Lifestyle & Culture

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

(Editor’s note: This post is 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, with most of Europe 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 tuned 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.


White Pearl Mountain Days,  Skicircus Saalbach-Hinterglemm/Leogang, Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria, 16 March thru 1 April

This one really came out of nowhere. But hey, it’s FREE! Sort of.

Obviously, you have to pay for lodging and skiing. But the music and vibes are free, and the theme is “learn to live for today.” We’re down with that.

This is the fifth year for White Pearl Mountain Days, two weeks scheduled for late in the ski season and dedicated to music, sun and partying at Saalbach, one of Austria’s largest ski resorts amid a truly spectacular section of the Alps.

There are 113 slopes and 70 lifts. Lots of high-end cafes and restaurants. And of course, beautiful people. And wherever there are beautiful people, there are fitness events and what-have-you. (This is sponsored by Hublot, Mercedes-Benz and Moët & Chandon, so this is not the ski-bum crowd.)

White Pearl Mountain Days is near Kitzbuhel, east of Innsbruck, and just south of Munich. So fairly easy to get to.


Snowboxx, Avoriaz, France, 17 thru 24 March

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, Obertauern, 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 at about 1,050 euros, which is a pretty good deal all in all.

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.


Hibernation, Pas de la Casa, Andorra, 31 March thru 2 April

Been looking for an excuse to go to Andorra, the one place we never seem to be able to put on our “Countries Visited” list? Here it is ….

The website calls Hibernation “the most daring artists of the current electronic scene in a breathtaking environment.” Okay, it’s an EDM festival in the middle of some mountains. Nothing all that different than a hundred other winter music-and-skiing weekend.

Except it’s in – that’s right – Andorra. The Grandvalira Ski Resort, to be exact, which bills itself as the “second-largest ski area in Southern Europe.”

Tickets start at 25 euros, and you can get them here.

(Check out the vid, which shows what it takes to put together even a modest event, which this is..)

Snowbombing, Mayrhofen, Austria, 9 thru 14 April

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

Zermatt Unplugged, Zermatt, Switzerland, 10 thru 14 April

If you can’t get into Snowbombing, there’s always Zermatt Unplugged. Though several concerts (Fetsum and Norah Jones) are already sold out.

This is a big-name event in a Tier One ski town, so probably not for the budget travelers. Any event sponsored by Hublot, the watchmaker that makes $250,000 watches for LaBron James and rock stars, is going to be pretty plush. And is it so wrong for rich folks to only want a mellow moment (away from the EDM) with a view of the Matterhorn?

Acts this year include Jones, Selah Sue and Blanco White.

Tickets start at 50 Swiss france plus 68 Swiss francs per performance and go to, like, a LOT for the VIP packages with hotels.

You can get them here.

Caprices Festival 2018, Crans-Montana, Switzerland, 12 thru 15 April

Another rave on the slopes in Switzerland. Though this one seems a bit more restrained, with common-sense limits.

This is the 15th year for a festival that drew 10,000 people to its original event! Caprices has evolved over the years from a lot of big-name live acts including Iggy Pop and Robert Plant to half electronic, half live acts. And the genre has shifted from pop to House/Trance/EDM and DJs.

You can see the full lineup here.

There are two venues, with a third promised to debut this year.

Yes, there’s non-stop music. But there’s also a list of prohibited goods including drugs, weapons (duh) and even animals (with an icon of a goldfish). Also, there’s a code of behavior and even a recommendation to use ear pads (distributed free of charge) because music levels can exceed 100db.

Tickets start at 55 Swiss francs and you can get them here.

Live at Tignes, the France/Italy border, 17 thru 19 April

Other than Serge Gainsbourg, French pop has never really had a breakout moment. But if you like skiing and music, Live at Tignes might work for you. And as an extra bonus, it’s mostly free.

For 2018, this is three days of free concerts and events, spread across two outdoor stages. The acts are mostly French, but this is a premier ski area … and Tignes is either the final big rock-and-ski festivals of the winter or the first summer mountain music festival. You can fake the French just by saying “Ça alors!” and “Oh, putain!” whenever someone says something to you.

So why not?

You can see the full lineup of acts here.

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