Better than Colorado? Squaw Valley’s WinterWonderGrass offers the best in bluegrass

Tahoe Onstage
Greensky Bluegrass will play WinterWonderGrass.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Bluegrass, beer and skiing. It is hard to think of a better concoction for good time in Lake Tahoe. Serve it cold and in the craggy horseshoe of Squaw Valley, surrounded by the closest of friends, and you have the March 20-22 WinterWonderGrass Music and Brew Festival.

2015 is the inaugural year for the festival and it boasts some of the biggest names in contemporary bluegrass and jamgrass circles, as well as some of the best acts emerging today. The festival’s older brother took place in Avon, Colorado in February and has been bringing top-notch bluegrass to the Rockies since 2013. This year saw the Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Leftover Salmon, the Wood Brothers, and others play for sold-out crowds in the snow.

Alex and Ben Morrison started the Brothers Comatose. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
Alex and Ben Morrison started the Brothers Comatose. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Though there is some crossover with acts that played in Colorado, including Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition, Brothers Comatose, and Elephant Revival, Tahoe sports a very impressive lineup and could even be considered the better lineup. The heavyweight headliners include Trampled By Turtles, Infamous Stringdusters, and Greensky Bluegrass, arguably the three biggest bands carrying the bluegrass and jamgrass torches today. Second tier acts include local heroes Dead Winter Carpenters, Elephant Revival, the California Honeydrops, and Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, all who have rocked Tahoe crowds numerous times in recent years. Brothers Comatose, Head for the Hills, Fruition, Scott Law and Tyler Grant, and Dustbowl Revival round out the artists who will be appearing on the main stage.

The wild card throughout the festival will be legendary picker Sam Bush, who is guaranteed to make several appearances sitting in with bands. His collaborative spirit is known throughout the live music community and any set he chooses to lend his talent to will make for a unique experience.

In addition to the amazing music, WinterWonderGrass will have 14 California Craft Breweries on site to serve tasty libations in two heated beer tents. Breweries include Sierra Nevada, 21st Amendment, Golden Road, Lagunitas, Green Flash, and Reno’s Stoneyhead among others. Festival goers will be able to move between booths to sample beer and learn about special brews between 2:30 and 5:30 daily.

Dead Winter Carpenters
The Dead Winter Carpenters bassist Dave Lockhart.

A trip to the beer tent doesn’t keep you away from the music either, as each tent will host a small stage where headliners and up-and-coming acts will keep the party going in between sets on the main stage. Front Country, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, T Sisters, and a special WonderGrass All Stars lineup all will have the chance to tear down the beer tents and blow some people out of their snow boots.

Let’s not forget WinterWonderGrass is being held in Squaw Valley, one of the most historic ski resorts in America, nay, the world. The host of the 1960 Winter Olympics is now host to one of the biggest and best Après-ski parties Tahoe has ever seen. It is hard to compete with the beauty of Squaw Valley and the views it provides of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. Though this year has certainly been historic in skiing for all the wrong reasons, there is still snow to ski and Squaw Valley has some of the better coverage in the region. The festival is still offering a combo three-day ski pass and festival pass.

Keep this scenario in mind: With gear strapped in, you hitch a ride up the Headwall Express at 9 a.m. and spend the morning riding down Cornice Bowl and Sun Bowl. The sun is shining and softens the snow into a buttery heap you cut and slash through. After a quick lunch of granola you brought, you head down Mountain Run to Squaw Village. By 3 p.m. you are warming up inside a tent with other ski bums as you sip on a fresh A Little Sumpin’ from Lagunitas. Front Country has been pumping for a solid 20 minutes before Sam Bush steps onto the stage for an impromptu bluegrass romp of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” As the sun sets over the valley, Dead Winter Carpenters, who you once saw play at your friends house party five years ago is firing on all cylinders.

That certainly sounds like a winter wonderland in Tahoe.

The T Sisters
The T Sisters

WinterWonderGrass
When: Friday through Sunday, March 20-22
Where: Squaw Valley
Schedule: LINEUP
Tickets: single and multiday options. TIX

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Tahoe Onstage
Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.

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