March 2019 saw the seventh Snowboxx Festival in Avoriaz, France. Gone Travelling went to check out the mountain air and the festival aprés vibes.
Avoriaz is a curious beast. A purpose built ski resort, it’s unlike any place I’ve been before – mostly because I haven’t been to a French Alpine resort before. Built in the 1930’s, the landscape is almost exclusively high rise wood clad building. But despite me dubbing it the Costa del Snow, it doesn’t look ugly. Quite the opposite in fact.
The second odd thing about Avoriaz is that there is no road traffic, save for snow ploughs and horse drawn carriages. We’re lucky that we’re staying in an apartment block that is easily accessible from the road. But for the bus loads of revellers who are staying on the other side of town, dragging suitcases through ankle deep snow doesn’t look like much fun.
Main street Avoriaz is actually called the Boulevard de Skieurs. And indeed, you can ski down the main street, pop into Carrefour for a bite to eat and then jump on the drag lift back to the top. Odd, but pretty cool.
My hotel is L’Amara Residences, a 5 star block of apartments right on the edge of town. The view from our balcony is exceptional, with views across the valley making it quite a sight to wake up to in the morning.
Like most apartments in Avoriaz, it’s self catering, with full kitchen facilities including the option to hire a raclette grill from the reception for free. Obviously something that has to be done during your stay…
Crucially there is also a coffee machine for those early morning espresso fixes, although the walk to the patisserie for the morning croissant is a bit of a slog. First world problems and all that.
Ski in/Ski out
I’m actually in town for the Snowboxx festival, but that isn’t kicking off ’til this evening. So, I have to remember how to snowboard for the day, which is always fun.
My hotel backs on to a long meandering green run, an easy slope for beginners, which runs for easily a couple of kilometers through wooded glades. Perfect for finding my feet. Or actually, for my face to find the snow numerous times.
Once I’ve found my footing, exploring the slopes around Avoriaz turns out to be nothing short of fantastic. There is a wide variety of slopes and the blue runs around the Lindarets bowl demand repeat visits, so I basically pass a whole day doing that.
As a crap intermediate snowboarder, the terrain is perfect. Wide, varied, plenty of room to not kill anyone (although I do come close a couple of times) and with stunning views all around.
It’s Snowboxx 2019! Aprés ski in any resort is normally a raucous affair, with music, drinking and dancing a fairly standard occurrence. We rock up to Folie Douce, the first aprés bar you come to as you head back into town from the mountain. The vibe is definitely festival, with dancing on tables, streamers and a multitude of dance classics keeping salopette clad booties shaking til sunset.
Talking of sunsets, another cool feature of Avoriaz is that it’s on top of the mountain, meaning you get the full sunset panorama. Something that you often miss in valley based ski resorts (I’m looking at youMayrhofen).
Our team head off to refuel at La Cabane, a pleasant venue for evening meal complete with lounge singers. Everyone has tartiflette, except me who has chicken. I stare longingly at the tartiflette while everyone says how lovely it is. The chicken is good though.
Suitably full of food, we head off to the Snowboxx main stage. Rudimental’s DJ Locksmith is the headline act for the evening, and he doesn’t disappoint. The playlist skips between funky mashups, drum and bass and happy house beats. It’s the perfect introduction to the festival and a good way to burn off some of that rich food…
Aprés Aprés Ski
With Rudimental’s hits still ringing in our ears we head to the XX club. We’re greeted by some pretty deep and bass heavy techno vibes, which get the heads nodding as soon as we arrive. That intensifies as the headline act, Madam X steps up to the decks.
Now, I’m pretty sore and tired from day one on the snow, but the music is pretty thumping. I give it my best before conceding that I’m old and I want to go boarding again early.
The Avoriaz ski area is actually part of the much bigger Portes du Soleil. With over 600 kilometers of interlinked pistes, including some in neighbouring Switzerland, you’ve got a lot of mountain to explore.
We’ve just got the pass for Avoriaz, which is more than enough. With about 75 kilometers of pistes, over 50 lifts and 5 ski parks, I think even the most hardened ski enthusiast would be well at home.
Day two sees me cover a lot of ground, but still barely scratch the surface. More than half the terrain is perfectly suited to beginners and intermediates, but not always ideal for snowboarders. Those long flat straights need a bit of speed to get over, and me being crap, that doesn’t always happen.
But one thing I can say is that considering this is the end of the season, conditions are perfect. Blue skies, plenty of snow and a bit of a chilly wind to freshen you up.
The end of our second day takes us to Matra eFatbikes for an excursion into the snow with a bit of a difference. These electric powered mountain bikes offer a little bit of battery powered assistance, with a motor boosting your pedal power by up to 300 percent. The fat tyres mean they cruise through the snow and the motor takes the effort out of climbing up hills. Getting used to the gear changing and managing the motor takes a few minutes, but eventually our guide Jerémié encourages us to try out drifting and even doing some jumps.
The Fatbikes are a great way to experience the view in a different way, heading through forest trails out onto ridges with to drink in the stunning mountain vistas. The whole experience lasts around two hours and includes a visit to a local farm shop to stock up on local cheese. Well, it is France!
The Igloo Party
After a solid second day, it’s back to the festival vibes and tonight we’re off to get a drum n bass fix in an Igloo.
Getting to the Igloo involves catching a snowcat bus through the town and halfway up the mountain. It’s not the most glamorous ride I’ve ever had. But as we approach the bass is booming and, to add to the vibe, the snow starts to fall.
The view from the igloo is stunning, with twinkling lights and the town spread out below us. But theres no getting around the fact that the snow storm is really starting to pick up now… But the music makes sure there’s plenty of foot stomping and head nodding to keep everyone toasty.
DJ Becky Saif kicks off the fun, with some serious rolling drum and bass, with Wilkinson going all in with the jump up dnb vibes. The whole experience could quite really be described as ‘epic’, with a full on snow storm, booming music and the incredible view making the whole shebang a memorable experience.
The Snowboxx Experience
The whole ski resort based festival was a new experience for me, but for those who love to mix up their music with a bit of something else, Snowboxx has got to be a contender.
Avoriaz itself is a great resort, and I’d highly recommend it to any level of snowboarder or skier. It isn’t the cheapest place of been for snow, but the prices aren’t prohibitive either. And regular visitors to France won’t be too surprised by the slight premium on food and drink.
We see out our Snowboxx 2019 experience with a main stage event with DJ Wilkinson, giving us a more mainstream version of the Igloo party set. Its a high energy goodbye to a high energy break and one I would love to come back to again as soon as possible…
- Where: Avoriaz, Haute Savoie, France
- Transfer time: Geneva, 1 hour 40
- Lift pass: Avoriaz only €44 per day, or 5 days €224
Ready to head off to Avoriaz? We recommend booking your ski trip with Sunweb who offer fantastic deals across the Alps, including Avoriaz.
Snowboxx takes place over a week in mid March, so it’s end of season stuff. Tickets go on sale in early winter, best to keep an eye on Snowboxx.com for early bird offers. Tickets with accommodation and festival wristband started at £239 in 2019.