Arriving at snowy Polaris on Friday morning, I’m unexpectedly reminded of Bloc’s legendary Butlins weekenders.
As with Bloc, there’s an overwhelming sense that we’re about to be let loose in a location entirely inappropriate for our purposes. But in stark contrast to that 1960s holiday camp in Minehead, Polaris takes place in one of Switzerland’s most elite ski resorts: the impossibly beautiful toy-town of Verbier, nestled on a snowy terrace 1500-meters up in the Swiss Penine Alps.
Known for its dramatic off-piste slopes and bourgeoise apres-ski lifestyle, Verbier is home year round to many of the world’s premiere professional skiers – but for Polaris weekend these are replaced by a host of top-tier DJs spanning the upper echelons of house and techno. The bill reads like a veritable who’s who of dance music royalty, topped by Derrick May, Nina Kraviz, Seth Troxler and Young Marco.
During the day, the pistes are open for punters to ski, snowboard and get lost in. By mid-afternoon, the main stage opens: a transparent, domed structure located at the foot of the slopes overlooking the dramatic valley beyond. At sunset, golden winter sun floods the dance floor – a phenomenon that happily coincides with many of the weekend’s musical highlights (Larry Heard and Omar S, unsurprisingly, top our list).
On Saturday night, half a meter of snow falls in the space of a few hours, turning the entire village into a pillowy snowscape. The weather on Sunday morning is so severe that the main stage is forced to close. But what should have spelt disaster in fact paves the way for the weekend’s highpoint: Nina Kraviz, who’s headline set is forced to relocate to one of the intimate apres-ski bars in town. Sweaty, enthralled ravers rub shoulders with Moet-wielding richlings to the tune of wiggy electro, jacking house and uptempo IDM.
It’s a magical climax to a weekend that is at once opulent, over-the-top and beautifully surreal.