Altitude Festival Recap: 6 Things We Learned

23 April 2015
Read Time: 3.1 mins

Altitude is a far cry from a stereotypical summer festival of large, browning fields jam-packed with crowds of youngsters playing Drink All The Drinks in search of cheap and easy thrills. Here in Mayrhofen, I was, at 23, one of the younger festival goers and was very much aware of a more mature approach to the festival lifestyle.

Not to say youngsters wouldn't enjoy it – it's a fun experience for any age group. As long as you have a sense of humour and appreciate a joker or two you’re more than welcome. That's the beauty of Altitude – it’s not full of teenagers passed out in a puddle of mud, it’s a load of adults rolling around in the snow laughing.

 Plenty of giggles at Altitude Festival (image: Altitude Comedy Festival)

Clowns Can Ski

When I was invited to join the festival’s headliners and guests at the White Lounge igloo bar at the top of the ski area’s Ahorn mountain for the ominously named ‘Clown Race’, I felt pretty relaxed ahead of what I thought would be a leisurely, comic run down an easy blue beneath a bluebird Austrian sky - how wrong was I?

Much to my horrified amazement I found professional, adult comedians - the likes of Marcus Brigstocke, Joel Dommett and Craig Campbell - dressed as tigers, penguins and the odd cow, champing at the bit to tackle a 5-kilometre black run.

Their jovial fancy dress outfits did nothing to hide that they were all definitely in it to win it and as the klaxon sounded and the pack sped off, novelty udders and tails flying left and right, I realised that clowns can most definitely ski and snowboard.

The Mountains Are More Than Just Backdrop

While packing, I recalled stories of the usual apres antics that fuel ski and snowboard festivals, only really including my ski gear as lip service to the slopes, assuming that, for all the partying, I would struggle to get more than a couple of hours on the mountain.

So as I cruised through yet another morning of fresh snow on Penken mountain I smiled, happy to have found a festival where hitting the slopes matters just as much as savouring the entertainment – to both guests and performers.

However, be warned, it seems comedians have an inhuman ability to stay up until 4am playing table football in their underwear and still be able to make first lift, and are not afraid to drag you along with them.

 Marcus Brigstocke and the rest get amongst the festivities complete with cow and lederhosen combo (image: Altitude Comedy Festival)

We Are All Performers

With a wave and a beckon I was on stage. I have never claimed to be at all entertaining or even mildly amusing, but there I was poised on a chair acting like a lion in front of 200 strangers.

For all of the acts I saw - the dazzling wit of Scottish comic Daniel Sloss, the incredible add-libbing of Abandoman and The Boy With Tape On His Face – audience participation was key. Unlike most comedy gigs where reluctancy reigns in the stalls – and I’m not sure if it was the apres or the altitude – but members of the audience here were more than at ease when parading around on stage to Tom Jones’ You Can Leave Your Hat On or sitting on each other shoulders to mimic a human dinosaur.


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What's A VIP?

There’s not a single red carpet, entourage or diva demand in sight at Altitude, so don’t be shocked when you happen to be rubbing shoulders with some of the comedy circuit's biggest names. Whether it’s on a morning gondola or at gigs in the evenings when headliners such as Bill Bailey or Sean Lock join you in the bar after their set, Altitude proves that in the mountains the word celebrity means nothing.

 The White Lunge, for grabbing a drink between runs

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Laughter

It is more traditional for festivals in the mountains to be of the musical variety – not to mention the constant europop blasting out across the Alps from any kind of slopeside bar or restaurant. But for once, and refreshingly so, it was the sound of laughter that filled the air.

Now in its ninth year, Altitude is an established part of the season's calendar, regularly hosting the world's biggest comics over an intense five days of three shows a day, from 5pm to The Late Show finishing in the wee hours. Fortunately, everyone seems to draw strength to keep going from somewhere.

On the final night of the festival, when we were all dizzy with laughter and full to the brim with red wine and fondue, the week’s lederhosen-clad host comedian and keen snowboarder Andrew Maxwell handed out song sheets – Edelweiss. As the audience's song rose into the night sky, I realised for once I wouldn’t be leaving a festival with music ringing in my ears, because the hills of Mayrhofen were, for one week in March, most definitely alive with the sound of laughter.

 Mayrhofen's slopes are full of skiers as well as laughter

Altitude Comedy Festival will be returning to Mayrhofen in 2016.

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This article was written by Lucy Aspden from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Lucy Aspden

I work in editorial and social media at Telegraph Ski & Snowboard.