The Library of Congress defines bluegrass as “a tradition-based modern style of string band music… combining elements of old-time
The Library of Congress defines bluegrass as “a tradition-based modern style of string band music… combining elements of old-time mountain music, square dance fiddling, blues, gospel, jazz, and popular music.” The roots of bluegrass music can be traced back to the Appalachian Mountains, but in recent years the genre has found a home away from home amongst Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Similarly, many of us skiers got our start in the eastern hills before venturing to Colorado for steeper lines, deeper turns and abundant sunshine. Annual summertime festivals in Telluride and Lyons solidified Colorado as a bluegrass hub long ago, but a newer addition to the circuit, WinterWonderGrass, might just be the perfect music festival for those that love shredding pow just as much as hearing that high lonesome sound.
WinterWonderGrass returns to Steamboat Springs from February 25 through 27, 2022. The beer will be flowing at the festival but the Champagne Powder® will be served in Steamboat’s famed trees just a few hundred feet uphill from the main stage.
“Since the first day back in 2013, behind a small brewery in Edwards, CO, the unique life of WinterWonderGrass took form,” WinterWonderGrass Founder Scotty Stoughton told me. “It was obvious from the first note that the community was hungry for this and we would need to find a suitable piece of earth—one that provides access to mountain adventure, safe and abundant local transit, a welcoming bluegrass-loving community and a space a little out of the way. We believe the journey is worth every bit as the final destination, and the extra effort to make it to Steamboat makes the gathering that much more exuberating. Add in world-class tree skiing, hot springs, a year-round community dotted with some of the kindest humans in the West, and the ingredients were ripe!”
What follows is FREESKIER’s definitive guide to WinterWonderGrass that will ensure you and your crew get the most out of your festival experience—from pickin’ to powder and everything in between that Ski Town USA® has to offer.
Since moving to Steamboat in 2017, the WinterWonderGrass artist lineups over the years have read like a who’s who of modern bluegrass—bringing some of the biggest acts in the business to the heart of Colorado’s Front Range. With names like Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival, Railroad Earth and Billy Strings to name just a few. The 2022 lineup brings back past favorites while also adding some new acts to the bill.
“I’m proud of our team for continuing to think outside the box and welcome fresh artists,” Stoughton said. “We’ve got several acts coming who have never played a WinterWonderGrass, and the thought of how they are going to react when the snow starts falling is truly heartwarming.”
One of those newcomers, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, will kick things off as the headliner on Friday night. With a famous name (Lukas is the son of country legend, Willie Nelson) and a storied pedigree—Promise of the Real has served as Neil Young’s backing band since 2015—they’re the perfect act to get things going out of the gates.
Saturday’s headliner, Trampled by Turtles, are no strangers to WinterWonderGrass—having graced the Steamboat stage in 2019. This Minnesota six-piece is sure to electrify the crowd with their raucous melodies and frenetic pace.
Dual headliners with Colorado roots—The Wood Brothers and Yonder Mountain String Band—close out the festival on Sunday. The Wood Brothers, a trio with diverse musical backgrounds, come together to produce a blend of music steeped in soul and folk. Yonder Mountain String Band is a touring juggernaut who have been widely acclaimed for their live performances and will surely close down the ’22 festival in fitting fashion.
While other Colorado ski resorts might be known for their bowls, steeps or chutes, Steamboat hangs its hat on one thing: powder, Champagne Powder® to be exact. And, yes, that phrase is trademarked—that’s how good the snow can be at Steamboat. The resort averages over 300 inches of dry, fluffy flakes each year and powder stashes can be found around the resort days after a storm, if you know where to look for it.
Heading into Steamboat’s famed trees is a good place to start. Check out the nicely spaced glades of Closets, Shadows and Twilight which can be accessed from the top of Storm Peak or Sunshine Peak.
If Ullr blesses Northern Colorado with a serving of white gold in late February, a little boot-pack is certainly in order. Hike-to-terrain like East Face and North St. Pats on Mt. Werner are turns well-earned and not to be missed.
The WinterWonderGrass party doesn’t end when the house lights come on around the main stage. Grass After dark is where the magic happens and these late night shows will be taking place every night at multiple venues near the main stage, as well as in town.
FREESKIER is excited to team up with WinterWonderGrass to host one of our official after parties on Saturday night at the Steamboat Grand. As part of FREESKIER’s Music in the Mountains tour presented by ZYN, Big Something will grace the stage and we’ll be there with tons of FREESKIER swag and gear giveaways including skis, helmets, goggles and more. Tickets are limited and on sale now.
What’s New for ’22
With the pandemic canceling the festival in 2021, the excitement for this year’s event might be the highest in WinterWonderGrass history.
“I know the vibe and energy of the event this year will be absolutely exhilarating,” Stoughton said. “People are so ready for this and we hear it all the time.”
The festival layout will be similar to past WinterWonderGrass setups but with more hand washing stations, greater cleaning frequency, more open-walled tents for airflow and other site adjustments for safety.
There will also be a new Sierra Nevada bar with additional outdoor heaters, more food trucks and some new partner activations.
“The entire WinterWonderGrass family and I cannot even come close to putting into words how much we have appreciated the support over the last two years,” Stoughton said. “We have worked so hard to not only put on a show but cultivate a community, with a commitment to the things we believe in—respect for the planet, a love of authentic music and belief in each other. To feel the energy of this movement is why we do what we do and we are dedicated to delivering safe and inspiring spaces for us all to get back to what it means to be human.”
How to Get There
Fly to Steamboat — Nonstop flights from 16 destinations via six different airlines
Fly to Denver — Steamboat is about a four-hour drive from Denver International Airport
Get Around Town on the Bus — Utilize the free bus service between the resort and town
Where to Stay
Discounted Lodging and Lift Tickets — Book directly through the resort for the best pricing
The West Condominiums — Condos right next to the festival site
The Steamboat Grand — Upscale hotel with close proximity to the WinterWonderGrass site
What to Do
Strawberry Park Hot Springs — Open day and night… clothing optional!
Old Town Hot Spring — Located in town and a great way to soak off an IPA hangover
Rabbit Ears Pass Cross Country Skiing — Spectacular views of the Yampa Valley
Where to Eat & Drink
Truffle Pig — Smoked cocktails, tasty food and Grateful Dead tunes on the stereo
The T Bar — If draft pitchers and $4 PBR tallboys are your steez, this is your après spot
Freshies — Breakfast burritos, power bowls and sammies to get your ski day started off right
Schmiggity’s — Entertainment every night at Steamboat’s top live music and dance bar
Mountain Tap Brewery — Good brews, tunes and grub—ski town brewery at its finest