“The idea of WinterWonderGrass is to try and get back to that feeling when you’re in the wild, on the mountain. It’s not about the brand. It’s not about the hype. It’s not about some of the things the ski industry has turned into, in some sense. The culture that I was brought up in back in Vermont was: tiny resort, tiny lodge, didn’t matter what the conditions were. It was all about community and bringing people together.” – Scotty Stoughton
The “Marriage of Music and Skiing” panel discussion featured hosts Bobby L’Heureux (Big Heart Big Hands), Chris Pandolfi (The Infamous Stringdusters), and Annelise Loevlie (CEO of Icelantic Skis).
Big Heart Big Hands was started after a friend of Bobby’s, Jarod Wetherell passed away while hiking Maroon Bells. Originally the idea for the non-profit was to support rescue organizations, and they still continue to do that. The organization grew into focusing on education by partnering with guide companies.
Last year, clinical psychologist Jessica Heaney offered her services to BHBH. So if you’ve ever been involved in an incident, or you rescued someone, or a friend or family member has been involved, and you log on to the BHBH website, you can fill out a form to be directly connected with Jessica for emotional impact help.
So of course, we were thrilled to have Bobby participate in this panel alongside Chris and Annelise. The work they do at Big Heart Big Hands is so hugely important to the ski community, so to have Bobby out to the festival was a great chance to give back to them.
“At WinterWonderGrass, we’re here participating in a community feeling. To see it come from a little brewery parking lot to this massive event at 3 different locations, it’s phenomenal.” – Bobby
When The Infamous Stringdusters moved to Nashville to start their band, they were “way too poor to ski or do anything cool like that for years,” according to Pandolfi. Once the band grew their following, they did a ski tour out west. “Little by little we saw the overlap between the community factor in their music and the community factor around skiing. Around that time, there was no WinterWonderGrass, there was no Strings & Sol, there weren’t that many new bands playing bluegrass. As things have evolved and picked up steam, so have a lot of things surrounding that. It mirrors the community factor that we’ve observed in our fan base, building one fan at a time. It’s great to see a place where fans can come together around music and skiing.”
Pandolfi went on to describe how the Dusters first got connected to Icelantic. They were in Grand Targhee for their ski tour on a huge powder day. They offered free tickets to their shows to whoever could hook up some demo skis or lift tickets. So he ended up on a pair of some Icelantic Nomads. He got online later that day and sent an email to them, thrilled about a great day on these Icelantic Skis. The email ended up in the inbox of Sales Manager Ashley Hart, who according to Chris “took my stoke and multiplied it by ten.” A great relationship began between the Stringdusters and Icelantic, and built on all the overlap between the things that are natural to both worlds.
“These different streams flow together and form this bigger river. It’s not just bands, it’s not just fans, it’s not just companies, it’s all of it. It’s become a really meaningful thing that we’re happy to be a part of.” – Chris
Icelantic and WinterWonderGrass are a match made in heaven, according to Annelise Loevlie. The parallel she sees between the two are that we’re all just “doing what we love, and we’re doing it how we do it.” The Icelantic motto itself is a great umbrella for what that means: “Return To Nature.”
As Bobby explained, “The underbelly of all this, once you pay attention to it, isn’t just thrown together in hopes of forming community. It goes a lot deeper than that. The community is years of building. We’re not just a community, we’re a family.” It’s not unlikely that you might have met some of the festival’s artists at a party years ago, or that you might have met some of the Icelantic staff at a wedding years ago, as was the case for Bobby. “Again, WinterWonderGrass is a family.”