Winter Music Festivals

Festival season really never stops. Even in the chilly months you can find plenty of outdoor gatherings packed with big bands to satisfy your urge to catch live tunes. Bundle up and get ready to groove:

January 5-10

The MusicFest
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

For a week in January, Steamboat becomes a stomping ground for Texas twang. The MusicFest has brought guitar-slinging outlaws from the Lone Star State to the Rockies for the past 30 years, through its tenure hosting legends like Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver. At a wide variety of venues—from an outdoor stage and tent to hotel ballrooms and bars—the festival showcases a huge list of Americana upstarts and independent roadhouse legends. Notable acts to catch on this year’s 50-band bill include Jack Ingram, Charlie Robison, Reckless Kelly, The Black Lillies and the Turnpike Troubadous.

January 23-25

X Games 2015 Aspen Music Festival

Aspen, Colorado

It would be tough to assemble a better live soundtrack to the big-air action of the X Games. This year, while the world’s best are showing off their skills on boards, skis and snowmobiles, the base of Buttermilk will be bumping with an impressive bill of EDM and hip-hop acts, starting strong with a headlining set on Friday night by Snoop Dog. Then on Saturday it’s all about the dance beats and bass drops with separate shows from electro-duo Chromeo and dub-step hero Skrillex. On Sunday, the sound shifts back to rap with the hazy rhymes of Wiz Kalifa. Tickets for the shows can be purchased individually or all together as a discounted four-show pass.

January 30

Icelantic Winter on the Rocks
Morrison, Colorado

Catching a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a longstanding summer tradition, but, for the past three years, Icelantic Skis has hosted a winter rager at the legendary outdoor venue. Held during the SIA Snow Show, the chilly party brings a huge crowd (each year has sold out) to the rocks to dust snow off the stone benches and dance in ski jackets. This year’s bill features Diplo’s electro-hip-hop project Major Lazer and new school reggae icon Damian Jr. Gong Marley.

February 5-8

Big Sky Big Grass

Big Sky, Montana

Closing in on a decade in existence, this annual winter bluegrass fest brings some serious strings to Big Sky. Ski the steep terrain of Lone Peak by day and dance to some fast and furious picking by night. Throughout four days, shows take place at different venues in Big Sky’s Mountain Village, so you can catch Leftover Salmon’s big headlining set on Sunday in the Missouri Ballroom or the band’s opening night show at Whiskey Jack’s. Additional acts on the bill include the Travelin’ McCourys, Della Mae, Darol Anger, Grant Farm and Pert Near Sandstone.

February 20-22

WinterWonderGrass, Avon, Colorado

Telluride Bluegrass is still six months away, so if you need a pickin’ fix before the summer, this new festival has you covered. Returning for a third year after some successful initial runs, WinterWonderGrass brings a packed line-up of progressive string slingers to Avon’s Nottingham Park. This year the fleet-fingered action will be led by newgrass king Sam Bush, home state heroes Leftover Salmon and festival mainstays The Infamous Stringdusters. Over three days you can also catch sets by Elephant Revival, the Wood Brothers, Jeff Austin Band and Primus front man Les Claypool in his acoustic Duo De Twang.

March 2016

SnowBall Music Festival, Denver, Colorado

This typically stacked fest relocated last year from Winter Park to Denver’s Sports Authority Field last year. Held during the first weekend of April in 2014, SnowBall featured 60 bands from around the world on four stages, headlined by local favorite Pretty Lights, along with Knife Party, GRiZ, MiMOSA and Busta Rhymes. The festival decide to take 2015 off, but just announced that it will return to the mountains in 2016.

–Jedd Ferris is senior editor of Blue Ridge Outdoors and regularly writes about music for a range of publications, including The Washington Post.

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