Snowbombing: Data Transmission Gets High
A man in a pocahontas costume is telling two penguins that they should opt for the hot rum. It’s cheaper than the beer, after all.
Data Transmission is high.
6,000 feet high, to be precise. Met at the airport by a transfer bus and quickly learning that Jager at Snowbombing festival is a religion as much as a drink, we’re now stood on one of Mayrhofen’s many peaks, facing the inaccurately-named Superdry Arctic Disco, which comprises an enormous igloo filled with fancy-dress wearing, retro-ski-gear rocking jager-downing reprobates listening to Rudimental, who themselves are currently playing a house-party style set. Things would continue to descend later in the cable car as Rudimental’s trumpeteer led an impromptu version of the the Samba. We’ve been here just 5 hours.
Snowbombing is now in it’s fourteenth year. What started out as a budget ski holiday where owner Gareth Cooper invited a couple of DJ friends out to play the apres-ski bars in exchange for free flights has become one of the hottest festival fixtures on the map: booking household name line-ups and blazing the trail for an entirely new breed of festival: snow festivals. It’s attracted a cult following: many of the crowd are return visitors. The Snowbombing Road Trip sees around 200 cars cross from the UK to Austria, met mid-week by a town-wide carnival. Fancy dress at parties is taken to a near-professional level. Eddie The Eagle gives speeches in the town’s bars, whilst, if you’re feeling the guilt about that 4am pizza slice, Mr Motivator himself takes aerobics classes on a daily basis. Really, you need to see this to believe it. But, we’re going to try our best to lay it out for you anyway:
The last time there was this much condensation on our cameras was with our ill fated SBTRKT In The Steamroom documentary
“We don’t see ourselves as purely an electronic festival, we’re more a dance festival that evolves” Foxes and Tom Odell did indeed make appearances at the festival, to packed crowds in each instance, however the overriding sound of Snowbombing was electronic. PBR Streetgang, Ben Pearce, Kolsch, Nina Kraviz all played bombastic sets whilst Groove Armada took things down an entirely new route with a tech-house heavy DJ Set, and headliners The Prodigy were, well, The Prodigy. Loud, roaring, strobe-smacking, live-drum-boshing, hammered-MC-in-the-crowd-ing madness at Snowbombing’s forest stage. Perhaps, in the midst of clubs, stadiums and field festivals it’s just the sheer novelty of DJing at a ski resort, but the artists here brought their game. Nina Kraviz pulling off an unforgiving belter of a tech-house set, Groove Armada making no apologies for their dramatic new style, Rudimental playing early-noughties house party classics at the arctic party disco, Jakwob doing the same at the Honda bar up the mountain and James Zabiela playing a surprisingly housey offering at the forest-party stage: the line-up was not only impressive, the artists themselves seemed to love being there.
Check out Skream and Artwork (under his Grain alias) going back to back in the Artic Disco above
Veterans of Snowbombing will have noticed a change in this year’s venues. Up the mountain, the Eskimo-warehouse that is the Superdry Arctic Disco remains as panoramic and otherworldly as always, whilst the Honda Snowpark Terrace sees a beefed up soundsystem. Meanwhile, back in the town, new venues Airlock & The Mothership accompany the Racket Club in offering a more festival-like massive-club experience. The Arena remains a fond reminder of student-night esque gritty 4am basement-venue beats whilst the Mountain Stage continues to be Snowbombing’s prize – a stage set deep in an alpine forest – lasers and lights cutting through 80 foot tall trees.
The addition of the new venues replacing the older, more traditional apres-ski like bars marks a sea change for Snowbombing. Some will miss the novelty of watching the likes of Seth Troxler playing in a ski-lodge, however the new installments are serious, big sound affairs- and for those that came here with a vested interest in the music, this sees an upgrade to Snowbombing’s offering.
So what kind of people decide to go a rave halfway up a mountain? Well, quite a lot of you actually. This year some 8,000 people descended on Mayrhofen – a mixture of mid-twenties onwards. Some were clearly here for the music, though most were here for the wider event: for the costumes, for the daytime parties and for the sheer novelty of skiing up to a bar with DJs playing. Perhaps the most reassuring thing DT saw this entire event was Day 4 at the Honda Snowpark Terrace bar, where an individual (who may or may not have had a double-barrelled name, possibly starting with Hugo or Tobias) decided to get up on a picnic table (“They’re not tables, they’re private dancefloors” the MC noted) and spray the crowd with champagne. The result was approximately 150 people in perfect unison pelting said individual with snowballs until he fell off the table. Unity and the fight against elitism. Snowbombing will stay healthy for years to come, we think.
Ibiza has begun to develop a scent of the affluent, Croatia has a head-down, serious-about-shuffling feel. Snowbombing is a riot. The event is slick, well run, organised, but it still has the chaotic, house-party feel of it’s first year: a stage in the main town greets the rally with a performance from the locally-infamous Austrian Filter Disco with hits like an interpretation of Breach’s Jack “I like your Sausage, everybody likes your sausage so let’s Schlap….” and Armand van Helden’s Barbara Streisand rework by “Hans The Butcher”. The effort put into costumes would make even the most well-budgeted theatre company blush and every drunk, hungover or grey-area individual we bumped into in the bars, on the slopes or 4am in the smoking areas was utterly insistent that they’d be back next year. Whether or not you’re a seasoned festival veteran, there’s just something a little bit wonderful about rolling out of bed at 9am with a stonking hangover and ice-blasting it with a chairlift and morning pint at several thousand feet. In years to come, DT’s doctor will inform us that it was at this point the chain of events that took years off our life started, but for a week, it’s sure as hell fun.
Snowbombing is slowly but surely set to become a franchise. Rumours of Snowbombing USA have started swirling, and it’s not hard to see why. Other snow festivals have grown up around this seminal event, however these have only lifted Snowbombing’s profile higher as the original party on the piste. It’s certainly not the cheapest festival in the game, but it’s one of the few festivals where there is no like-for-like equivalent. This reads like a gushing review. That’s because, it is. We loved this festival, and we’ll be back next year, provided our heads, ski-booted-shins and wallets have recovered!
Secret Tips –
-You’re gonna have to eat real food at some point. Hans The Butcher, located toward the top of the town serves takeaway to rival any London foodie pop-up
-Hotel Strass, whilst being one of the more upmarket hotels in the town, has some of the cheapest pints. Worth consideration as your 6pm evening-starter drink.