Skiing and bluegrass music go hand-in-hand, especially when you consider both boast mountain roots and improvisational natures. Skiing, bluegrass and the fans and participants of each are all authentic. That authenticity is the backbone of WinterWonderGrass, which has become a must-attend music festival since its first concert in a parking lot in Edwards, Colorado, in 2013. Scott Stoughton, the founder of the festival, wanted to bring the acoustic, bluegrass community together in a mountain setting in the winter. Naturally, ski towns and resorts, where vibrant, close-knit communities already existed, were the ideal backdrops to promote connections between the fans and the bands.
In the eight years since WinterWonderGrass debuted, the festival has grown to include three stops: Steamboat, Colorado, Squaw Valley, California, and Stratton, Vermont. The three-stop 2020 tour kicked off this weekend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a ski town with a quintessential cowboy culture that is the epitome of a bluegrass hotspot. Bluegrass bands from different parts of the country and with a wide array of music influences, styles and backgrounds, along with rabid enthusiasts of the genre, flocked to northwest Colorado in search of skiing, foot-stompin’ and all of the unique offerings that are found at WinterWonderGrass. Craft beer samplings from Colorado breweries, a cocktail bar with Denver-based Mythology Distilling, local food trucks, panels, on-hill jam sessions, impromptu performances at local bars and clubs and incredible sets by up-and-coming musicians as well as stalwarts on the bluegrass circuit rocked Steamboat over the course of three days. And the whole event is backed with a foundational message of sustainability—the festival aims to be waste-free, utilized free promotional cups to keep the concerts void of plastic and donates proceeds to local environmental causes.
Chris Pandolfi and Andy Hall (of Infamous Stringdusters fame) kicked off the main stage festivities on Friday afternoon with their Bluegrass Generals ensemble featuring Jenni Lyn, Molly Tuttle and Jenny Keel, and the fun kept going for three nights. Della Mae, Keller and The Keels, Billy Strings (times two!), Molly Tuttle, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Nikki Lane, Greensky Bluegrass, ALO, the Travelin’ McCourys and Margo Price all put on performances that not only embodied the true spirit of the festival—community, authenticity and togetherness—but brought the snow gods to their knees, as the white stuff began to fall from the sky overnight on Saturday.
While the Steamboat stop of the WinterWonderGrass tour will be hard to top, the bluegrass musicians lined up for the next two events are going to do their darndest. There’s still time to book tickets for the next WinterWonderGrass, taking place at Squaw Valley, California, on March 27.
Steamboat, Colorado: February 21-23
Squaw Valley, California: March 27-29
Stratton, Vermont: April 10-11
WinterWonderGrass Steamboat Photo Highlights
ALL PHOTOS • Donny O’Neill
Della Mae, bringing the fun.
Keller and The Keels
Billy Strings brought the house down on Friday evening.
Nashville-based Nikki Lane brought her badass blend of Outlaw Country to the stage.
Fan-favorite (ahem, author favorite) Greensky Bluegrass.
Greensky Bluegrass mandolin player, Paul Hoffman.