Often dubbed the winter alternative to Ibiza, the end-of-season festival snowbombing blasts off an heroic, round-the-clock one-for-the-road in the austrian wintersports mecca in the zillertal valley.
Monday 9 April
Awwwww… I was there, Risoul, French Pyrenees, March 2000, when Snowbombing took its first steps, and I’ve been back almost every year since. Now it’s all grown up. The 2007 remix has a concert stage custom-built on the slopes 1000m above the town, 13 party venues, 125 imported DJs, a stack of live bands and 2,500 British party people flocking into this cute little town. As usual, my first hours are spent bumping into loads of faces I know both from boarding and the music scene.
Already there are too many bands, DJs and parties to choose from. Dance nights offer hip-hop, breakbeat, drum and bass, techno and house, and the featured bands on the mountain and in town play everything from indie to ska to punk pop. My first hangover’s earned checking out hip-hop, breaks and drum & bass mash-up merchants Scratch Perverts , followed by DJ Fresh in the Arena. Heavy!
Tuesday 10 April
Here I am (right), ripping it up. Everyone’s getting busy up on the hill. The borderline-tropical sunshine that beams down on the Zillertal valley all week long makes for a lot of slush, but the 143km of runs at your disposal means a little effort will always find you some decent wide-open cruisers, pulse-pumping steeps and backcountry adventures. And if you‘re determined to get the best of the location, a Superski Zillertal 3000 pass accesses another 480km of pistes within the valley, including the Tux glacier, where you can ride the world’s highest double chair up to 3,475m and suck up views of Austria, Germany and Italy. Just don’t miss the last gondola. Some friends of mine who did can confirm it’s a long, long walk to Mayrhofen.
Wednesday 11 April
It’s my shift on the decks up at the snow park, where pros are competing in Highway to Hell, a slopestyle event which comes on more like a friendly, relaxed jam session. No one’s sniffing at the £5,000 prize money, but this event isn’t part of any bigger competitive circuit, and the 20-odd boarders and skiers taking part have done all their big contests for the season. The work is done, and they relax into it like no other event all year. Spectators lounge in deckchairs lapping up the action as they work on their goggle tans, chug beers and tell me how I’m doing by nodding to the beats and breaking out shit-eating grins.
It’s all very well having a plan of what bands and DJs you want to see, but one of the beauties of Snowbombing is just going with the flow and seeing what happens. I stumbled on stacks of great DJs last year by chance, and it’s a great chance to catch up with lots of up and coming bands you haven’t come across yet, with brilliant names like Frogs in Socks, Pull Tiger Tail and People Are Germs. My personal biggest live music discovery of 2007 was indie boys Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. whose set at the huge, spanking new Europahaus venue tonight is an eye-opener.
Thursday 12 April
There’s always a tangible build-up of excitement over the week, and by the time it’s my turn at the decks, at my label Finger Lickin’ Records’ party also featuring A Skillz, Soul of Man and Krafty Kuts at the Schlussel, fondly known among Snowbombers as ‘the sweat box’, the mood is full-on. There’s a queue around the block when I turn up with my record bag, and it’s an intense night of basslines, beats and breaks, spiced up with everything from fat, funky hip-hop to old-school classics. As ever, the event has created an instant, inclusive sense of community – most of the crowd are in their 20s, but there are plenty of 30-somethings here, and at least one guy in his 50s (lonesome lady riders may wish to note women here are outnumbered by five to one), and it’s not just the young ‘uns getting their groove on. And, though you might not expect it of a holiday resort swamped by Brits, there’s never a whiff of trouble, just an atmosphere that’s sweet as you like.
Can’t quite call time on the night, so I head to the nightly 5-7am ‘Carry On’ session in the Garage, an underground car park with a real original rave atmosphere.
Friday 13 April
Nonsense rules the streets. To keep everyone in the kind of overindulged adult crèche vibe we’re all getting used to, the organisers lay on surreal activities and entertainment which bring a touch of Glasto to the mountains, from Snowman Frisbee to Space Hopper races to endless excuses for dressing up. Themes this year include fat suits, pimps, protesting Austrian farmers and ‘80s keep-fit videos. And tonight’s Street Party hasn’t even started yet.
Saturday 14 April
The Cuban Brothers have a freaky knack for tapping into a crowd’s party spirit and bouncing it right back, jacking the mass hysteria up a few more gears. Their act at the Arena starts out with this bizarre family of cheesy, oversexed Cuban comedy characters trading knockabout smutty gags to some cheese-tastic party classics (Lionel Ritchie’s All Night Long, anyone?), before they unleash some serious singing, DJing and headspinning b-boy skills, inevitably culminating in their trademark strip down to some deeply suspect underwear. Stir in a crowd already hyped from a week’s riding and partying, and off goes the roof.
Sunday 15 April
I stumble into the transfer bus, toasted. I need to get home to my wife and have a cup of tea.
Mayrhofen, Austria, www.mayrhofen.at
Mid-range: Inghams (www.inghams.co.uk)
Budget: J2Ski (www.j2ski.com)
Season dates: 1 Dec-6 Apr