CHAOS IN THE ALPS!

Tales from the wildest town on earth

Cosmopolitan (UK) - - Contents -

It’s a crisp April day in Mayrhofen, a quaint lit­tle cor­ner of Aus­tria nes­tled deep in the Ziller­tal Val­ley. Rus­tic chalets pep­per the sur­round­ing hills like stacked choco­late fingers, with in­cred­i­ble vis­tas cour­tesy of the Ahorn and Penken moun­tains, which hug its Christ­mas card-es­que in­clines.

From the town’s col­lec­tion of tim­bered bars and restau­rants on the Haupt­strasse wafts the aroma of spiced mulled wine, just-baked pret­zels and hot schnitzel, trail­ing out of the town’s in­fa­mous meat es­tab­lish­ment – Hans the Butcher. Ap­par­ently, there’s al­ways a queue out­side Hans’s. Only to­day, the line is row­dier than usual.

“Maaate, I’ve lost me socks,” a queu­ing girl wails through last night’s make-up. She has a sun­burnt face, and wears a Mon­cler coat, ac­ces­sorised with ho­tel slip­pers and se­quinned hot pants.

On cue, one valiant young man (blond, bearded and dressed as Big Bird) reaches into his back­pack and hands her a pair of fluffy ski socks. There are hugs. A col­lec­tive cheer.

Five Power Rangers car­ry­ing steins and ski equip­ment join the back of the line. Hans is in for a busy af­ter­noon.

It’s day two of Snow­bomb­ing, the five-day snow-pur­suits-meets-dance fes­ti­val that pulls in a 6,000-strong crowd to this (oth­er­wise sleepy) Aus­trian re­sort each spring. Split be­tween the pris­tine slopes and the cookie-cut­ter town, Snow­bomb­ing was orig­i­nally dreamed up as an après-ski night­club by a bunch of en­trepreneurs back in 2000 (pre­sum­ably as a mar­ket­ing ploy to pull in a mon­eyed young crowd at the tail end of the sea­son). To­day, it has mush­roomed into one of the most glam­orous (and wild) fes­ti­vals in Europe. Here you will find trust-fund ba­bies spend­ing their par­ents’ money on de­signer snowwear, end­less beer and bou­tique de­bauch­ery far away from the pry­ing eyes of the world back home. The most ba­sic ticket (which in­cludes ac­com­mo­da­tion) starts at around £299, but most blow up­wards of £1,000 on a five-day spree (not in­clud­ing their bar bill). Now in its 18th year, it of­fers up ev­ery­thing you could want from a fes­ti­val, only at 633 me­tres above sea level and with more alpine ac­tion than an ’80s Toblerone ad­vert.

I grew up 13 miles out­side Glas­ton­bury. To me, a self-con­fessed fes­ti­val junkie, bunk­ing down in a two-man tent is the au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence. The abil­ity to lose your­self for five bliss­ful days. But this place, with its man­i­cured clien­tele, alpine yoga ses­sions and ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions that come with their own ‘rooftop spa’? I’m not sure how I feel about this place.

I join the queue for Hans’s be­hind a group of iden­tikit blonde girls who all look like some ver­sion of ac­tress Tam­sin Eger­ton. They are com­par­ing GoPro footage of last night’s pool party: “Urgh, what a to­tal sausage fest.” I al­most bolt. “Five pounds says we’re the last ones stand­ing,” I whis­per to my mate, Gosia.

Later that evening, I’m in a freez­ing ca­ble car, mak­ing a shaky as­cent into the foggy ether. Word has it there’s an igloo rave at the top of the Ahorn moun­tain. We are the only two girls in a car of 20 men. As the car swings from left to right, dan­gling 6,000 feet

“Word has it there’s an igloo rave on a moun­tain”

in the air, the Lon­don lads next to us draw cocks in the con­den­sa­tion on the glass. The car jud­ders sick­en­ingly and a guy wear­ing a lurid-green ski suit and Risky Busi­ness-style shades balks and grabs his mate in ter­ror. A col­lec­tive roar of “Pussy!” goes up.

Pulling into the sta­tion, the moun­tain is in com­plete white-out. The muf­fled sound of thump­ing house mu­sic can be heard. Two girls in faux fur snap self­ies on the icy path.

On a clear evening, we’d be able to look out across the val­ley, and Mayrhofen’s beat­ing heart 2,000 me­tres be­low. Tonight, we can’t see more than a few feet in front of us. But then that’s kind of the point.

The igloo is smaller than I ex­pected. In­side, cush­ions cover the carved-ice benches, which sit be­neath a domed ceil­ing. An ex­clu­sively tick­eted event (£46 a pop), the Arc­tic Disco holds just 300 peo­ple. This is where the beau­ti­ful Snow­bombers come to après, I have been told. After a quick drink at the ice bar, I join the toi­let queue with one of the faux-fur girls. She is bel­liger­ently ask­ing ev­ery­one for a 10-cents piece. “I’m a vet­eran,” she tells me, tap­ping her nose in a covert fash­ion. I hand her the coin, and she drags me off into the gloom. She uses it to pick the lock of a hid­den door and pulls me in be­hind her. Clam­ber­ing over stacked ski gear, my op­por­tunis­tic friend wrig­gles out of her fin­ery and pees into a va­cant shower cu­bi­cle at the back of the room. She gives me a thumb­sup from be­hind the frosted glass. I’m cheered by this dis­play of bonkers ca­ma­raderie. I un­but­ton my ski trousers and do the same. Back in the igloo, a man dressed as Ker­mit the Frog in a ‘Let’s Get Phys­i­cal’ leo­tard is go­ing up to ev­ery­one ask­ing if they’ve seen a man called Keith. It’s 6pm. The next af­ter­noon, after a dis­as­trous snow­board­ing les­son, I’m on Penken Moun­tain shar­ing a beer with my ski in­struc­tor, So­phie. The mist of the pre­vi­ous evening has dis­si­pated, be­stow­ing on us an in­cred­i­ble view from the lively chalet-style Pilzbar out across the Alps. Skiers and snow­board­ers dressed in ev­ery­thing from tu­tus to uni­corn one­sies pack out the venue’s out­door pic­nic area. As we sip from our huge beer glasses, a col­lec­tive cheer goes up from the slopes. A snow­boarder is pre­par­ing to throw him­self off a cliff wear­ing noth­ing but a kilt. “How are your balls?” So­phie yells at him/the en­tire moun­tain range. The kilted man makes a small nut shape with his thumb and fore­fin­ger. “Ac­tual size,” he grins. “You’re not go­ing down the hill like that?!” I ex­claim. “You only die once,” he de­clares, be­fore throw­ing him­self off the edge. Half­way down, he tries to flip his board and falls face first into the ice.

The en­tire slope (in­clud­ing children whose ap­palled par­ents clearly didn’t re­alise that this par­tic­u­lar re­sort was due to be in­vaded by 6,000 ravers) is treated to a flash of Brave­heart’s arse.

Here, the com­bi­na­tion of adren­a­line sports, the re­mote­ness yet al­most womb-like pro­tec­tion the moun­tain range af­fords from the pres­sures of life back home, and – let’s face it – the above-av­er­age beauty of the mostly mon­eyed crowd, cre­ates a type of wan­ton he­do­nism I’ve not seen at any other fes­ti­val. The sex, drugs and dan­ger that ex­ists at other fes­ti­vals is here, only more con­cen­trated.

And make no mis­take, Snow­bomb­ing trades off that el­e­ment of sur­prise. It’s been go­ing for nearly two decades, yet there’s sur­pris­ingly lit­tle on­line about what re­ally goes on here. It’s only when I ar­rive that the sto­ries start com­ing out: “There was that one year Fat Boy Slim turned up and started DJing from an open-top bus in the snow” or “Did you hear about the im­promptu rave at Hans the Butch­ers’? They were just queu­ing for food when sud­denly… lock in!” Snow­bomb­ing is like Fight Club – what hap­pens here, stays here.

Later that night, bod­ies press up against each other on the dance floor as DJ Axel Bo­man takes to the decks. The 3am air in The Brück’n Stadl is thick with the smell of sweat and spilt Red Bull. I’m now deeply en­trenched in Snow­bomb­ing’s in­fec­tious ma­nia. There are girls ev­ery­where. It’s like the witch­ing hour has un­leashed a tribe of Insta-god­desses, in con­trast to the groups of lads ma­raud­ing down the Haupt­strasse ear­lier that day. Body­suits split to the navel writhe along­side sa­lopettes-and­cropped-top com­bos, leop­ard-print span­dex and ex­pen­sive goggles.

All around me, peo­ple snort co­caine off their chalet keys. It looks like a fi­nal hur­rah, an ex­plo­sion of deca­dence be­fore some­one tells them they must sign their lives away to the cor­po­rate world. Just hours be­fore, shar­ing beers in a 10-per­son hot tub with a new friend, Lee* (late twen­ties, non­trust-fun­der), I looked on as a cou­ple had sex ‘un­der’ the water in the sun­light.

Ap­par­ently, this year, the MDMA is “re­ally strong. Which is why a lot of peo­ple are get­ting too f*cked, too quickly,” Lee says. He’s with a stag do that has just dropped £3,000 on gear.“Peo­ple just call you and ask if you want more,” he says. “It’s like a Class-A De­liv­eroo.”

En route back to my ho­tel, I see a Bam­bi­legged girl be­ing led up the Haupt­strasse by a guy I hope is her boyfriend. She falls into the street, eyes rolling. I run over. She slurs, “This is the love of my life!” Pri­mary-coloured bal­loons lit­ter the street, pre­sum­ably once filled with ni­trous ox­ide – laugh­ing gas.

Crisp blue skies wel­come in the Mayrhofen morn­ing. Last night’s rev­ellers have been re­placed by rails of polo necks out­side the bou­tiques.

Peo­ple stag­ger bleary-eyed into the harsh white sun­light, and into a voga class be­ing held at the very same igloo bar I par­tied in just a few hours ago. DJ Kristy Harper, a pink-haired Dal­ston na­tive, is spin­ning an eclectic ’80s mix. She’s been par­ty­ing for four days.

“Did you see that cou­ple hav­ing sex in the hot tub yes­ter­day?” I ask her. “Who didn’t see them?!” she laughs. “The first year I came, I woke up at 6am and looked out of my win­dow. There was this guy dressed as a goat, just head-butting the wall. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is Snow­bomb­ing,’” she says.

That night, Chase & Sta­tus per­form. A group of Stormtroop­ers main­line shots at the bar as strobe lights ig­nite the trees sur­round­ing us and green lasers shoot up, los­ing them­selves like 4am ravers in the sky. Mayrhofen is lit.

Look­ing around, I see Lee tear­ing it up on the dance floor. He’s flanked by party-go­ers, who are sup­port­ing each other as the beat throws them for­ward. I look around at their faces and try to com­mit them to mem­ory. After all, they are the coun­try’s next bankers, CEOs and cul­tural lead­ers. They will no doubt re­turn to Snow­bomb­ing year after year, safe in the knowl­edge that what­ever an­tics they get up to will stay hid­den, the may­hem ob­scured by the moun­tains and shrouded the next day in a fresh layer of snow.

Snow­bomb­ing 2018, 9th-14th April, from £299; Snow­bomb­ing.com

Snow­bomb­ing: so wild even the inan­i­mate ob­jects lose their heads

Amie (right) loved her first ski rave… …the next morn­ing? Not so much

“Come to the dark side, shots we have”

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