Known for its gun, sex and knife shops, and mystery meat kebabs bigger than your head, the Bulgarian village of Bansko seems quite unlike any French or Swiss ski resort you've been to. It's a bit of a timewarp - that is, until you come across the UK-heavy crowd of bass enthusiasts that storm its rustic lodges once a year for Horizon. Eastern Europe might be on the brink of another Cold War, but that wasn't gonna stop a week of mountain-side debauchery.
The festival is still a baby; only in its third year. Having expanded from its original 400-strong crowd to now host around 1,700, it still offers the intimacy that means you'll bump into the same people around the various venues or (literally) while hurtling down a run. And where you normally need to spend an arm and a leg to break an arm and a leg, Horizon is seriously affordable for one week of snowsports and partying. Beer for 5 lev - £1.80 - means that you won't have a panic attack checking your balance back home, either.
Nestled in the Pirin mountains, these Toblerone views lend for some breathtaking stage settings. There's the Mountain Creek where, on Sunday, smiley identical twin DJ duo the Menendez brothers (Eniz and Deniz, not the convicted murderers) lay down some party bangers from Toploader and Robin S - before the brilliantly mental entrance of Craig Charles in a pink mask.
Taking selfies with the crowd (and falling into a hole at one point), his trunk of funk gets well and truly rummaged through - and the ex-Robot Wars presenter mimes along to the entirety of Gil Scott-Heron's 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised'. All while encased so tightly by the mountains that you could be shotting your Jäger next to a bear (they're native to the World Heritage Site).
Snow, they say, is a form of precipitation that occurs three weeks prior to and the morning of your departure from your ski holiday. But when we show up, the white stuff is piled four feet high on the mountain - the best conditions in 10 years. Which means there are a few setbacks; the paintball war is cancelled, and when we try and find the Secret Hotel's hidden location, which promises an out-of-this-world soundsystem, we end up to our chins in powder. We'd joke here about avalanche-inducing speaker volumes, but on day two the resort is urged to stay on-piste due to the thick snowfall.
Solid bookings throughout mean that this is a more underground alternative to some of its other snow rivals out there. Creative director Jack Robinson is the brains behind Outlook and Dimensions, and sure enough Horizon also boasts a knack for piecing together brilliant line-ups.
Shouts go to Om Unit, who blasts his recent collab with Sam Binga out at Oxygen's Metalheadz takeover. Previewing cuts from his new LP is Pearson Sound at Jack's House, where our view is ideal from atop the bar, while the staff bring that extra bit of heat to his set by wielding flamethrowers at our feet. The next night we're back for more, with El-B treating us to a history of garage set, spanning the more soulful portion to the darker 2-step sound.
Elsewhere, Swamp 81's Benton sets up in Go-Go bar The Red Rose, where one particularly aggressive stripper vies for the attention of clubbers over Cassie edits. Welcoming cult West Coast rap pioneer Egyptian Lover is a giant medieval banquet hall, conveniently located in the basement of our hotel. He brandishes his 808 (once it's had the snow dusted off), followed by Bulgaria's very own KiNK who also delivers a fresh live smattering of hits - and local DJs such as Nick Nicolov and Kosta get good slots on the lineup so that it's not a full monopolisation by the UK.
Fast-paced turntablism and sports make for one ridiculous week of high spirits and slopes. It's near impossible to find fault in the organisation, vibe and cutting-edge music selection that Horizon has to offer. So if you don't know, then get to know - as you'll want to be Bansko-bound every year.
Words: Felicity Martin
Photography: Marc Sethi / Dan Medhurst