OnTheSnow has scoured the calendar for the biggest, classiest, funniest and most exciting winter events to take place each year in the Alps.
Here's our pick of the biggest and best winter events, both on and off the slopes, in date order.
Jan. 1, 2013
For exactly 60 years now, the New Year's Jump in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, has been the start of the winter sports year and a highlight of the Ski Jumping World Cup's Four Hills Tournament since it began in 1953. Back then, 20,000 fans applauded the young men boldly plunging down the run. Today, you'll have to join a crowd of more than 30,000 to see the athletes take off the new Olympic Ski Jump and fly more than 120 metres.
If you'd like to watch the winter event live at Partenkirchen's Skistadion, you are well-advised to book your tickets early, as the New Year's Jump is a major attraction for German and Austrian winter sports fans. Tickets can be obtained at DER travel agency in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (phone +49 8821 798 273) or online via print-at-home ticket service.
The Four Hills Tournament, or Vierschanzentournee, takes place each year between Dec. 29 and Jan. 6 in Oberstdorf and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany and Innsbruck and Bischofshofen in Austria. The victory in this tournament is one of the most prestigious titles in international ski jumping.
Winter events: New Year's ski jump at Garmisch, Germany. Credit Four Hills Tournament
Jan. 13, 2013
If you prefer cross-country over alpine skiing, Lenzerheide in Switzerland is the place to be in January, when cross-country fans from all over Europe gather at the resort for the Planoiras Volkslanglauf, or public cross-country ski race. Last year’s event attracted more than 1,000 participants, turning the race into a veritable cross-country festival. The 28th edition of this great winter event takes place in 2013.
The trail runs from St. Cassian to Gruoben and back to Lenzerheide, spanning 25 kilometres. As a spectator, you'll be able to watch, and cheer for, former world-class cross-country professionals, local celebrities and regular tourists alike. If you feel like taking part yourself, you can register online until two days before the event. Late registration is possible at the racing office until one hour before the start.
The entry fee is 45 CHF for the regular race and 30 CHF for the 12-kilometre Planoirino race. By the by: If you decide to register, you can be quite sure that a lack of snow won't upset your plans: The Planoiras is the only public race in Switzerland that has never been cancelled due to bad weather, as Lenzerheide Marketing and Support stresses.
Winter events: Planoiras Volkslanglauf cross-country race, Lenzerheide. Credit Photopress/Ennio Leanza
Jan. 18, 2013
25,000 cubic metres of snow, a 15-metre-high obstacle with a 22-metre-long table, 32 of the world's best snowboard and freeski pros and thousands of fans. This is the Gloryfy Bastards Contest in a nutshell.
The fourth edition of the big air battle goes down in the centre of the small Austrian mountain resort of Gerlos. The 2013 line-up promises to be as prestigious as it was the years before, with snowboarders like Chris Sörman from Sweden or Marius Otterstad from Norway and freeskiers like Flo Geyer from Switzerland or Luggi Brucic from Austria.
The organisers say, “Gloryfy Bastards offers one of Europe's biggest set-ups, forming an epic freestyle playground.” It has been designed by Manfred "Brandy" Brandacher and his team, who also shaped the snowpark that some freestyle enthusiasts may know from nearby Zillertal Arena resort.
Unlike other big air competitions, Gloryfy Bastards is more about fun than money. The total prize purse is €11,000 and entrance for spectators is free. The event starts with qualifying in the early afternoon, but partying goes on into the wee hours with after-party DJs from all over Austria and beyond.
Video: Highlight's from last year's Gloryfy Bastards Contest:
Jan. 17- 20, 2013
To many, Kitzbühel is the embodiment of posh-ness and decadence among the Austrian ski resorts. So it seems more than plausible that Kitzbühel (or, more accurately, its neighbouring village of Reith) is home to the world's biggest snow polo tournament.
The four-day Snow Polo World Cup – traditionally set one week before Kitzbühel's legendary Hahnenkamm race – takes place for the 11th time in 2013.
At the sideline of Münichau stadium you'll definitely get the chance to spot some celebrities: Boxers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, socialite Fiona Swarovski and Vienna Opera Ball Legend Richard "Mörtel" Lugner were among the spectators in former years.
However, the organisers stress that Kitzbühel is still a down-to-earth Alpine village. Promoter, Frank Bahrenburg of Lifestyle Events, says, “The Polo World Cup is classy, but not aloof – a world-class winter event combined with Tyrolean lust for life and cosiness.” As a matter of fact, entrance to the matches is free, as is the spectacular view of the Wilder Kaiser Mountain towering the polo field. The entrance to the 'VIP tent' close to the side-line is obviously not. Tickets for that and for the VIP party can be obtained at Kitzbühel Tourism.
For an even posher polo event, the St. Moritz Polo World Cup never fails to attract the fur coats and gold watches crowd, and is held on the frozen Lake St. Moritz on Jan. 24-27, 2013.
Winter events: Cartier Polo Tournament on the frozen lake of St. Moritz
Seiser Alm, Italy
Jan. 20-27, 2013
The Swing on Snow Festival in Seiser Alm, South Tyrol is for everyone who is fond of all the folksy brass and accordion sounds so typical of Alpine ski huts, but has always wished they would just be a little more urbane and sophisticated.
The Swing on Snow Festival takes place for the eighth time in 2013, and combines traditional Alpine Volksmusik with jazz and pop, soul and klezmer, film scores and classical music. You can listen to it high up at a lift station, in a hotel or pub down in the valley, or with your ski boots on while having a schnitzel at your favourite ski hut. The bands come from all over the Alps.
Winter events: Swing on Snow Festival at Seiser Alm. Credit Seiser Alm Marketing
Jan. 25-27, 2013
The Hahnenkamm Race is the highlight of the winter sports season not only for Kitzbühel, but for many of the world's skiing elite and international jet-setters.
For more than 80 years now, the legendary Streif downhill slope, with its 86-metre vertical, has been the most popular part of the Men's Alpine Ski World Cup. "I think we're crazy," four times Hahnenkamm champion Didier Cuche once said. "I would like to congratulate everyone who has skied down it."
According to Kitzbühel Tourism, hundreds of millions of viewers follow the winter event on television each year. If you want to join the 45,000 spectators at the finish line in the middle of the city centre, buy a ticket for €26 (free for children) at Kitzbüheler Ski Club. The Super G and Slalom are a bit cheaper, at €19 and €22, respectively. In 2013 the races take place on January 25th (Super G), 26th (Downhill) and 27th (Slalom).
The Hahnenkamm is always accompanied by a whole bunch of side events all over Kitzbühel, be it fireworks, after-race celebrations and schnitzel parties for everyone, or a weisswurst feast for €125. Shortly after the professionals' downhill race on Saturday, celebrities such as former Formula One driver David Coulthard or former ski racer Michaela Dorfmeister also take the chance on the Streif for a good cause at the Kitz Charity Trophy.
Winter events: The Hahnenkamm Race in Kitzbuehel. Credit Medialounge
March 20-22 & 23-30 2013
The Winter X Games only came to Europe three years ago, but the action sport event in Tignes, France, is already on its way to becoming legendary. Launched in 1995 by U.S. TV station EPSN, the X Games has grown into one of the most important series on the winter and summer freestyle calendars, with events in North America, Asia, and Europe.
The best ski and snowboard freestylers on the planet will gather again for two days in Tignes (March 20-22). Last year, the event saw a total of 103,600 visitors and 41,500 alone had the honour of witnessing U.S. snowboarder and Olympic gold medallist Shaun White winning the men's final in the giant super pipe.
For even more jaw-dropping action after the X Games, stick around as The Brits will make its debut appearance in Tignes on March 23 to 30. This winter event is a firm favourite for UK skiers. In its 24th year, after eight years in the Swiss resort of Laax, the organisers of the week-long snow sports and music festival that brings together the UK's best skiers and snowboarders felt the need for a change. They say that they are already "buzzing" with excitement about the move, promising that Tignes will guarantee "the usual mix of world class riding and seven nights of relentless parties".
Video: Winter X Games Tignes 2012: Shaun White GOLD
March 23-24, 2013
At the same time that the crème of UK riders gather in Tignes for The Brits 2013, the international freeriding elite flock to Verbier, Switzerland. Like in the years before, Verbier will host the finals of the Freeride World Tour on March 23 and 24. It is traditionally the last of the ski and snowboard competition's six stops in Europe and North America.
From Col des Gentianes, spectators can watch the competitors of Xtreme Verbier plunge themselves down 500 metres of narrow chutes and extreme gradients at the infamous Bec des Rosses that peaks at 3,222 metres.
Down in the resort, the professionals give insights into mountain safety and the risks of freeriding. Visitors can enjoy freeride movies on the big screen, base jump shows and signing sessions.
Video: Best of Verbier Xtreme 2012:
April 9-13, 2013
Zermatt Unplugged is a unique acoustic music festival that is entering its sixth year in 2013. Founded as a singer-songwriter festival in 2007, it soon became a major winter event with more than 17,000 visitors per year. It traditionally takes place in April at nine different venues in Zermatt, Switzerland, and at the famous nearby Matterhorn ski resort.
Among the 2013 guest stars on the central stage will be British singer Bryan Ferry and Italian singer Umberto Tozzi, Swedish rock band Mando Diao and German hip-hop legends Die Fantastischen Vier.
Tickets starting at CHF35 can be bought in Zermatt or online. Enjoy 35 free concerts in the village (mostly by lesser-known artists) and music on top of the mountain at 2,288 metres.
Winter events: Soul musician Aloe Blacc at Zermatt Unplugged 2012. Credit Joe Condron
April 30, 2013
In Ischgl, the Austrian Alps' party hotspot, small gestures won't do. So it has become a time-honoured tradition to both welcome the winter season and kiss it goodbye with a world-class festival. Up to 20,000 fans gather in front of the Idalp open-air stage at over 2,300 metres each year to hear stars like Katy Perry, Gossip, Mariah Carey, P!nk or Elton John (who started the tradition in 1995) sing at Ischgl's Top of the Mountain Opening and Easter Concerts.
Who will bring the 2012/2013 season to a close on April 30, 2013, hasn't been announced yet. But you can be sure that it will be another international star – and that you will be able to listen to him or her for free if you happen to be on a nearby slope. Because if you have a valid lift ticket for the Silvretta Arena, the entry to the Top of the Mountain concerts is free for you. We sent one of our reporters out to Ischgl’s 2012 opening concert and she had a blast; read her story here.
Winter events: End the season at Ischgl's Top of the Mountain concert. Credit Paznaun-Ischgl Tourism
Next article: Mountain festivals reach new heights