9 - 11 December
While music festivals have traveled further and further into unexpected places on the globe, mountainous landscapes have been slow starters, relatively speaking. Building a party half way up a mountain in winter is a huge logistical undertaking, but perhaps the main reason it has taken a while for ski festivals to catch up is because rolling a ski holiday and a music festival into one requires a very fine balance.
Polaris, which takes place in the Swiss alps, has a singular strategy in that respect. In its second year, Polaris’s line-up is aimed squarely at the Ibiza crowd, with its big-room headliners like Carl Craig and Richie Hawtin and its crisp-white VIP areas and multi-coloured Ciroc bottles. It has to be said, this is not the one if you’re on any kind of budget. But then again, what ski holiday is? Polaris does offer a lot for your hard-earned money, at least. Take the jaw-dropping setting of the Mouton Noir Stage, for example, perched at the top of a ski-lift with a terrace looking out over Verbier town and the Alps beyond. This is where the music kicks off around midday through to around eleven at night, when proceedings move down into Verbier proper.
Verbier itself is fittingly opulent, with its Rolex shops and an unnerving overabundance of pharmacies. We did, however, thankfully manage to locate a surprisingly cheap supermarket and some cosy bars. The late night venues are clearly built to house the bougie apres-ski crowd but as the day turns into night they fill with the festival’s easygoing crowd. Osunlade’s closing set on Saturday actually managed to transform the Farinet South Club into a full on rave cave. The Etoile Rouge venue next door also offered a lot of subterranean fun, particularly on Friday night when Deetron and Ripperton went back to back until 4am.
But for us the weekend was defined by three DJ sets. This might not sound like enough highlights to fill a whole weekend but these were three particularly spectacular moments from three particularly heavy hitters. Moodymann’s three hour session on the Saturday, backlit by an alpine sunset, might have been the most spectacular, with a driving and expansive closing set from Dixon coming a very close second, followed by Lil Louis’ vigorous blurring of the techno/house borderline.
Polaris strikes a good balance for a ski festival. The position of the main stage is perfect to get a good morning’s skiing or snowboarding in and roll straight into some serious techno after lunch. The evening can then be approached based on your dancefloor stamina and willingness to get an early start the next day. The festival’s overall size means you get enough of a big-room feel, but there’s also an intimate vibe and clear focus. Sure, if you’re a connoisseur of snow then December isn’t the best time to come (especially this year) and if you’re a line-up obsessive then you could say that Polaris plays it a little on the safe side. If you’re in it for both, and logically you would be, it’s a solid choice. Better get saving for next year then.