Snowbombing 2016 – A Reflection

Art & Culture

More used to the safety of the Ransom Note HQ dungeon, with our lefter than leftfield musical pretensions soundtracking our long days chained to the keyboard complaining about the world, we’d be the first ones to hold our hands up and say that Snowbombing – renowned for its young, adventurous and ‘up for it’ crowds – might not have been Ransom Note’s first choice for a holiday. Not that snow and ice doesn’t excite us – well even that didn’t till a few years ago but let’s not get into that or we’ll be here all day – it’s just more that on skiing holidays, for us 7am is generally the time of the first lift, not when you’re getting to bed. So we had wondered if we were up for the gauntlet thrown down by the enthusiastic – yup we’re not very good at that either – press agent’s invitation and how we’d fit in, in all of this. The verdict? It turns out it’s virtually impossible to not have fun at Snowbombing, whoever you are and whatever you’re into.

Close up ice is great.

Arriving on the Wednesday night of the festival in the picture postcard/chocolate box (etc etc) Austrian resort of Mayrhofen – where the festival takes place across the first week of April – we’re hastily bustled into a cable car and 2000m up a mountain. As a blizzard beats around us we clamber up a slope of snow and ice and into the White Lounge, aka the Arctic Disco for the duration of the festival.  An immense solid ice sculpture, the low-lit igloo houses its own bar and DJ booth and carefully crafted ice sculptures that transcend deep into the walls. It’s pretty impressive and tonight the igloo plays host to My Nu Leng and Hannah Wants, who quickly, easily and surprisingly pull us onside. Not that there was any way out of this if we wanted to.

Yes, I did stick my hand in the air like I just didn't care.

Four hours of Gluhwein (mulled wine to us more simple folk) and Jager soak dancing with blizzard bracing toilet interludes ensues. Back down the mountain, the streets are swelling with Snowbomb-ers on their Apres-finding missions filling myriad bars, restaurants and the late-night clubs where the party continues into the night with Henrik Schwarz and Bicep kicking proverbial holes in the wooden rave chalet that is Bruck n’ Stadl. At no point does any of this feel oppressive or intimidating. There’s an excited but controlled air to the town that continues throughout our whole stay there.

Pistonbully, also known as monster from the deep.

The following day we’re up at the crack of dawn, bleary-eyed but anticipating the mountain. On a more practical point we’re impressed to discover one of the smartest ideas we’ve come across in a ski resort; being able to hire ski equipment at the top of the mountain as opposed to down in town, in turn avoiding our clumsy gondola entrance and exits. On that note too the resort has recently had a brand new gondola installed, eradicating queues to get on the slopes. Even the toilets are of the highest quality, with views out across the ranges whilst emptying one’s bladder. Think the glass fronted toilets of New York’s Standard Hotel but with snow. As we reach the summit, sadly the weather draws in and we’re faced with full white-out as we ski into the abyss. Rompa’s Reggae Shack – a bar at the bottom of a confluence of pistes – offers some respite from the weather with Farm Yardies and Barely Legal soundtracking our descents.

Local schnapps; turnip, apricot and 'local' flavours

Local specialities in the form of turnip and apricot schnapps ensure we’re fully fuelled for the afternoon. When we call it a day and are in need of stretching those muscles out, who’s at the bottom of the final descent but festival mainstay Mr Motivator? This could be cheesy, but it’s far from that. It’s a bar full of people all working out to a 63 year old man in neon lycra, laughing and smiling towards the end of a long day. It's actually amazing.

Yes, yes I do want his spandex… and what of it?

This is what’s so impressive about the festival; the degrees of detail and organisation that go into producing it. It’s not just a case of stick people up a mountain in the daytime and tear it up at night. At the bottom of nearly every descent at there’s something new to keep you entertained, always with exceptional sound quality.

Back down in the town and in search of salvation in food we chance upon Tirol Steakhouse which serves up generous portions of cow, lobster pasta and mad bag. We follow this with our first look at The Racket Club, the main venue at the festival where the headliners are on display. It’s an impressive sports hall installed with an incredible soundsystem and lots and lots of lazers… we like lazers. Idris Elba plays many hits in this enormo-rave, followed by Shy FX who play all their hits. Skepta and Craig David round the evening out with a quick interlude to see Man Power.

It's over there somwhere I think mate... 

In terms of the snow and the slopes, as the festival takes place at the end of the season you’re always treading on metaphorical thin ice but Mayrhofen is traditionally a safe bet for late-season skiing and we’re rewarded on our second day with a fresh batch of snow. The ski area's 134kms of pistes are in good shape on the morning of Day 2, our legs from the day before are not. We venture further afield today and are rewarded with practically untouched slopes. Towards the end of the day we chance upon A Skillz dropping party funk whilst people dance on the tables in the snow. This could be our most ladd-y experience yet at the festival but there’s something about the atmosphere as the snow falls around us and the sense that we’re ‘all in it together’ that makes this far from it.

Down the mountain we pit stop at Gasser – a local stand-up favourite that serves cooked meat and bread by weight. Later on we trek to the top of the village for our first glimpse of probably the festival’s most impressive venue; The Forest Stage. As its name suggests it’s a stage nestled in amongst the trees and it’s pretty special. On this, the final night, the Prodigy headline. They play loads of their old really good ones, some not too bad sounding new ones and some of their more average, less recent ones. We jump in the air, we shout ‘Fuck em and their law’ and we leave high on adrenaline. The very late night rounds out with Mobilee back at Bruck N’ Stadl.

As we weave through stunning mountain and lake scenery on the bus back to Munich the next day, with last night still ringing in our ears we reflect on the festival and how it surpassed all our expectations.  The great thing with Snowbombing is that you can go your own way and at your own pace, which is exactly what we did and didn’t feel like we missed out on anything.

Last week’s three-day action was one of the most comprehensively well organised and slick operations we’ve experienced at a festival and it’s difficult to find fault with all it has to offer. Great crowd, great sound-systems, good food, excellent ski-ing and superb apres ski.

We’ll be back.

We left Tom, Jake and Man Power there to pursue a new path. They'll have probably got the hang of it by next year.