Lifestyle & Culture

Dispatches’ list of best winter trips (updated): Mile-high music, sunny beaches and lots of skiing

(Editor’s note: This post will be updated regularly with new events as 2018 dates are announced.)

Dear expats: If you think summers in Europe are packed with concerts, festivals and mega-events, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

With alps and beaches, Europe really comes into its own during the winter. And right now, as most of Europe is booming, there simply aren’t enough great parties, concerts and ski resorts to accommodate demand. Seriously.

Still, there’s sooo much going on … enough to take you all the way through spring without a dull moment. Concerts on stages in the middle of alps in places like the legendary Les Portes du Soiles on the France/Switzerland border. Parties in swanky ski resorts. Music. Skiing. Partying. More skiing and music, with a little beach action thrown in.

We’ll have lots more in the next few weeks because a lot of events such as Horizon Festival in Andorra haven’t announced firm dates. And several such as Garonsnow in the French Pyrenees are sold out, though there is a waiting list.

So stay turned as we update this list with confirmed dates. And we’ve learned our lesson … next year, we’ll post this in the middle of the summer.

Snowbombing, 9 thru 14 April in Mayrhofen, Austria

So, you’re wondering why we put the last event of the winter/spring season first. It’s because we hear Snowbombing is almost sold out. Five months out. Things are just like that right now …

But the reason Snowbombing is selling out early is because it’s like Woodstock meets Glatonbury meets the Air+Style.

There’s snowboarding, live bands including Liam Gallagher aaaaand DJs including Rudimental. Igloo raves, pool parties, street parties and yoga. All at 9,000 feet at a luxury Tyrolian alpine resort.

Yeah, that might be fun ….

You can get the last tickets here, but get ready pay!


Saalbach-Hinterglemm – RaveOnSnow Festival, 14 thru 17 December

The RaveOnSnow Festival bills itself as the “ultimate mountain-top party,” occurring near Salzburg, Austria in Saalbach-Hinterglemm from 14 through 17 December.

The music is non-stop EDM from around 50 acts, headlined by DJs Sven Väth, Ben Klok, Boris Brejcha, and Extrawelt.

To get to the snow-covered rave in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, you must first fly into Salburg, then board a train or flag a taxi; or head over to Munich to hitch a ride on RaveOnSnow party bus.

Tickets to RaveOnSnow start at €85 for only the weekend, while the weekend and Thursday will set you back an additional €10; single-day tickets are also available.

Rise Festival, 16 thru 23 December in Les Deux Alpes resort, France

This is kind of an event for the young, beautiful and rich. If you don’t check at least two of those boxes, this ain’t your shizzle-dizzle.

But if you are, Rise is a serious party in a great French ski resort, with DJs, secret parties, ice cave mediation (no, really), yoga and anything your little heart desires.

Read the reviews here on Yelp before you go, because Rise has had issues in the past, though reviews say organizers figured it out last year. That said, there are a LOT of extras not included in your ticket. And Yelp reviews have a lot of helpful hints about how to get in and out of the resort because the crowds kind of overwhelm the resorts.

This is yet another event that’s nearly sold out. You might get a ticket here.


WinterWorld, Karlsruhe, Germany, 20 January

The tagline for WinterWorld is “Day 1 in the Party Year.” A big claim to live up to ….

This is an established event dating back 15 years, and WinterWorld has rotated through several German cities including Wiesbaden and Frankfurt.

So they know how to organize a party. This year and for the foreseeable future, WinterWorld will be at the dm-Arena in Karlsruhe. The location in southcentral Germany makes it convenient to Strasbourg and Stuttgart.

No snow or skiing, but they do have three floors and 20 acts over 10 hours of music for an expected audience of 10,000 people.

DJs this year are mostly from Berlin.

Here’s the complete list:

Charlotte de Witte, Citizen Kain, Cuebrick, Deniz Bilgic, DJ Rush, Dominik Eulberg, Felix Kröcher, Gero Jansen, HUGEL, Junge Junge, Kerstin Eden, Klaudia Gawlas music, Lexer, Lexy & K-Paul -live-, LOVRA, MOSES MEHDI, Neelix, Netsky DJ Set & Script MC, Sylvain Armand, Tom Franke

You can get tickets here for 38 euros (advanced sales.)

Snow Bike Festival Gstaad, 18 thru 21 January

For four days, the ultra-upscale Swiss resort town hosts a biking stage race in the Alpine snow. Snow Bike Festival is open to competitors of all capabilities, from total amateurs to professional.

The commonality is, these are people who love to ride bikes with big fat tires up and down mountains. And enjoy the spectacular views. Then, they all retire to their chalets, saunas and hot tubs before heading off to great food and drink in this (massively expensive) mountain paradise.

Bring your best game … and lots of Swiss francs.

Race packages start at about 600 Swiss francs (515 euros) and you can register here. There are also supporter packages for 300 Swiss francs.

Snöfestivalen, 24 thru 28 January, Kiruna, Sweden

You want snow? We got your snow right here ….

Snöfestivalen is only for those with antifreeze in their veins. Kiruna, population 80,000, is Sweden’s northern-most city, and this festival is a celebration of all things polar.

Literally 100 miles NORTH of the Arctic Circle, the sun barely makes it above the horizon here during the winter. That doesn’t stop Kiruna from building a festival around snow and ice sculptures, reindeer races and music. Then they throw in cultural events with the indigenous Sami people who live here.

Not for everyone, but likely an adventure you’d never forget … and unlike events in St. Moritz and the Canaries, it’s free.

(Editor’s note: Kiruna is famous as the city that has to be moved due to it originally being build over a iron-ore mine. See the video above. The project, which will take place over the next 30 years, is the largest urban relocation in history.)

Snow Polo, St. Moritz, 27, 28 & 29 January

Billed a “the world’s only high goal tournament on snow” (we don’t even know what that means), Snow Polo must be cool because it’s held at Switzerland’s poshest resort town, St. Moritz. Polo, parties and people with more money than they know what to do with. So, they fly their string of polo ponies – specially bred to run on snow (we’re not making this up) – into the Alps.

There you go. We think you’d have to experience this once in life.

Oddly, you can go to this for free (if you don’t count the cost of flying your Gulfstream VI into Engadin Airport and your 1,000-euros-per-night chalet.)

BUT, if you have a couple of extra shekels and want to go VIP, you can. You can get the details here.


City Ski Championships, Verbier, Switzerland, 1 thru 4 February

Verbier might be Switzerland’s most scene Alpine destination, with views of Mt. Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, and the Matterhorn. So it’s not surprising this is the place Momentum Ski chose for its 19th City Ski Championship.

Yes, this is a competition. But it’s really more of a corporate networking event put on by Momentum Ski, which organizes ski trips. The City Ski Championship is combined with the Financial Times Alpine Forum, an après ski program of comedy, club nights and live music, all designed for hospitality executives to entertain clients.

There are a lot of ski “celebrities,” journalists and guys with “Sir” in front of their names, as well as a retired Formula 1 driver or two.

Tough way to make a living, but somebody’s got to do it.

This is, of course, a freaking expensive event. The reservation function didn’t function, but it’s 200 pounds just to reserve your spot.

You can see all the details here. (Warning .pdf)

Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 4 February to 18 February

Tenerife and Rio host the biggest (and most uninhibited) carnivals in the world … and Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a LOT easier to get to (not to mention safer) than the Brazilian version.

Tenerife, of course, is the largest city on the largest of the Canary Islands, a short flight from the major expat centers. And it’s a relatively warm and beachy destination in the cold, harsh month of February.

The theme for the 2018 event is “La Fantasia,” and this carnival delivers: Scantily dressed women, scantily dressed men, scantily dressed men dressed as women, parades including the opening event with men in dressed as widows carrying a giant sardine, beauty pageants, queens, princesses and all varieties of music including a least one mega-concert.

And lots and lots of full-blown street parties that spill over into surrounding towns.

The main website is in Spanish, but this English-language blog has better detail on the events, dates and other details.

Where’s the Music?, Norkopping, Sweden, 9 & 10 February

If you had a choice between skiing and being pecked to death by parakeets, you’d choose the birds. You’re not 22 years old any more, but you still want to road trip.

What to do?

WTM? has always been about discovering new music. But this festival in snowy Sweden is also one of the increasingly popular mashups of music and business. Which is what Sweden does best. Remember, Abba wasn’t a band, it was one of Sweden’s largest industries for a decade, with an estimated 500 million sales.

This year, confirmed artists include Amand Mair and a bunch of Swedish bands we don’t know, but probably will. During the conferences, speakers from all parts of the music industry talk trends including dgital trends and festivals. The full program for the festival will be announced closer to the festival.

Tickets start at 295 Swedish krona (30 euros) to 1,000 krona (100 euros) for the conference. Some tickets are already sold out, but you can give it a shot here.

Fête du Citron, Menton, France 17 February to 4 March

Winter events aren’t all about snow and skiing.

On France’s Côte d’Azur next to Monaco, the city of Menton has a movie-worthy setting, its beaches ringed by mountains. So it’s fitting that lately, Menton has celebrated its citrus industry with a movie theme.

For 2018, its 85th year, its going full Bollywood for its Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival.)

From the Fête du Citron website:

… After Cinecittà and Italian cinema in 2016, Broadway and musicals in 2017, Bollywood will be, from February 17 to March 4, 2018, the third and final part of the triptych dedicated to a city and its cinematographic or visual art. Which was imported into India by the Enlightenment brothers in 1896 before becoming, not an art, but a culture now inherent in Indian daily life.

Check out the vid above for a look at the crazy creative things the citizens of Menton do with oranges, lemons and grapefruits. This is not a free event. Entrance starts at 12 euros and goes up to 32 euros for VIP packages.

You can get tickets here.



Snowboxx, 17 thru 24 March, Avoriaz, France

We’re telling you about Snowboxx four months early because in its five-year history, guess what … this event has sold out five times. Five-for-five, baby!

This is yet another party-in-the-Alps festival, this one amid France’s largest ski area, just across the border from Geneva.

If anything differentiates Snowboxx from the rest it’s that is has more big-name acts including Fatboy Slim for 2018, along with Ibiza acts such as Chase+Status (“End Credits”). Oh, and igloo parties and human bowling.

And ski lessons for newbies, which we think is a great idea. So, yeah, this festival has it together.

Snowboxx is really a huge marketing machine. There’s even an installment scheme, with fans putting down a few pounds, then paying off their balances as the date grows closer.

The experience starts at 255 pounds including a place to stay.

You can get passes here.

The Ski Week, Obertaurern, Austria, 10 thru 24 March

This is another event that’s already sold out for 2018. (You can get on the waiting list here.)

This is one of the increasingly popular one-price events, with accommodations, lift tickets, events and even a guide, for one low, low price. Well, not all that low starting about about 1,050 euros, which is a pretty good deal all in all.  In the case of Ski Week in Austria.

This is one of several ski weeks around the world including in Canada, Japan and the United States.

Put it on your calendars for 2019.

Rock the Pistes, French/Swiss border, 18 March thru 24 March

Let’s say you don’t like EDM/trance all that much. At the same time and close to the same place as Snowboxx, there’s the rock-oriented Rock the Pistes nearby, one of the largest music festivals in the Alps.

Thirty-thousand people. Skiing. Multiple stages of performances. And many of the performances are by – get this – actual live musicians. Though we wonder how you play a guitar in zero-degree weather.

This year, it’s Rag’n’Bone Man (“I’m Only Human”), Julian Perreta (“Miracle”) and others.

And the craziest thing … they throw the music in for free if you buy the lift tickets/ski passes.

Or, you can pay extra for VIP passes here that can include private skiing and helicopter tours … and anything else you can dream up.

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