Expat Essentials

New for 2019: Europe’s best winter ski/music festivals and spring break destinations

At Dispatches, we’re all about the expat lifestyle, which includes access to the best parties, ski/music festivals and ski destinations across Europe – sun and snow. During the past two years, those posts have gotten collectively more than a million views. All we can say is, “Thank you …  and rock on!”

This is the time of year everyone is planning for the spring adventures, and that’s when the majority of ski/music festivals happen in Switzerland, France and Austria. As we’ve noted before, there are more and more events every year, and 2019 is no exception, with the debut of Tomorrowland Winter.

We’ll keep this listed updated every week, so we’re starting out with the ski events before we move into the spring break sun-and-fun events.

And of course, we still have the New Year to celebrate.


Edinburgh, Scotland – Hogmanay 19: The best New Year’s Eve Party ever? Well, the longest, at any rate starting 30 December and running three full days to 1 January. What exactly is “Hogmanay”? It’s the Scottish word for the last day of the year. Translated into urban slang, it means, “Yo, par-TAY!” Now, the Scottish idea of a party is a bit different and includes burning Viking ships, parading ’round with torches and stepping across your friend’s threshold and giving him/her a bottle of Single-Malt. What’s not to like?

About 20 years ago, the Edinburgh tourism and  -dev types figured out, “Aye, laddie, this is a goooold mine,” and voilà! You have a blow-out street party/music festival that draws people from around the world.

This year Franz Ferdinand is the headliner at the Concerts in the Gardens event. But we count at least 12 more big events including several for families.

You can get package deals for accommodations through the festival.

Also, London-based Stoke Travel has a Hogmanay travel package for 190 pounds per person and includes:

• a direct, private party train from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh and back, with no one else on the train except Stoke’s 574-person group.

• entrance to the Hogmanay street party festival.

• 4 music stages to dance the night away.

• a private venue for an after-Hogmanay street party.

• pre-party brunch pack.

You can get those tickets here.

Various resorts in southwest France – Garosnow France: If you can’t wait till April for the big ski/music events, you can start skiing and partying in January in the southwest corner of France near the Andorra border.  Garosnow Les Angles is 11 & 12 January near, well, pretty much nowhere. This is in the Pyrenees, and the closest city is Perpignan, not too far from the France/Spain border.

Les Angles is followed by Garosnow Cauterets nearby in February and Garosnow Luchon in March. The DJs and live acts come from France and Belgium. So, bring your best French. Mungo’s Hi-Fi from Scotland provides the sounds for the music.

Tickets are a very reasonable 27 euros per day, and you can book yours here for the Les Angles event.

Groningen, Netherlands – ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag)No skiing, but lots of new music in an interesting college town in the north of the Netherlands. ESNS is Europe’s largest showcase of the best emerging acts from different European countries. It runs from 16 thru 19 January, and there are something like 240 new acts scheduled to perform. So you can go to discover, or be discovered.

You can read about all the acts here, and sample their music.

Two thousand nineteen will be the first-ever dual-country focus – the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and this is both a music festival and an industry festival with conferences, seminars and awards. There will be industry heavyweights there judging the talent or giving talks including keynote speaker Richard Jones, manager of Pixies as CEO of Key Music Management. Jones will talk about managing “direct to fan” and digital sales.

You can see the full four-day schedule here.

Tickets start at 28.50 euros and you can get them here.

Gstaad – Snow Bike Festival: This is a staged mountain bike/snow bike race through the Swiss Alps 24 thru 27 January,  with the storied resort of Gstaad as the base. Yes, the pros will be there, taking it all seriously. But there will also be a lot of amateurs taking the partying seriously. Though Gstaad is not Ischgl, with the very rich keeping a lower profile.

This is also an expo where you can see the latest in bike tech.

Entry packages are available for 690 Swiss francs (about 600 euros), 590 Swiss francs at the early-bird price.  If you live in Canton Berne, you’re eligible for a special discounted entry. Like you’d really need it if you can afford to live in Gstaad.

You can enter here.



Courmayeur Mont Blanc, Italy – City Ski Championships: This event 31 January thru 3 February is a lot more about business and networking than skiing. The Momentum Festival/City Ski Championships are sort of a corporate outing taken to extremes, with marketing & advertising types, bankers and semi-professional ski bums making up the majority of attendees.

The event is sponsored by Financial Times, and the event includes its annual Alpine Business Forum. (Momentum Ski is the organizer of this event, which includes skiing, amateur racing and lots of amenities.) This is the 20th year, and the event moves to Italy from overpriced Switzerland. Look for lots of senior executives (Harrow, Eton and international school alums) named Graham and Ondine and their much younger girlfriends/boyfriends partying on unlimited expense accounts.

Okay, we’re being a little snarky. If you’re in business, this is actually an event you should try to make.

If this sounds like your schizzle dizzle, you can download the info pack here with prices.


Alpe d’Huez, France – Tomorrowland Winter: Tomorrowland organizers are adding a winter event, renting out the entire ski resort of Alpe d’Huez, France from 9 March to 16 March for the expected capacity turnout of 30,000 attendees. (Check out the vid.)

Tomorrowland started out 13 years ago in Nowheresville, Belgium (Boom, an hour from our Dispatches global HQ) and has turned into a phenom. attracting first 50,000, then 100,000 then 200,000 people, with waiting lists in recent years in the millions!

Every major EDM DJ and act including Avicii, Faithless, Hardwell, Nina Kraviz, Swedish House Mafia, Carl Cox, David Guetta, Afrojack, Armin Van Buuren, Tiësto and Martin Garrix have come. So no surprise this first winter version 9 thru 16 March is sold out five full months out.

The lineup for Tomorrowland Winter is amazing:

• Afrojack

• Armin van Buuren

• Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

• Joris Voorn

• Kölsch

• Lost Frequencies

• Martin Garrix

• Nervo

•Steve Aoki

You can get on the waiting list here.

How much money to these things generate? Well, enough that Tomorrowland Winter has multiple hi-res, high production value vids for the inaugural event! And this whole Hymn of the Frozen Lotus marketing campaign. Okaaaay.

Avoriaz, France/Portes du Soleil on the France/Switzerland border – Rock the Pistes: At a full week, Rock the Pistes and Snowboxx are the longest ski/music festivals on our list.

For 2019, Rock the Pistes runs from 17 thru 23 March high up in the Alpes. And it is the complete package, with an incredible setting atop a mountain, surrounded by alpine vistas.

Skiiing? Check. Live music on multiple stages? Check. Partying with internationals? Check. And all pretty much going on at the same time.

By the way, the music is (sort of) free. All you do is pay for the lift tickets. But you can’t do that yet as there’s no sale function on the website. Stay tuned.

Avoriaz, France – Snowboxx: Once Rock the Pistes is over, you stick around for Snowboxx, which goes from 23 thru 30 March in the same place. Sort of the same concept (this is really for the Brits with cheap flights from the UK), as well, though Snowboxx tends to have bigger acts focused on EDM.

You can see the full lineup here.

Tickets start at 239 pounds.

Coming up later in 2019:

Chamonix Unlimited: From 2 April thru 7 April, Chamonix Unlimited heats up the slopes below Mt. Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. Unlimited has some big names including veteran US DJ Jeff Mills, German/Turkish Berghain house DJ Len Faki and the Baron of Techno, Dave Clarke. This is a multi-site event that includes a stage below Mt. Blanc as well as clubs and even a pool party. In April. In the Alps. That’s right ….

Caprices Festival – This is one of the last big festivals of the winter ski/music season. And it’s in Switzerland 11 thru 14 April. You can’t even buy tickets yet, but you can submit your email for the newsletter with details about when ticket sales start, and who’ll be in the lineup.

Snowbombing – What did we say above? That Caprices is big. This is bigger. This is epic. Snowbombing in Mayrhofen, Austria  8 thru 13 April is epic on every possible level …  epic names, epic events and epic crowds. And kind of a quirky vision about what people are willing to venture in the Alps for. This year, Snowbombing organizers promise “butcher’s shop parties, igloo raves, enchanted forest parties, Austria’s largest fancy dress street party and luxury spas.” What do all those things have in common? Hell if we know.

To Top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest news and updates from Dispatches Europe. Get lifestyle & culture, startup & tech, jobs and travel news dispatched to your inbox each week. Keep up with what's going on in Europe. Everything Expat.

You have Successfully Subscribed!