WinterWonderGrass Tahoe Cultivates Community in the Mountains

Hands down, WinterWonderGrass (WWG) is the best thing we’ve done this year. This winter music festival promises three days of live music and local beer in the great outdoors, but we discovered so much more: a remarkable community.
Photo courtesy of WinterWonderGrass

Photo courtesy of WinterWonderGrass

“It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than all of us,” WWG founder and producer Scott Stoughton tells JamBase. “It’s happening. It’s a movement, it’s a cultural revolution in terms of all things authentic, and things you can feel good about doing."
It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than all of us. It’s happening. It’s a movement, it’s a cultural revolution in terms of all things authentic, and things you can feel good about doing.
— Scotty Stoughton, Founder of WinterWonderGrass
This movement reflects the core themes of WinterWonderGrass: being kind to the environment, cultivating change, taking care of each other and creating relationships with musicians that last a lot longer than a set list.  
Each day began soaking up Squaw Valley Alpine Meadow’s immaculate, bluebird conditions and ended with a 4000-person dance party in a star-filled amphitheater. And despite seeing some serious growth (and repeated sell-outs) these last five years, WinterWonderGrass manages to construct an intimate festival in the heart of winter, which is no simple feat. 
Tahoe natives and folks from near and far spent the fifth annual event under blue skies and 50-degree temperatures just weeks after Tahoe’s snowiest month, fondly referred to as "febuBURIED." Regardless, throwing a festival at 6,200 feet in the winter takes a special kind of commitment to the cause.
Speaking of causes, WinterWonderGrass' commitment to the environment sets a precedent for all music festivals to “leave no trace.” WWG provides each attendee with a branded steel cup to use onsite and chooses compostable cutlery over plasticware. Additionally, Waste-Free Earth volunteers are onsite to direct + sort garbage, compost and recycling — with the ultimate goal of diverting landfill waste. Last year, WWG kept 23,090 pounds of waste out of landfills and into composting, recycling and donation programs. 
Photo courtesy of Mike Smyth

Photo courtesy of Mike Smyth

Now on to the music. 

Here are our highlights from the weekend:

  • There ain’t no party like an on-mountain strings party! Skiers and riders enjoyed some midday picking near Squaw Alpine's Gold Coast lift on Sunday.

  • Billy Strings is a total prodigy. At just 26, Billy is one of the fastest-rising pickers in the game. Plus he somehow manages to make head-banging and bluegrass look like they belong together.

  • Never miss a Sunday Pickin on the Dead show! Jake Wolf, Grant Farm and a rotating cast of special guests played five sets of Grateful Dead tunes (no repeats!) with a twang throughout the weekend.

  • WinterWonderWomen played two sets on Saturday and we were absolutely floored by their talent. This supergroup featured gals from the crew and bands alike — including Melanie Glenn, Lindsay Lou and Allison Olender to name a few. Their cover of “Cecilia” by Simon & Garfunkel was spine-tingling.

  • Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon doesn't stop gigging. Despite being on crutches after breaking his leg skiing in December, Thorn not only played two Leftover Salmon shows on Friday, but also two Andy Thorn and Friends sets on Saturday. Additionally, he seemed to be sitting in with everybody throughout the weekend — from Pickin’ on the Dead to Billy Strings.

  • On Sunday Trampled By Turtles gave a nod to their upcoming 16-year anniversary by playing "Whiskey," a tune from their first record.

  • Greensky Bluegrass can sure jam in a tram.

Photo courtesy of WinterWonderGrass

Photo courtesy of WinterWonderGrass

Though WinterWonderGrass is spearheading a serious revolution, Scott’s right: it really is greater than all of us. We hope to stay true to our WWG roots and to sow seeds of kindness, integrity, authenticity and mindfulness into the rest of the world. 
Until next year!