The Return of the Ski Festival | A Review of Tomorrowland Winter 2022

Our friends at ellesse invited us out to the French Alps for a big party and, naturally, we jumped at the chance. Welcome back ski trip / music festival hybrids, it's good to see you again

You know the old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?” Of course you do, that’s been the last two years of our lives. For me, that feeling came the most over COVID from two things – ski trips and music festivals.

Well, here we are. It’s the end of winter 2022. Restrictions have mostly lifted, and we’ve been itching to get back on the slopes one last time before summer fully enters the equation. With the sun starting to rise earlier and set later, it could mean only one thing. Yes, it’s music festival – ski trip crossover season!

If you’ve never heard of Tomorrowland, then you’re probably not that into music festivals. But if you have and you’re into electronic dance music, you’ve most likely dreamt of going and had it as the shining star at the top of your bucket list. These days, they have a winter version (aptly named Tomorrowland Winter) and, spoiler alert, it’s epic. 

When the legends at @ellesse and @fit_mg_uk offered us the chance to go to France to see what all the hype was about, we quickly took them up on the offer. 

“There’s something so much more special about a music festival on the mountain”

The Festival

Winter music festivals certainly aren’t a new thing and you’ve all probably had one too many pints at Apres Ski, so if you’ve never been to one before then you’re most likely halfway there. Now imagine Apres Ski, but there are about 18,000 people there and some of the biggest DJs in the world are playing for you on the mountain. Sounds alright, doesn’t it?

This year, Tomorrowland Winter ran from the 19th-26th of March, but the main festivities spanned four nights from Tuesday to Friday.

What has always set Tomorrowland apart is the out-of-this-world production they put into it, and the winter edition is certainly no exception. The stage setup is absolutely insane, albeit not as insane as the one you see at the summer version of Tomorrowland. Performers swing from the roof, flamethrowers galore… I just can’t even explain it – watch the videos below to see for yourself.

This year wasn’t Tomorrowland Winter’s first rodeo. They held one back in 2019 before you-know-what came along, but this year they came back in style. The 2022 edition was a little scaled back from the first one, but the sold-out event still drew 18,000 punters from all across the globe.

The 2022 mainstage. Photo by Tomorrowland

Unlike its older brother which has a bit more diversity in the music they play, the Tomorrowland Winter lineup this year was almost exclusively EDM artists (you know, the fist-pumpy one where you might end up with cake being thrown at you by Steve Aoki? Yeah, that kind).

Considering the festival ran at the same time as one of the biggest EDM festivals on earth, Ultra Music Festival Miami, the line-up featured some of the biggest names in dance music royalty including Armin Van Buuren, Afrojack, Dimitry Vegas & Like Mike, Martin Solveig and Steve Aoki. Now we know it’s an EDM festival after all but, if we’re being super-critical, it would have been good to see a bit more genre diversity delving into the house and techno genres like Tomorrowland does in Belgium. 

The festival runs from around lunchtime until 2am each day, so it’s a pretty hard slog if you tire easily. All the daytime stuff all happens on the mountain, and the nighttime stuff back down in town at the bottom of the slopes. There’s plenty of time to hit the slopes during the day – that is, of course, you’re not rolling out of bed at midday every day with a cracking hangover. 

Mainstage Arena

The festival arena is located just a few hundred metres from the bottom of the home runs. The fenced-off area is like any other festival really. Inside was the mainstage in a huge, two-level makeshift tent, The Cage which was the second biggest late-night arena was semi-underground in a sports hall, and there were a few outdoor bars like Brasa and the Moosebar, food and drink stalls as well as a merch hut.

According to one of the festival-goers I met in a gondola, the 2019 Tomorrowland Winter had two mainstages – the biggest one being outside on the edge of the slopes which sounded pretty epic. Here’s to hoping they bring it back next year. 

Check out Afrojack’s 2022 set to see what the mainstage looked like this year…

The Crystal Garden stage in Alp d’Huez. Photo by Tomorrowland / Dave Sips

Crystal Garden

What makes Alp d’Huez the perfect place for a winter festival is that both of the main daytime mountain festival bars are at the top of the home-runs straight back down into town where the festival grounds are. Both the Crystal Garden and Core stages have gondola access from town, so it’s easy to get back on foot as well as on ski.

Most of the DJs that hit the Crystal Garden were often ones that played the main stage later at night, but you’d never know. Their sets often varied and Apres Ski is fun at the best of times, so it really was just a big mountain party. The weather was perfect for it all week long as well – bluebirds every day.

Here’s Netsky hitting out some drum and bass bangers at the Crystal Garden…

The Crystal Garden stage in the foreground and home runs back down to town. Photo by Tomorrowland / Dave Sips

The Resort

Tomorrowland Winter is held in the French ski resort of Alp d’Huez. The main town where the festival arena and the bottom of the runs are is around 1860m above sea level, and the lifts take you as high as 3300m to the top of the Pic Blanc Glacier (the start of La Sarenne, the longest black run on earth). If you’re that way inclined, there are some pretty epic backcountry areas  here too. Check out our Locals’ Guide to Alp d’Huez if you want to know all about that.

It’s a pretty easy resort to get to if you’re flying in from, well, anywhere. Grenoble is the closest international airport to Alp d’Huez, but Lyon isn’t too far away either which has loads of flights coming in from all over the world.

As for the snow, we didn’t get any fresh powder while we were out there but it is pretty common to get some late winter dumps. And so, depending on when exactly you’re visiting, the chances of snow being in good form and you spending your days on the slopes here are usually pretty good. 

Credit: @springtheagency / Chris Priestley

The Vibe

One thing I find special about winter music festivals is that, like you, almost everyone else in the resort is often there for the festival too. I’m one of those people who rolls around the mountain with a speaker blasting from my backpack (sorry) but I’ll always turn it down when I get onto any lift. The fact that almost everyone else is there for the festival too completely changes the vibe on the mountain though, and I can’t count on two hands how many times I was asked to turn the music up instead of down on the lifts. 

If you’re going to Tomorrowland, my recommendation is to get a good crew together. Fair play if you’re one of those people who can rock up to any gig or festival alone and have an absolute blast going solo, but if you’re planning a trip to a ski festival (or any festival for that matter), the squad you’re with can make it extra special I think. 

As a guest of ellesse, we got to hang with a pretty badass group at the festival; an aspect of the trip, I must admit, that made it extra fun. We got to spent time with the likes of two-time Team GB snowboarder Jamie Nicolls, French Olympic freestyle skier Anais Caradeux, and pro surfer and Love Island star Laura Crane to name just a few.

Time to start that Whatsapp group up now for 2023, yeah?

The Aftermath

Snow festivals are not usually for the faint of heart, and Tomorrowland Winter is no exception to that rule. The days are long, and you’re going to need stamina to power through. Unless you’re an absolute freak, there will be days where you won’t even want to be out of bed let alone out on the slopes. 

Unless you’re a professional athlete, you will hurt all week long and after you get back as well. You’ll get back home and suffer from post-festival blues. You’ll reminisce. You’ll say “I’m never drinking again” about a million times.

But most importantly, you’ll leave with epic memories that will stay with you forever.

And that’s what makes Tomorrowland Winter 2022 so special.

See you there next year…

Words by Michael Costanzo, Mpora’s roaming ‘Sesh Correspondent’

Head here for more information on Tomorrowland Winter

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