like any other festival they had proper security searches into the arena, but luckily we never had to queue for long to get in. The bar was the same as Après, made out of snow with a stretch tent over it, and the same pretty reasonable pricing (for a festival/ski resort). We got in in time to catch the end of Shapes – a DJ duo from Kent who really got our feet stomping in the snow with their mash up mixes. They reminded me of A Skillz who is possibly my favourite DJ ever so this made me happy!
Next came Youngr, a solo project from Dario Darnell who was a surprise for me! I wasn’t sure what to expect but his pop synth tunes were amazing. By the time Fat Boy Slim came on I was really quite tipsy. I remember the visuals being awesome, all my gang were dancing like criminals, and we had the best time. The size of the festival area was perfect; big enough for an awesome atmosphere, but easy enough to find your mates again if you nipped off to the bar or toilet. Fat Boy Slim played for almost two hours, but to drunk me it felt like 40 minutes! I know I had the best time however.
After the set finished, half our group were too drunk to carry on, while Andy, Ell, James and I headed towards the bars in Downtown. I’ll be honest I don’t remember much of the night! I know we were in Shooters, had multiple rounds of tequila shots, and James had to half carry me home to our apartment at about 4.30am. What a night though!
MONDAY – HANGOVER DAY, THEN ONTO TUESDAY – THE COLDEST DAY OF MY LIFE & SECOND FESTIVAL DAY – SNAKEHIPS
I still have no idea how Ell managed to get up in time for his 9am snowboard lesson on Monday having got home between 4 and 5am, but he did it. What a hero. Needless to say Andy and I took a little longer to get out of bed. We finally emerged onto the slopes about 11.30am having showered and drank the necessary amount of coffee. We said goodbye to James and Andy C as they were only in the area for the first day to hang with us, then headed off to ski a few blue runs. I knew from the get-go that I was much wobblier on skis today than yesterday, so I took it easy and tried my best. We all met for late lunch at Chapka again and got really great chicken burgers.
I couldn’t face going out to ski again after lunch so called it a day and went for a nap. When the others came in not long after, we all got ready for the evening, then spent a brilliant few hours with some gin & tonics and playing card games in the apartment. Ell taught us a super simple game called Mushroom which became an instant favourite – take turns placing a card on a beer bottle until it becomes a mushroom! Pic for reference:
That night we decided to head out for a few casual beers, which, when we made it Downtown turned into going for a fancy steak dinner with lots of wine at La Cabane. They had a live singer who was great! The steaks were pretty expensive at €35 however they were huge, delicious and a really nice treat. Plus the house wine was great and cheap so that balanced it out. We went to bed full and satisfied.
Tuesday we were back on form at first lift, planning for a big day of adventure. The weather at 9am was gorgeous; blue skies and sunshine, even if a little cold. The fresh pistes were empty, and Stafford, Andy and I headed towards Switzerland, going through the main Stash park on the way. The clouds came quickly, and by the time we were heading up the lift to the highest point at 2277m – Pointe de Mossette, you could barely see the chair in front for whiteness. We were in the cloud. Still, coming down from that point, we had two of the best runs of the week. The cloud cleared (all be it not for long), and we went down this glorious wide red. I was feeling great and amped up the speed. We next went down a super long blue run all the way to Morgins. The top of this run was amazing, rolling wide hills, slightly banked turns… It allowed us to absolutely bomb it! It then changes into a road-like run, narrow and through the trees. A gorgeous easy run that I loved, despite it getting a little same-y towards the end.
From this perfect couple of hours, things went a little south. The cloud that had held off as we flew through the trees came back with a vengeance, and by the time we got to the top of the chair from Morgins, you could barely see 10ft in front of you. We spent two hours traversing back around the mountain back to Avoriaz, cautiously going down each piste having to use the piste markers at the edge to stay on course in what felt like endless white. When we had to get lifts I kept saying they were like Chairlifts to Heaven, very creepy, a chairlift heading into total whiteness, you couldn’t see the ground below.
We met with the others and got sandwiches from the Avoriaz bakery for lunch, and ate them on the snow. The afternoon saw us ski as a group together down a few runs then admit visibility defeat and head back to get ready for the evening.
The second night of the festival was possibly the coldest night I have ever experienced, and I NEVER normally complain about the cold. It was minus 15 degrees Celsius, with windchill of minus 23. We layered up; triple socks, thermals, jumpers, ski coats, scarfs, hats and gloves, but it still wasn’t quite enough. We got to the festival in time for Charlie Tee, who to give her credit, got the crowd moving with her mixes! That helped warm us up a little. This ought to give you an idea of how cold it was… my vodka and coke from the bar was served as a slushy, and the beer taps were frozen. The guys next to us bought WKDs and were holding them upside down… frozen solid. Our drinks were freezing before our eyes in our hands!
Loyle Carner was next who I was really looking forward to. I was only a little worried that his set might be quite slow and chilled in comparison to Charlie’s, and that we might not move enough to keep warm. Luckily I had nothing to worry about. Loyle was on fire, his hip hop jams were a welcome difference to the EDM we’d mostly heard so far. After Loyle came Snakehips, again who we were really looking forward to. However, the sound was really quiet, I can only guess that it was so cold the equipment wasn’t acting as desired. We stayed for 10 minutes to see if it would sort itself out, but by this time my friends and I were so cold we couldn’t last any longer. We took a vote and decided to head to a warm bar instead. So Downtown we went, and we ended up in “The Place” which had a live band playing all the singalong hits… Wonderwall, Chelsea Dagger, Sex on Fire… you know the ones. We could feel our legs and fingers again, and were happy drinking in the warm.
The Place was exactly what we needed, we stayed til about 2am drinking, singing along and making friends. I’ve never know the Alps to be quite that cold, especially in March, but I’m glad we made it to the festival that night to see Loyle Carner at least, and to experience frozen beer!
WEDNESDAY – BAD VISIBILITY DAY – APRES, TIPSY FRENCH MEAL AND IGLOO PARTY
We woke up Wednesday to another day of not great visibility. I set off with Staff and Andy nice and early, and the boys took us down to a chairlift. Once on the lift, they informed me that at the top I was to face one of two blacks, or there was a blue. The conditions at the top were apocalyptic… the wind was so strong that no other chairlifts on that side were open. I decided I wasn’t up for it and made my way down the blue solo while the boys tackled the black. Even the blue was covered in powder that had been blown onto the piste. Normally this is a good thing, but since I couldn’t see anything, the pistes were abandoned and I was completely alone, the powder made it quite difficult. I kept hitting it without warning on a turn and stacked it multiple times. By the time I got back to Avoriaz I was super fed up and had snow in my goggles and helmet, so I headed back to the apartment.
I haven’t mentioned it on this blog, but I’m running the London Marathon in a couple of weeks. I’d already felt guilty I was going on holiday so soon before the big race, so I decided to use this time wisely. I went to the Amara apartment’s gym and did a HIIT workout followed by a 6km run on the treadmill, then I went to use the swimming pool which was lovely and relaxing.
I met up with Ell, Chris and Harriet when they came back from lessons for lunch, then we went out in the afternoon, sticking to lovely blues that we all knew. I felt much better having taken the morning off, the conditions were a little better, and we all went to Après for about 4.30 where Stafford & Andy joined us. This time it was Abode Records on the decks, they had the whole crowd bouncing. I decided that I was in the mood for white wine and had a fair few of those! I’d also adorned my face in Kiss & Glitter gems so I felt like an ice queen.
I’m not sure what happened at that Après exactly, but after an hour and a half we were all quite tipsy! We headed down to the Brasserie, where we’d booked a table for a proper French dinner using the Concierge service on the Snowboxx App earlier in the week. They boys had beef fondue; they cooked pieces of beef in their fondue pot, and had fries, salad and homemade sauces to accompany it. Harriet and I had Raclette served the proper way… A whole half wheel of cheese with a heat lamp and a paddle to scrape the melted cheese off. Ours was served with charcuterie, salad and potatoes. It was a fantastic meal and I think we all enjoyed the “do it yourself” element of cooking the beef/melting the cheese, it made it more fun, especially with wine!
We went straight from dinner to the Shy FX Igloo party right at the bottom of town. I have to say it was a bit of a walk! You get a snowmobile up the last bit to the actual igloo, which housed the bar and looked magical! We got there just when Charlie Tee was finishing her set, then Shy FX absolutely tore up the stage!
The view over the resort was fantastic and we raved till the end. We made some friends in the rave who tried to convince us to come out afterwards but in the end we decided to be sensible, as the next day we’d heard would be good weather, and of course Chase & Status were headlining in the evening, so we trekked back and were in our beds by midnight.
THURSDAY – THE DAY WE EXPLORED & FINAL FESTIVAL DAY – CHASE & STATUS
Thursday was the day we’d all been waiting for… Sunshine! And lots of it! Stafford, Andy and I all went exploring. We started off by heading into Switzerland and smashing lots of gorgeous wide reds. I didn’t quite have the balls to do the Swiss Wall (La Chavanette), an unpisted, mogul-filled run that’s too steep to be classified as a black, it’s technically an orange which means it’s more difficult than a black. The boys did that, whilst I got what is known as “The Chairlift of Shame”… you can actually get the chairlift DOWN as well as up if you don’t fancy tackling the Wall. Here’s a picture I took from YouTube to show you the gradient, I definitely wasn’t bothered about the “shame” of getting the chairlift down… when I stood at the top and looked down, the only words I thought were “f*ck that!”
I have to say I loved all the other runs in Switzerland though! It was so pretty and a lot less busy on the pistes. We had a great morning hitting some of the snowparks, then continued our exploring by heading down into Morzine. The aim was to stop for lunch at Rock the Pistes, a free festival that was happening between Morzine and Les Gets on the slopes. We got there in time even having picked up sandwiches from a bakery in the town, but were disappointed to learn The Horrors had cancelled. They were replaced by Triggerfinger, a band from Belgium, so we still stopped, ate our sandwiches and had a couple of beers. They band were alright, but not who we came to see, so we only stayed for an hour or so before exploring the area around Morzine, then returning to Avoriaz to regroup with the others.
That evening was the final festival night, and we were all keen for a big one. We started beers early in the apartment, played drinking games with our deck of cards, and made sure we were there in good time for Becky Hill. Luckily it was much less cold than the previous festival night, so we got to enjoy ourselves fully! Becky absolutely smashed it, her voice is incredible, and the whole crowd singing Afterglow was pretty awesome!
Chase & Status came on and started with No Problem. The crowd went crazy! Everyone was really hyped up. Even though this was “only” a DJ set, the energy blew the mountains off. Ell, Andy and I spent a considerable amount of time in the mosh pit which was amazingly fun, but also difficult! It turns out you fall over much easier when moshing on snow! Such a laugh though. My only complaint with C&S is that they didn’t play enough of their own tracks. I thought even in a DJ set they would mix in a few of the big hits. Still, even after two hours I didn’t want their set to end.
We made it Downtown as a whole group this time, again to Shooters who this time had a live grime artist when we arrived. More tequila was drunk, move dodgy dance moves laid down…
Ell, Andy and I stayed out later than the others, going to a different bar who’s name I forget, but this one reminded me of my ski season years ago… dancing on tables, cheesy singalong tunes, Jagerbombs and lots of hugs. We made friends with some seasonnaires who were lovely, including a hilarious girl named Hannah! I think we got home at about 4? I’m not entirely sure. Great night though.
FRIDAY – THE LAST DAY – SUNSHINE, BEERS & CHILL
Our last day on the slopes had arrived. We had a little bit of a lie in and a leisurely breakfast, then were out on the slopes by about 11. After a few runs we met up with Ell, Harriet and Chris who’d finished their final lessons, and stopped at the Yeti for some sunshine beers. This place had a great terrace and was actually really reasonably priced for both food and drinks! I wish we’d discovered it earlier in the week for a good piste lunch spot! We headed off for the afternoon all 6 of us together, hitting up some lush blue runs, taking lots of pics and videos as we went.
The sun was so strong that the pistes were getting really quite slushy by late afternoon, so we found a bar on one of the runs that had the most incredible view and relaxed in deckchairs with a demi-pêche beer for an hour. It was nice to catch up as a group, discuss the carnage of the night before and our favourite bits of the whole week.
We skiied back to the apartment via the shop to pick up stuff for our final dinner. We decided it would be nice to eat in on the last night, and had a veritable feast of olives, cheese, bread, meats and oven pizzas. We did most of our packing, all got in our Kigus (animal onesies) and had a final evening drinking what we had left and playing more card games. By this point we were all exhausted from a week of trying to hit the slopes as hard as possible but also make sure we got enough festival! Now I’m back home I’m almost sad we didn’t go out for a final night but I know we did as much as possible. It was even quite nice to stay in the apartment and chill, before we had to get up early and clean the apartment before check out.
EXTRA BITS ABOUT SNOWBOXX
I’ve written a lot already about our experience but I wanted to highlight just a few things about this festival that made it stand out.
- SNOW CONDITIONS – There are other ski/snow festivals in the Alps (the big one being Snowbombing) but they are mostly in April when it’s the very end of the season and the conditions are likely to not be as good. For a group like ours who were coming equally for a ski holiday and for a festival, Snowboxx is the best for both!
- EVERY SECOND DAY – Again, if you plan to ski hard and party hard, Snowboxx makes this possible by having a ‘festival day’ every other day, meaning you essentially get a “day off”. However I will say there is still plenty of party action on the non-festival nights for those who want to be up all night!
- ROCK THE PISTES – Though a separate festival in itself, RTP is free and is in partnership with Snowboxx. These daytime gigs are on the slopes themselves with spectacular views, not to be missed!
- SNOWBOXX APP – I just had to mention this here. I’ve used a lot of festival apps in my time but this one was particularly useful! It regularly sent out push notifications to tell you about changes, news or even offers, including which bars to get happy hour prices! The app had all the maps, schedules and info you needed. And the concierge service we used to book a table at a local restaurant was fantastic! Well done Snowboxx!