Anyone with a ski pass can get up close to rock stars such as The Do, as they perform for free on the slopes. // © 2015 Portes du Soleil
Feature image (above): Belgian singer Selah Sue at the 2015 edition of Rock the Pistes in the French Alps // © 2015 Portes du Soleil
Thump, thump, thud. Everyone surrounding me jumped up and down clumsily, their ski boots wobbling to stay on the beat. With our fists thrust in the air, we sang along to dancehall tunes and laughed at the absurdity of ourselves. Here we were, fully clad in our bulky ski gear, dancing like maniacs in the snow.
Rock the Pistes is one of the world’s few ski-in, ski-out music festivals, and it really couldn’t have a more idyllic setting than the Portes du Soleil mega ski resort in the French Alps. During the 2015 edition, Mont Blanc — the highest peak in Europe — towered in the distance as bands such as Dub Inc., Selah Sue, Brigitte and Charlie Winston performed. Local wine flowed freely, and fresh snow crunched beneath us as we danced and swayed to the music.
Each March, Portes du Soleil plays host to the weeklong Rock the Pistes festival. The festivities are free to anyone with a ski pass and are reached only via chairlift. Because the concerts are held at pop-up stages in a different resort each day, clients will have to do some traversing, which locals refer to as a “ski safari.” In most cases, the ski safari is good fun, allowing festivalgoers to fit in several runs at their own pace before the concert kicks off.
However, beginner skiers will find this aspect of the festival prohibitive some days, such as when the festival is held at a Portes du Soleil resort on the Swiss side of the border. It takes a strong (and dedicated) skier to go from France to Switzerland and back within the span of a day. But rest assured — those who find their ski legs will be handsomely rewarded for their efforts.
“I like that Rock the Pistes is a festival, but people have something else to do,” said Charlie Winston, a British singer-songwriter. “There’s this feeling of being in your own space when you’re skiing, and then you turn the corner to find a band playing. I got the feeling that people were surprised to see us, and that makes it quite exciting.”
Past performers run the gamut, from British bad boys Babyshambles and new-rave kings Klaxons to reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. The sixth annual Rock the Pistes festival, slated for March 13-19, 2016, will be equally as diverse, with performances by hard-rock band Gotthard; pop-rock singer Hubert-Felix Thiefaine; electro funk group Deluxe; and Irish indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club. Expect warm weather, fondue on the slopes, loud music, wine and the most fun you could possibly have in ski boots.
WHERE TO STAY
Portes du Soleil is comprised of 12 ski resorts, with many excellent options for families and small groups. My favorite resort within Portes du Soleil is Avoriaz, which features ski-in, ski-out, apartment-style accommodations and fun activities such as sleigh rides, ice-skating, bowling and a small waterpark for kids.
While in Avoriaz, my accommodations at Pierre & Vacances Atria-Crozats came with cookware, a stove, a large refrigerator and a nice living area where a family could hang out, eat and cook together. Each unit comes with a personal ski locker on the ground floor of the property, eliminating the need to haul equipment back and forth.
Take note: There’s typically no housekeeping services at the many residence-style accommodations available in Portes du Soleil, and you might get some funny looks from the receptionist if you inquire about it at the front desk. Forget about the way we do things back home; guestrooms overlook the snow-covered rooftops of the French Alps, and from the comfort of the balcony, guests probably witness one of the most epic sunsets they’ll see all year. C'est la vie, no?