Travel

Dance Yourself Warm at the World’s Best Outdoor Winter Music Festivals

If you don't mind a little snow, festival season can last all year long.

Snowattack
Snowattack
Snowattack

Think “outdoor music festival” and you’re probably picturing sweaty fun in the sun shenanigans, thousands of bodies packed in close vicinity with very little clothing. But winter-and music-enthusiasts have long known a secret: The best music festivals happen in the colder months, ideally in gorgeous locales layered with powder, places where you can dance virtually sweat-free, and hit the slopes in your downtime. Here, sucking down water in hydration tents gives way to all things après-ski in warm, cozy, fur-strewn chalets. And you never know what will be on offer: Some festivals are all in on ice luges while others are more reserved, favoring guitar strumming with a side of Alps. And at one, you can even learn to DJ yourself.

No matter the vibe, they all offer a pretty good opportunity to pull out your most outrageous cold weather gear. Neon snow suit? Of course. Furry bear costume? Don’t mind if we do. Barely anything at all? Sure-the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here are the best winter music festivals to keep the party going year-round.

Igloofest
Igloofest
Igloofest

Igloofest

When: January 18–February 10
Where: Montreal, Canada
What to know: While it’s kind of a bummer that Montreal’s Igloofest-known as “the coldest celebration in the world”-isn’t actually a bunch of igloos you can dance in, they do have ice sculptures, ice slides ,and no doubt plenty of sweet, sweet ice wine. You’ll need it to fuel you through 10 days of acts like Kaskade, Marc Rebillet, 1000 Gecs, and more. And when you’re not dancing to keep warm, offstage events include themed ‘20s, ‘70s, ‘90s, and 2000s weekends plus free family-friendly daytime events in Old Montreal. And if after all that you still want more, stick around for Igloofest Quebec, which runs March 7 to 9.

Snowattack
Snowattack
Snowattack

Snowattack

When: January 20–27
Where: Les Deux Alpes, France
What to know: Set in one of the oldest ski resorts in France, Snowattack relishes in the art of Après Ski-fitting, as the concept was invented by the French. This year’s lineup is heavy on Hungarian artists, so you can hear something new at day parties, night parties, heck, every time of day parties in venues like Le Refuge des Glaciers, where you can perfect your clunky ski boot dancing 10,000 feet in the sky. Remember to pack some decidedly non-ski gear for activities like the giant bikini and costume slip-after a day indulging in apres festivities probably, it won’t seem too daunting.

Enter The Snow
Enter The Snow
Enter The Snow

Enter the Snow

When: February 3–10
Where: Via Lattea, Italy
What to know: This one’s for the real ski enthusiasts: Located in the heart of the Alps straddling Italy and France, Enter the Snow comes with ski passes to explore 250 miles of slopes, a stocked freestyle park, and plenty of winter sports challenges. Rest assured you’ll get your fill of winter activity during the day, all so you can party on the slopes at night. (Or skip the sweat and just party on the slopes during the day.) Ski right into outdoor stages, sip Champagne on a rooftop, soak in hot tubs, and enjoy beat-thumping merriment. And if you’re looking for late night entertainment, the Boogie Woogie Club stays bumping till the wee hours.

Palm Tree Festival
Palm Tree Festival
Palm Tree Festival

Palm Tree Festival

When: February 23–24
Where: Aspen, Colorado
What to know: When Palm Tree Crew, founded by Norwegian DJ and producer Kygo and partner Myles Shear, first started throwing events in 2014, the name wasn’t quite so ironic. Their festivals popped up in Rio, St. Barths, and Croatia, places where there’s, you know, palm trees. But in 2023 they decided to transport their tropical vibes to the wintry landscape, where sun-starved revelers could admittedly really, really use it. Now in its second year in Aspen’s Rio Grande Park, expect headliners likeDavid Guetta, The Chainsmokers, and Kygo himself, among others.

WinterWonderGrass
WinterWonderGrass
WinterWonderGrass

WinterWonderGrass

When: March 1–3
Where: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
What to know: A ranching community turned world-famous winter wonderland, Steamboat Springs is no stranger to outdoor winter festivals. And WinterWonderGrass is no exception, a three-day bash that bills itself as “part music festival, part beer festival, and part family reunion.” They’re not kidding-there’s a kids’ zone to keep the little ones occupied, plus free beer, wine, and spirits tastings for the adults. Offset tickling your taste buds with a hefty dose of mountain music, with acts like the folk-bluegrass The Dead South and virtuoso guitarist Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, a jamboree stage and a “pickin’ perch,” and free shows along the gondola’s route.

Ollie Millington/Redferns/Getty Images
Ollie Millington/Redferns/Getty Images
Ollie Millington/Redferns/Getty Images

Snowboxx

When: March 16–23
Where: Avoriaz, France
What to know: Pack your celebration gear: It’s the 10th anniversary of this week-long blowout ski slope festival, held at the only fully pedestrianized resort in France. Ski-in and -out, or ride a horse through if you feel like it. It’s all fair game as long as you leave your car at home. Five stages-including a massive open-air night venue-host a range of acts from EDM and drum and bass acts to headliners like UK rapper The Streets and The Ultimate Abba Party (find us there). Packages include access to a natural freestyle park in the forest, one of the only superpipes in Europe, and lift passes to the highest resort in Les Portes Du Soleil. And if you’re not so into the whole winter sports thing, there’s everything from a squash court and ice skating to indoor bowling, a cinema, and a heated water park (wait, no-find us there).

Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland Winter

When: March 16–23
Where: Alpe d’Huez, France
What to know: The famed EDM festival brings its over-the-top fantasy-inspired aesthetic to the ski slopes of France for its fourth year, complete with magical cocktails, plenty of melted cheese, and a stacked lineup including Armin van Buuren, Tchami, Malaa, Steve Aoki, Afrojack, and more. Rave in the snow during the day, then spend the night perusing multiple stages in the village of Alpe d’Huez. In your downtime, ski, snowboard, snowshoe, snowmobile, dogsled, paraglide, hit the Alpine track, or bundle up for some outdoor yoga. And you can even start your own journey to the next year’s stage at the onsite DJ workshop. You never know…

Rock the Pistes

When: March 17–23
Where: Les Portes du Soleil, France
What to know: A straightforward name for a straightforward event, this rock and roll fest takes over Les Portes du Soleil. Known as an ultimate winter sports destination, with 12 ski resorts spread across France and Switzerland, it’s the perfect place to sprinkle your days on the slopes with acts like French musicians Talisco, Zaho de Sagazan, and more against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks.

Snowbombing
Snowbombing
Snowbombing

Snowbombing

When: March 16–23
Where: Mayrhofen, Austria
What to know: Say you go to these music festivals, watch everyone cruising down the slopes, and long to get on them yourself, but you just don’t know how. In that case, Snowbombing is for you. There are plenty of pistes to satisfy the slope vets, while newbies can get in on the action too with daily lessons. You can also participate in festival activities like the Snowlympic Games, with challenges like snowball pitching and slippery tug of war, and find a festival buddy for life-or just the week-at Chairlift Speed-Dating. Of course, there’s also comedy acts and music from the likes of Fatboy Slim. Snowbombing splits its time between five outdoor mountain venues during the day, and in-town venues from the afternoon into the evening.

Zermatt Unplugged
Zermatt Unplugged
Zermatt Unplugged

Zermatt Unplugged

When: April 9–13
Where: Zermatt, Switzerland
What to know: Typically, winter slope festivals lean heavily on the EDM-all the better to keep attendees warm. But Zermatt Unplugged opts to keep things cozy by warming your heart. Set on a series of indoor and outdoor stages in and around the Swiss ski village of Zermatt, here you’ll find acts like Grammy-winning jazz musician Gregory Porter, the ethereal Patrick Watson, and Angus and Julia Stone, whose fourth album took shape in Zermatt after a blizzard happily stranded them in the fairytale Swiss town. “It was like stepping into a completely different dimension,” said Julia at the time-which pretty much explains what it’s like to experience this iconic mountain festival.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer. She is currently trying out bear costumes. 

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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