Top 10 Ski & Snow Festivals Around The World
Winter is the perfect time to get away and enjoy the cold weather, leave the sun for summer! I love snow sports, they are a real passion of mine and because of this I tend to travel a lot during the winter because snow sports are seasonal. A lot of the destinations I’ve been to also host some crazy festivals combined with skiing so it’s a no brainer for me – my perfect getaway! But I also love a bit of culture, and love the cold as well so exploring some of the best ice and snow sculptures around the world has also been added to my travel bucketlist. So here we go, these are my Top 10 Ski & Snow Festivals around the world:
1: Polaris – Verbier, Switzerland
The snow is waiting and so are the electro beats! So what are you waiting for!? How could I start this list with any other festival but the award-winning Polaris Festival? You’ll find it in the Verbier resort as it opens the ski season to all enthusiastic ski-ers and party lovers. With three glorious days of skiing or boarding and listening to some of the best music in electro and techno, you’ll never want it to end! You can hit the slopes during the day (some of the best off-piste slopes) and then get ready to dance the night away at an altitude of 2,200 meters listening to incredible music by live artists.
Not only will the skiing and music be amazing, you’ll be able to take in the breathtaking views of The Alps…all at the same time. I went with friends last year because we love hitting the slopes asap, especially with some of the best in Europe. I’d recommend warm clothes and good shoes but any snow lover will know this already, however music buffs are also welcome to this as you can enjoy the amazing atmosphere the slopes bring during the day and maybe even start the partying early before apres ski! Your ticket is exchanged for a handy wristband when you enter – meant I didn’t have the chance to lose mine.
We flew into Zurich airport and got to the festival by train. It really was an experience I won’t forget anytime soon – and that was only 3 days!
2: Ice & Snow Festival – Harbin, China
This is one of the main tourist highlights of Harbin and the worlds biggest winter festival held since 1963! Sculptors and tourists travel from all over the world for this festival, it gets around 10 to 15 million visitors annually and it is easy to see why – it is incredible. At this event you are sure to see some of the worlds biggest and best in ice sculpture, I could barely believe my eyes when seeing some of the incredible sights, especially Ice and Snow World.
This festival runs from January through and beyond the Chinese New Year (Late February) therefore it is scarily cold, so you best wrap up in arctic clothing to ensure you don’t catch freeze bite in your fingers and toes!
Not only are there beautiful and huge ice sculptures to view (over 180,000 cubic meters of ice), they are illuminated to add to the Winter Magic of it all. The ice is sourced from the Harbin’s Songhua River.
There are three ‘theme parks’ at this festival, which are: Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, Harbin Ice and Snow World and Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair. All are equally impressive but the Ice and Snow World was definitely my favourite and deemed as the most important of the three.
Top Tip: Avoid this festival during the Chinese New Year (15th-23rd February 2018) because it is crazy here with so many people and the hotels are even more expensive to stay in. So, my advice is to go earlier rather than later – it is open from 24th/25th December but the opening day is 5th January.
3: World Ski & Snowboard Festival – Whistler, Canada
Calling all ski & snowboard lovers! Whistler, Canada hosts the World Ski and Snowboard Festival which is recognised as one of the largest winter sports and music events. It is the celebration of snowsports, music, and arts, 10 non-stop days of fun for everyone. This is the perfect event for the ski-enthusiasts as you admire the best of the best and test out some of your skills as well as enjoying the free events on the main stage. I loved some of the music at the festival as well as getting the chance to see some of the best board and ski handling in the world. There are so many free events you barely feel you’ve had to pay for a ticket and the bars and clubs in the area are also perfect for that apres ski drink!
4: Snowboxx – Avoriaz France
Another one of the greatest festivals I’ve been to throughout the year is Snowboxx. Move over sunny festivals in a field, music festivals in the slopes are where it is at. You’ll never find yourself bored at this festival with amazing pistes, music and other activities to get involved in. The music is next level for all of you who want techno, house, drum & bass…the list goes on! Even if you’re not feeling like the slopes or any more partying you can definitely get on board with paint balling, zorb bowling, snowball fights, karaoke…and honestly, so much more – there is never a dull moment!
We flew to Geneva and availed of the transfer from the airport to the resort which was included in the price when we booked through Snowboxx. Although the transfer time may seem long initially (2-3 hours), you’ll find yourself so lost in the views of the mountains around you that the time will fly by.
When arriving at the resort you’ll notice the lack of cars…just some horse and sleighs, ski lifts and of course you can walk around as well! Overall the resort is amazing with some of the best apres ski bars in the Alps. However, in the mornings the slopes are the most beautiful – this is when we saw the mornings – it meant the ones that partied too hard the night before until 4 am were still tucked up in their beds as we got to do some incredible skiing on the empty slopes.
An incredible electronic music and snowsports festival!
5: Rock the Pistes – Portes Du Soleil, France & Switzerland
“Rock the piste is a unique sensory experience, where pure snow + pure mountain views + pure sound = 100% pure pleasure”…a big claim but also massively true! Some could describe this as the best music and snowsports combo and I wouldn’t disagree. At this festival, you’ll find potentially more universal music than the ones I’ve mentioned before.
For this festival, if you’ve got your ski pass you are good to go because it is your pass to all the gigs as well, handy right? With just your ski pass you’ll get some of the best skiing as well as some of the best selection of musicians every day. The festival is spread over several resorts in the region with piste-side concerts so you can dance the day away in your ski boots between skiing or snowboarding on the beautiful slopes.
6: Sapporo Snow Festival – Hokkaido, Japan
An annual festival in Sapporo Japan in February which displays and shows off beautifully crafted statues and ice sculptures made of snow! This festival first started out with a one-day event as students build snow statues in Odori Park but since then it has become more commercialised with visitors attending from around the world to see the snow creations.
In total there around 400 snow statues that stand proud and nicely lit throughout the festival. Interestingly, if the snowfall is light in some years the snow is brought in from outside of Sapporo by the Ground Self-Defense Force as training!
At this festival there are three sites to see and explore; Odori Park, Tsu Dome Site (The Community Dome) and Susukino Site.
Odori Park is where this festival all began and therefore it is still the main site of the event with large lit up snow sculptures and over 100 smaller snow statues to admire.
Tsu Dome Site is really a family area with fun snow slides and snowrafting areas for both adults and kids to enjoy. Inside the dome, at this site, there is also great food stalls and a stage which events run during the course of the festival.
Finally, Susukino Site boasts one hundred ice sculptures and contest areas for sculptors to come and compete.
7: Kiruna Snow Festival – Sweden
There is a wide selection at this festival from activities and events which range from reindeer races to skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating as well as the obvious which is the ice-sculpting display and contest. On top of this, there is delicious food and live performances of music and theatre as well as some cultural events which celebrate the Swedes and indigenous Sami people.
The contest requires teams of sculptors to compete against each other by working their creative flair on a 3×3 meter block of snow! These (along with other sculptures) are displayed to view and visit until they melt with the incoming Spring weather.
You’ll feel the cold in the most Northernly town in Sweden so wrap up warm for some of the great activities you could be taking part in at the Kiruna Snow Festival!
8: Ice Music Festival Geilo – Norway
A different but amazing type of music festival… the other festivals really do take ice sculpting to the next level but this one does it twice over. Not only is the venue entirely made out of ice and snow, not only is the art only made of light and snow but the actual instruments being used as the festival as made of entirely ice and snow. It is an incredible sight to see a cello or brass instrument made of ice like that!
This festival takes place on every first full moon of the year and although this year it might have had to be cancelled they have reorganised the event for February 2nd & 3rd 2018 but has been relocated to Finse, Norway due to lack of snow and ice in the original location.
9: Spring Back to Vail, USA.
Ski season may be coming to a close but Vail is ready to turn the volume up for one last time before the season ends. You can enjoy apres ski along with great live music and night-long partying. This festival celebrates the hotter weather coming in so you can be sure you’ll see those skier tan lines coming in quick and fast here with this weekend of events. Even better, most of the events are free! There is even an annual event of people grabbing costumes to go across the icy water in the Annual Pond Skimming Championships!
Vail is an amazing mountain resort for skiing and it has always been a favourite of mine for vacation because not only can you hit the slopes you can also enjoy the great shopping, spas and great food in the areas. It’s like no where else I’ve been to!
10: Altitude Comedy Festival – Mayrhofen
This festival really is the perfect one for me, it has it all from breathtaking snow-topped mountain views to laughing your way down the mountains with some of the best comedians in the world at this resort. It has been named one of the funniest shows on the snow and I cannot disagree. There are some truly unbeatable lineups with Jimmy Carr, Sean Lock, Kevin Bridges, Frankie Boyle…all of the best British and worldwide comedies have been there or are going to want to go there.
Even if you are a skiing or snowboard novice you don’t have to worry at this festival, you can either learn with some top-notch lessons or you can preoccupy yourself with some of the other activities there is to offer in the area, such as; cycling, paragliding, tobogganing, horse-riding…There is even an underground natural ice palace, Hintertux Glacier which is beautifully hidden beneath the ski slopes with frozen waterfalls and glacial lakes – it is amazing!
You’ll not be stuck for something to do and if your idea of a holiday is to go out at night to big parties then you’ll not miss out on that either on this holiday. On top of partying, skiing and laughing your socks off you can also be sure of good food and drink!
As you can tell I love the slopes but I also love culture, music festivals and comedy – who says you can only explore in the sun!? Bring on the snow for me, and bring on some off-peak traveling to some peak locations with amazing entertainment and fun.
I am an adventurous sales consultant from America. I work so that I can travel around the world beyond the 50 states of the USA, but also in them. I really enjoy solo travel and suggest everyone try it at least once but I also love taking to the slopes with my friends.