Snowbombing: Austria’s ultimate winter festival

In the small town of Mayrhofen, Austria, one of the all-time greatest music and ski festivals takes place each April.

Snowbombing: Austria’s ultimate winter festival

In the small town of Mayrhofen, Austria, one of the all-time greatest music and ski festivals takes place each April.

Snowbombing has been running for over two decades, and this six-day annual festival is unlike anything else on the continent.

With three separate mountains to tackle and dozens of venues hosting the likes of Jamie xx and other top artists, this is the ski holiday of your dreams. 

The town

Ski resort life in Mayrhofen
Ski resort life in Mayrhofen | lgabriela

Mayrhofen is a town of just 4,000 residents. But, it comes to life when events like Snowbombing swoop in thanks to the guest houses on almost every street and restaurants and cafes dotted throughout the cobbled streets.

The town is well known for being a great ski spot almost year-round — in large because of the nearby Hintertux glacier — with Snowbombing taking place right at the end of the traditional ski season (December to April). It’s a festival that attracts approximately 7,000 people yearly, the entire town gearing up to welcome you for a week you’ll never forget.

The skiing

Skiing in Austria
Getting air | Snowbombing Facebook

You can ski or snowboard down three mountains: Ahorn, Penken, and The Glacier.

Ahorn is best for beginners, with the region’s longest artificially snow-covered downhill run.  At its tallest point, it’s 2,000m above sea level. Penken is the main mountain, a cable car running right out of the central street in Mayrhofen to the peak. The gondola takes almost 4,000 passengers per hour, so expect little to no queues even during the peak of the festival. You’ll need to get on more alternate transport — a bus — to reach the out-of-town peak, The Glacier, but it’s worth it for the 230km of ski runs at this world-famous ski spot.

Lifts run up each mountain from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm; the latter is when the party really begins.

All three mountains have venues serving authentic Austrian fare and steins of golden wheat beer. They’re the perfect spot to sit and sip while watching the thousands of skiers traversing the slopes below. Many restaurants will start pumping out music the minute the mountains open, offering an all-day, sun-soaked party atmosphere that’s only broken when you slide yourself out to the picturesque mountains. This is particularly the case in Penken, which has restaurants ranging from the Reggae Shack to the OOSC-sponsored House of Après.

The music

In typical European style, the annual Snowbombing lineup consists of the top names of the electronic dance music scene, with a bit of drum and bass scattered dotted throughout to change things up. Though the festival is unwavering in genre, the odd surprise acts also pop up, like the English quartet Rockstar Weekend. They played in 2023, belting out energetic renditions of the best 80s music, from Bon Jovi to Whitney Houston.

Lineups are released well in advance, giving you a good indication of what to expect over the six-day festival.

The stages

The ultimate apres ski
The ultimate apres ski | Snowbombing Facebook

Alongside the mountain venues, there are six main stages peppered about town. They’re reserved for the late-night shows, a place for revellers to keep the night going once they’ve made their way back down from the mountains.

The Fun Haus is the first stage to open at about 10:00 pm. It’s got a beer garden atmosphere but is enclosed on all sides and has ample heating, meaning you’ll be more than comfortable despite the winter chill. The next stage open is the Racket Club, kicking off its first set at around midnight. With a capacity of 5,000, it’s one of the biggest stages in town, complete with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems.

It’s BYO snow jackets and beanies at the Forest Club, as it’s entirely outdoors. Set beneath the trees with vistas of the mountains behind, it’s one of the more beautiful places to dance the night away. The latest venue open is Brück’n Stahl, a two-story venue that doesn’t close its doors until around 6:00 am.

You don’t have to be up until the crack of dawn to enjoy the musical acts, though. A street party kicks off right in front of Hotel Strass on Maryhofen’s main street, with saxophones and trumpets singing out until the sun sets below the mountains.

Other activities

The rooftop spa at Manni
The rooftop spa at Manni | Manni Hotel

If you need a break from skiing and music, there are plenty of other things to do in Maryhofen, from mountaintop brunches to chairlift speed dating. 

Snowbombing can be an intense few days, so finding somewhere to unwind when you need a rest can make all the difference to your stamina. Try soaking your sore muscles in the spa at Manni Rooftop Spa, the cool outside air a complete contrast to the steamy spa waters you’re submerged in. There’s a sauna at the spa too because, of course there is, this is Austria.

If you want to get the blood pumping without hurtling down a slope, you can dip into the icy waters of the pond as part of the Ride and Seek competition or fly high above the mountainside on a tandem paraglider.

Where to stay

Lodge luxury | Black Eagle Luxury Appartements
Lodge luxury | Black Eagle Luxury Appartements Facebook

Numerous luxury hotels in Maryhofen have a premium alpine experience, complete with panoramic mountain views, steaming hot spas, and authentic cuisine.

The Resort Hotel Neuhaus has been part of the town for almost 400 years and, in that time, has evolved into what it is today, a chic, modern hotel. Accommodation options range from a spacious suite to self-contained apartments, but the property’s crowning glory is the extensive 15,000m2 garden that snakes throughout, home to their on-site farm. The seasonally grown fruits and vegetables dictate the restaurant’s menu, enhanced with mountain herbs plucked from right outside the kitchen.

Centrally located, Black Eagle Luxury Appartements is a highly sought-after accommodation option, blending sleek modernity with a comfortable, homely feel. It’s easy to make one of these spaces feel like home over your six-day Snowbombing stay, albeit one with the luxury kitchen and dining room of your dreams. A little further away from the buzz of the festival is the private retreat of the Elisabeth Hotel. It’s a wellness hotel reserved for guests aged 16 and above, ensuring a quiet and serene atmosphere for all guests.

Where to eat and drink

A Perauer pork hock
A Perauer pork hock | Perauer Facebook

If you’re not dining at the mountain venues and main stages, try any one of the dozens of restaurants, cafes, and bars about town.

Hardly any hotel in Mayrhofen is without an extensive menu of Austrian and Germanic fare, with the beef and other meats from the region a particular point of pride for the restaurants. From cordon bleu to crispy rösti, you’ll find the kind of rich and hearty food you know you want after a day among the mountains.

Perauer is set within the 300-year-old walls of a historic Gasthaus and is well known for its selection of meats, curated and served up by the famous in-house butcher Hans. If it’s a crowd pleaser you’re after, the main street’s Café Tirol is your go-to. It’s loved not only for its broad menu but also for the gin served in famously large glasses.Not all restaurants in town subscribe to Austrian cuisine. Take, for example, the famous El Toro Steak and Tapas. This Spanish restaurant is a standout, not least because it’s the only place in the mountains where you can find a hearty paella.

Snowbombing 2024

Back for the 2024 ski season, Snowbombing will take place from April 8th to 13th. Tickets will go on sale soon. Presale is open for registration, with round one of presale tickets selling out in record time.

Sign up for ticket releases here.

Lead image: Snowbombing Facebook

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