Sometimes even a snow sports vacation can seem routine: wake up, hit the slopes, après, sleep, repeat. Not bad. But an increasing number of resorts are hosting winter festivals to give your winter break a turbo boost.
Most center on live music and competitions – from pro and amateur events to things that are patently ridiculous (and fun!) – and all generate an elevated tier of partying in and around the resort. Some include family-friendly activities as well.
Big Sky Big Grass | Big Sky, Mont.
The Big Sky Big Grass Festival, held each February, is one of the largest winter bluegrass festivals in the northern Rockies. Past performers include the Sam Bush Band, Infamous Stringdusters, Drew Emmitt Band, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, Billy Strings and Trout Steak Revival – among many, many others.
Big Sky has huge terrain, beautiful Montana scenery and rarely a lift line.
Snowbombing | Mayrhofen, Austria
DJs, bands and wild venues – from an igloo and an open forest stage to a theme-dress street party and traditional club stage – conspire to bring a raucous time to Mayrhofen each April. The town offers a stunning alpine setting in the Ziller Valley, in Austria’s Tyrol region, surrounded by nine other world-class resorts.
Past headliners have included Liam Gallagher, Dizzee Rascal, The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada.
SnowFest! | North Lake Tahoe, Calif.
A Tahoe annual spring event since 1982, SnowFest returns each March with a torchlight parade, fireworks, eating competitions, polar bear swims and other delightfully quirky events in the heart of one of America’s most bountiful ski regions. Participating resorts include Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Homewood, Diamond Peak and Northstar California.
Other events include a four-to-a-team banzai ski race, fashion show and ice carving competition. And as a bonus, you can hit Squaw Valley in mid-March for Pain McShlonkey, a crazed event in honor of Squaw legend Shane McConkey, with lots of costumed skiers racing on snow blades.
Sundance Film Festival | Park City, Utah
Sundance has become one of the world’s premier king-making film festivals. Screenings, which take place each year in late January, fill numerous categories and include a number of world premieres as filmmakers put the results of their creativity and hard work on display.
Park City, already a first-rate ski town, transforms into a glitter-strewn row of velvet-roped venues, late night parties, live music and, yes, serious crowds, though the slopes themselves are often quite empty.
World Ski and Snowboard Festival | Whistler, B.C.
Finally, a distinct advantage to Whistler’s low-elevation base area: warm temps for outdoor concerts that happen all season long, but really kick off each April! This spring blowout features killer bands, DJs and solo artists, along with filmmaking, photography and fashion showcases.
The outdoor shows are free, as are a variety of sporting events that range from extreme ski racing through a couloir to a big-air competition. The rollicking times include contests to display the best action photos and short films, as well as Intersection, in which film crews have a week to shoot, edit and produce an extreme five- to seven-minute sports short film.
Winter Carnival | Steamboat Springs, Colo.
The oldest, continuous winter carnival west of the Mississippi River, first held in 1913, Steamboat’s annual fete gets the whole town involved every February. The Steamboat Springs High School marching band performs while skiing down Main Street, and horses pull other kids along on skis.
Parties abound, including concerts, jam sessions and a giant lighted man, but most of the fun centers around sports, including a bicycle slalom race and parent-child downhill.
Nor’Beaster | Killington, Vt.
Drop any image you might have of placid Vermont hippies. Killington tees off with core East Coast energy, like throwing a multi-week festival from April to May. The event showcases a Bud Light mogul challenge, a bank slalom competition for snowboarders, oodles of live music and events for all ages.
Local breweries also host more parties than should be allowed, and the resort organizes events focused on benefiting local charities.
Rendezvous Festival | Jackson Hole, Wyo.
The extreme athletes who make up a disproportionate percentage of Jackson’s populace bring the same energy to their extracurricular activities that they bring to the slopes. The event stretches four days in mid-March, with spectacles at both the mountain base and the nearby town of Jackson.
Concerts abound, including top Grammy winners like Portugal. The Man.
Ullr Nights | Aspen Snowmass, Colo.
Unlike most events, which typically stretch a handful of dates, Snomass’ Ullr Nights happen every night during the peak winter season. Held in honor of the Norse God of Snow (Ullr), the event takes place at the resort’s Elk Camp.
It includes legions of family-friendly activities, including tubing, riding the alpine coaster, making s’mores, drinking hot chocolate and dancing to live music.
Chamonix Unlimited | Chamonix, France
A collision of music, arts, spring fever and European joie de vivre turn this legendary French Alps village into an exhibition of youthful exuberance in late March/early April. Past events have included some of Europe’s hottest DJs and emerging bands, along with local talent.
And don’t worry if it’s warm in the valley; one of Europe’s most idyllic settings also harbors 113 trails and more inbound acreage than you can see in three visits.