We Went To Snowboxx And Rock The Pistes To See If The Portes Du Soleil Ski Area Is France's Ultimate Mountain Music Festival Destination
One day you're watching Stormzy, the next you're watching the "French Rod Stewart."
"I ain't ever played anywhere like this before. There's horses, and carriages, and shit," Stormzy announces to the seriously hyped crowd laid out for him at Snowboxx, "South London...MAKE SOME NOISE!"
We're not in South London, of course, but nobody in the crowd seems to care. The Snowboxx mob are in Avoriaz; finishing off their day of skiing and snowboarding in the French Alps by witnessing one of the UK's most popular grime stars deliver the kind of crowd pleasing set that's impossible not to love (whether you're a grime fan, or not).
"I ain't ever played anywhere like this before. There's horses, and carriages, and shit..."
When he drops his hit song 'Shut Up', the crowd revel in such lines as "Mention my name in your tweets, Oi rudeboy, shut up" and "Best in the scene? Tell my man, yo, yo." It's the standout tune of the night, and illustrates perfectly why so many people now flock to this music festival in the mountains year on year.
Music mountain festivals are big business these days, with the Portes Do Soleil region home to not one but two of the things: Rock The Pistes, as well as the aforementioned Snowboxx. Snowboxx is all about the dance music, while Rock The Pistes (as the name might suggest) has more of a pop-rock focus. They're both run over the course of the same week so if you're someone with versatile music tastes, you're in luck.
Morzine, of course, has one of the best après-ski scenes in Europe so as a destination it's pretty much the perfect base from which to ramp up the good times. Lovers of fresh locally brewed beer, tasty food, and cool bars need to check out Le Bec Jaune while they're in this particular neck of the woods.
During the course of our week sampling both the festivals, I come to the realisation that events like these are the perfect accompaniment to a skiing trip. Live music is effectively the pepper to skiing's salt, the gin to its tonic, the mango chutney to its array of poppadoms. It enhances the whole experience.
On one of our days over in Châtel, we spend a morning savouring the spectacular slopes over on the Swiss side, before flying on a giant 140 metre high zip wire called 'Fantasticable' - hitting speeds of 100km/h while doing so. When that's done and dusted and we've checked to see that everyone in our group is still breathing, we go and watch a man, who's wearing more black leather at the same time than anyone has before or since, sing some songs at a Rock The Pistes gig.
The man with seriously strong feelings for black leather is, it transpires, Hubert Félix Thiefane. Hubert, I'm assured by a member of our group, is the "French Rod Stewart." Hubert would no doubt argue that Rod Stewart is the "British Hubert Félix Thiefane" but let's save that debate for another time. Rock the Pistes is fun. I embrace Hubert's songs, even if I have no idea what he's singing about, sample the beer on offer and generally have a really good afternoon.
The bluebird skies and snowy mountain setting here are the ultimate backdrop for live music. Throw in the ready availability of hot fondue, a cheese-based opportunity that a big group of lads stood right down the front of the stage were clearly not passing up, and you've got yourself a winning combo.
"...we go and watch a man, who’s wearing more black leather at the same time than anyone has before or since, sing some songs..."
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. The wide and diverse selection of skiable terrain in Portes Du Soleil is the embodiment of that ideal. Combine that with the fact this ski area is home to two contrasting styles of music festivals simultaneously - offering different strokes for different folks as it were, and the feeling that there really is something for everyone in this part of the world is reinforced.
Whether you're a beginner skier, an intermediate skier, or a full blown expert skier; you can happily ski about this place without ever skiing the same slope twice. Likewise for the music at the festivals. There's substantial fresh sounds for everyone, and enough of a mixture to keep all types of music lovers happy. If you want a ski trip that will satisfy your love for both skiing and music, for one week in March - this really is the place to be.
For more information on this year's Rock The Pistes and Snowboxx, visit the websites. A thanks, also, must go to Crystal Ski Holidays for keeping a roof above our head during the entirety of our stay.
Crystal Ski Holidays (www.crystalski.co.uk; 020 8939 0726) offers a week's half-board at the two-star Hotel Beau Regard in Morzine from £555 per person (based on two sharing) and a week's self-catering at the four-star les Chalets D’Angele in Chatel from £545 per person (based on four sharing), both including flights from Gatwick to Geneva and transfers (price given is for departure on 18 March 2017). Direct flights available from all major UK airports.