There’s nothing quite like blinding white, early-morning mountain sun, a blast of crisp, cold air and an Alpine valley stretching ahead of you to start your day. Welcome to Avoriaz, sitting on a cliff-face at 1,800m – and the only fully pedestrianized resort in France. It is also home to Snowboxx, a week-long music festival where you can combine skiing with partying, electronic music, late-night DJ sets and forest raves. As it’s ski-in, ski-out and vehicle free, you can get everywhere by foot. Better still, take a horse-drawn carriage to get around.
Part of Portes du Soleil, one of the world’s largest ski areas, offering some 600km of ski runs, Avoriaz is a modern resort that crisscrosses France and Switzerland. It was purpose-built in the 1960s, with high-rises and chalets sharp-angled and wooden-clad, working in sympathy with the mountains.
What better home for Snowboxx, which sees festival-goers heading from the slopes to La Folie Douce, an enormous terrace bar with DJs? There are five stages in the Snowboxx village featuring 70 acts offering house, techno, and drum’n’bass. The 2023 lineup includes Armand van Helden, Becky Hill, DJ EZ, Hannah Wants and Paul Woolford.
During my visit, the dress code for the Snowboxx bottomless brunch – a festival highlight – was 80s retro. Whatever the theme is, you can be sure that fancy dress will be involved.
The scene on the terrace of Le Grand Café, conveniently close to L’Amara Residences, the cozy-luxe apartment block where we were staying, was very much vintage all-in-ones, hot pants, leggings and mirror shades. Thanks to the DJs, we were soon dancing off our croissant and cheese.
Later on we took a series of chairlifts and skied across to the Cookie Café, the highest restaurant in Portes du Soleil at 2,227m, where we shared a delicious pizza and enjoyed the breathtaking 360-degree view. That evening, after more skiing in the afternoon, we fortified ourselves with an appropriately heart-stopping fondue at bar-restaurant Le Chapka, before heading off to the main arena for more Snowboxx DJ sets. An unexpected surprise is how fun a skiing trip can be once you throw dancing and music into the mix.
The next day we made a pit-stop at Les Lindarets, a beguiling hamlet that is home to grazing goats in summer and an excellent Savoie restaurant called La Crémaillère.
“Welcome to paradise” was chalked on the chalet blackboard. After eating their sautéed potatoes and Savoyard cabbage, trout and prawn salad and blueberry tart, I can see why. I took four photographs of the pie alone. I think it was love.
My lunch choices might sound excessive, but our group had had an eventful morning ski-joëring. This Scandinavian equine sport, introduced to St Moritz in 1906, is sometimes described as a cross between skiing and horse sliding – which is when your horse comes to an abrupt, sliding stop. Being dragged along on the snow holding on to a semi-rigid harness while your horse clipped through the forest taking unexpected bends at a pace was something of a challenge. The hearty lunch was my reward, followed by an afternoon steam in the L’Amara spa’s hammam – another perk of a skiing holiday offering as much fun off the slopes as on them.
Snowboxx, 18-25 March 2023. Prices start at £299 per person for a 7-day stay, including accommodation and a festival wristband; snowboxx.com. Avoriaz tourism is at avoriaz.com; L’Amara Residences at pierreetvacances.com; skijoring at en.avoriaz-skijoering.com
Five of the best European comedy and music festivals
Austria: Altitude Comedy Festival The lineup at this comedy festival in Mayrhofen ski resort (above) in the Zillertal Valley includes Marcus Brigstocke, Ivan Brackenbury, Emmanuel Sonubi and Cerys Nelmes. April 3-7; altitudefestival.com
France: European Gay Ski Week At Les Arcs in the Paradiski ski area; highlights include DJs, clubs, cabarets, a pool party and fine dining. March 18-25; europeangayskiweek.com
Switzerland: Zermatt Unplugged An acoustic music festival on the Matterhorn (below). More than 120 concerts over five days on 16 different stages featuring international artists, including Peter Maffay, Alice Merton and Patent Ochsner. April 11-15; zermatt-unplugged.ch
Italy: Swing on Snow Seiser Alm Winter Music Festival Concerts are free at this traditional folk festival on the slopes and in the villages on the Seiser Alm in the South Tyrol. Includes folk, jazz, soul and classical music. March 15-19; seiseralm.it
France: Tomorrowland Winter Dance music festival (above) in the south-facing Alpe d’Huez resort, part of the Grand Domaine ski area. Lineup includes Afrojack, Kölsch and Axwell. March 18-25; tomorrowland.com