GP are not long back from a trip to the Snowboxx Festival in Avoriaz, France. 2019 saw the seventh installation of this bass heavy end of season celebration, high up in the French Alps. So whats the verdict?
Avoriaz is a curious resort. Purpose built in the 1930’s, today the town is geared almost exclusively for the ski crowd, with no vehicle traffic permitted in the streets. In fact, the only thing you need to keep an eye out for is horse and carts, snowcats and wayward skiers.
Global Playboy headed to Snowboxx festival in late March 2019 to see what all the fuss is about. The transfer from Geneva took around 1 hour 40 mins and took us up a zigzagging mountain route.
On the night we arrived, we were greeted by plenty of snow on the ground, despite the dire warnings of our transfer driver. The revellers trudging through the streets looked like they belonged more at Bestival or Glastonbury than a ski resort, with many of the crowd in their 20s and dragging an assortment of huge suitcases. There was already a festival vibe in the streets, with plenty of drinkers stood in outside bars listening to bass beats while enjoying a few glasses of vin rouge (or beer in our case).
On the slopes to apres
Kitted out with our equipment, we headed to the slopes nice and early. It was my first time in Avoriaz and the first thing I did was hit the piste right in front of our hotel. A long meandering green run took us all the way down to the bottom of the Prodans lift. A great way to kick off a day of exploring the valleys around Avoriaz.
In fact, Avoriaz is part of the Portes du Soleil ski region, one of the biggest interlinked ski networks in the world. Although our pass only covered the Avoriaz section, that was more than enough for three days of exploring. In fact, even for five or six days I would have been happy. The mountains and the pistes are, in short, magnifique!
Come apres ski time, the crowd heads to Folie Douce. The bar right on the edge of the town is the first you come to as you descend from the Prolays run. In typical apres ski style, the vibe was already in full swing, but the extra Snowboxx festival atmosphere was plain to see. The party streamers, the DJ and hype man, the VIP section, all added to that festival feeling.
Over at the main stage, Rudimental’s DJ Locksmith kicked things off as the first headliner. A set packed full of fun and funky house, drum and bass and even disco classics ensured that there wasn’t a stationary butt in the arena. Or if there was, it was probably because they were in agony from a days skiing. So far, so epic.
After Rudimental, we head to the XX club. By day, its the tourist office, but by night it turns into one of the premier night venues in the town. We get in just in time to catch Madam X and her bass heavy set of techno, UK funky and grime. She’s a little far out there for some in the crowd, but no question, she knows how to bring the bass.
In fact the grime, UK funky and techno bass of Madam X is unquestionably the hardest of hardcore sets I caught in Snowboxx. Well, not including the drum n bass! Talking of which…
The next day, we head to the Igloo party. Set on the side of the mountain overlooking the town, the view is nothing less than spectacular. Whatever you think of the aesthetics of Avoriaz, with its high rise wood clad hotels, it looks pretty cool at night.
Reaching the Igloo party involves taking a snowcat up the mountain, which is not as fun as it sounds. And as we approach the unmistakable bass heavy sounds start hitting us.
Becky Saif is playing her brand of thumping jump up dnb and as soon as we arrive there’s no question that some serious dance moves are on the cards. For one, the bass is hard. And secondly, its pretty much a snowstorm and its freezing, so standing still is a no no.
Wilkinson steps up with a set that runs the gamut from modern classics to some awesome bootlegs. I’m a big drum and bass fan anyway, and the crowd are unquestionably up for it, especially me. Its a pretty epic set and Becky Saif, who bookends Wilkinson’s set, does well to keep it rolling when she steps back up to the plate. In fact I’m pretty sure you could hear her deep down in Morzine at the bottom of the valley – it was pretty loud.
Back in the snow
Avoriaz is probably one of the best ski areas in the Alps, so getting stuck into the slopes is easy. I absolutely love the Prolays run, so spend a long time racking up the miles here.
If you’re thinking of visiting Snowboxx or Avoriaz and you don’t ski or snowboard, there are actually things to do for no skiers. One of those things is eFat Bikes. We head to Matra, just on the edge of the town, and get stuck into riding these beasts. With their fat tyres, they’re made for cruising in the snow, and the electric motor gives up to 300 times the power assist when the going gets tough. Our guide, Jeremie, shows us some great routes and amazing views and is packed full of knowledge and passion for the area. He even takes us to a farm shop for some quality local cheese – which, being France – is incredible of course.
Eating and drinking
Talking of cheese, the eating and drinking in Avoriaz is quite a hearty affair. Think Alpine fare like tartiflette, fondue, burgers and steaks and you’re on the right track. And great quality wine too.
On our first night in town we head to La Cabane, which is a beautful wood panelled affair in the heart of the town. We’re serenaded by singers as we eat and the food is top notch French classics, such as onion soup and tarte tatin. I make the mistake of ordering chicken when everyone else orders tartiflette, its lovely, but its not tartiflette.
Later in the trip we head to La Brasserie (just opposite La Cabane), which is a similar affair. Our fondue is incredible and although we’re not serenaded by sultry singers, the service is a bit more efficient.
In general food is of a very good standard (as in most of France), albeit slightly more expensive. Think €12-15 for a pizza or burger or €30 for a prix fixe menu. Although there are cheaper street food style places to grab pizzas and kebabs for under €10, we only really stick to the restaurants.
We stayed at L’Amara complex on the edge of town. The five star apartments are well apportioned and come with all self catering mod cons including fridges and catering facilities, a Nespresso machine, ensuite wet room and great balcony views. The living room and kitchen area was open plan and led straight onto the balcony, meaning those epic mountain views were right there.
The complex itself also houses a swimming pool and sauna, which were very much welcome at the end of a hard day on the slopes.
L’Amara is also right on the edge of one of the main beginner runs, which is great for both kicking off the day and coming back home.
What to wear to Snowboxx Festival?
If you’ve ever been to any ski resort and gone for the aprés you’ll already know that ski attire, big jackets and jumpers are the way to go. When you’re fresh off the slopes, you’ll be in your ski wear – and it seems that plenty of people at Snowboxx went for style, with plenty of retro ski wear and funky colours.
After hours in the clubs, you still need to bear in mind that it is literally freezing and quite possibly blowing a blizzard outside. So the same big ski jacket and warm winter clothes are still advised.
For footwear, again, keep it practical for snow and ice. Trainers with a chunky sole or even walking shoes are a good idea.
The verdict on Avoriaz and Snowboxx Festival
For top quality ski and snowboard terrain, Avoriaz is a no brainer. Its probably one of the best places to ski in Europe and even late on in the season the snow cover is decent.
Snowboxx as a festival is absolutely top level and well worth getting stuck in. The festival vibe in the town makes it that much more vibrant and adds an Ibiza-esque feel to the ski side of things. I mean that in a good way. If you get the chance I highly recommend getting yourself to Snowboxx festival!