It’s been two years…
Two years since the distant rumble of a sound system prickled the hairs on the back of our neck.
Two years since we’ve been dazzled by strobe lights and engulfed in the euphoria of a festival crowd.
This weekend Caprices festival returned to the Swiss mountains, bringing an outstanding line-up of internationally acclaimed electronic music artists to Crans Montana. After a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, the winter version welcomed revellers to the iconic Modernity stage, a sparkling glass house perched at 2,200m. The transparent walls and ceiling offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape, snow park and Rhone valley.
Two days before the festival kicked off, the Swiss Alps were pounded with spring snowfall, fierce winds and whiteout conditions. The blizzard left snow piled high outside the Modernity stage, burying its outdoor viewing platform. For obvious safety reasons, the organisers changed the venue for Friday and Saturday to the Signal stage, a vast warehouse next to the lift station. The howling wind and snow didn’t put off the festival-goers who arrived in droves to the site. Inside, the crowds were relieved to shed their winter layers and explore the Night Village. Signal boasts a capacity of 1,000 and is the heart of the party. With cables of oscillating lights suspended across the whole dancefloor from the DJ booth to the back bar, it’s truly a raver’s paradise. Saturday headliner Dixon made sure the crowd got their techno fix and the heat generated from frenzied dancers prompted security to open the sides of the tent and ventilate with icy blasts of snow.
For revellers looking to escape the chaos, the Forest stage is a more intimate venue hosting underground artists. Its dome-like structure looks like a giant golf ball and inside the DJ booth sits in the centre, surrounded by a dancefloor. Light installations snake around the walls with colourful pulses flashing to the beat of the music. On Saturday night Berlin-born Britta Arnold kept the crowd dancing into the early hours with her hypnotic signature sound.
On Sunday there was no chance of a lie-in because like everywhere in Switzerland, the church bells were pealing from the crack of dawn. Peeking outside, I saw that the skies had cleared and it was a bluebird. Several inches of snow had fallen overnight which meant it was a powder day, and what better way to clear the cobwebs after a heavy night out dancing? I took the Crans-Merbé-Cry d’Er gondola up the mountain and was delighted to see the festival organisers already clearing the snow from outside Modernity stage. The greenhouse was back open for business.
Having tried to ski in whiteout conditions the day before, it was nice to actually see my skis in front of me. Crans Montana offers 140km of pistes from 1,500m all the way up to the Plaine Morte glacier at 3000m. Descending from Cry d’Er, I made my way over to Les Violettes via some nice wide red runs, popping off the sides to enjoy the fresh powder. Due to avalanche risk, the gondola to the glacier was closed so I cruised over to the Petit Mont Bonvin area which has plenty of marked off-piste itineraries. The pisteurs will always make sure there is no avalanche risk in these areas but they are always ungroomed. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it seemed apt that the itinerary I chose headed towards ‘La Cure.’ Would it in fact cure my hangover? I was thankful for the generous rockers on my skis which allowed me float through the powder fields easily and navigate around rocks and bumps. Crans Montana has stunning geography; the slopes are peppered with huge rock formations, overhanging walls of icicles and wide, tree-lined slopes. My favourite run was the Plumachit which carves through the forest and descends into a steep-sided gulley, funnelling skiers between two rocky walls.
I would have skied until the lifts closed if I didn’t have a party to attend! An hour later I had dropped off my skis and was heading back up the gondola for the big Caprices finale. Festivities started at midday and as the gondola neared the top, the thump of bass music pierced the skies. I wasn’t sure how warm it would be but stepping inside with the sun streaming in, it felt like a summer’s day! Adding to the summery atmosphere were the palm tree decorations and people sipping cocktails from golden pineapples. The dancefloor was already buzzing with party people, their faces decorated with glitter, gemstones and jazzy sunglasses. The sky, visible through the roof, was dazzling cyan and the view of snow-capped mountains stretched into the distance. Artists Shimza, Ameme and Jamie Jones kept the crowd bouncing with back-to-back bangers and the atmosphere fizzed with excitement.
As dancers fanned themselves in the heat, it was bizarre to think that yesterday the venue was closed due to a blizzard. The tell-tale signs of being at altitude were still visible though. Huge mounds of snow were piled around the viewing platform and portaloos, the hard work of the operations team who toiled all day to save the party. Against all odds, the show did go on and a summer disco was installed at the top of a mountain. It has been a long two years without Modernity blasting tunes across the slopes, but the Caprices crowd never forgot how to dance.