By Mary Wilson
As Colorado swings onto the national map for producing leading electronic music artists, the concert scene isn’t far behind. The electronic music culture is locally thriving, and one festival celebrates that passion. Paired with the state love that makes any mountain music experience close to the heart, Snowball Music Festival is the overall high elevation experience.
Major electronic artists including Pretty Lights, Michael Menert, Big Gigantic, Savoy, Paper Diamond, and Paul Basic have come out of just around the Rocky Mountains, which gave a solid foundation for producing a successful festival in the area. Snowball founder Chris Donnelly grew up in Morrison, home to Red Rocks, and is an avid music experiencer. He wanted to create a celebration of all that Colorado has to offer—snow, music, culture, beer, adventure, community, friends—Snowball was born.
“I had never done anything with music or events, it was definitely a passion project,” he said. “Having grown up in Colorado and going through all my passions with the mountains and the music scene, I just tried to combine those two.”
In its third year, Snowball switches its mountain landscape from Vail Valley to Winter Park for the weekend long music and outdoors frenzy March 8-10. The festival is preemptive to the generous and positive Colorado fan base, which creates a unique, one of kind experience for normal festival goers.
“I think what is so rad about Snowball, is it’s the first outdoor winter festival in the US,” said Don- nelly, “It’s so different than all the other festivals. From the first time I wrote down my vision, it was keeping the experience really personal. You’re never going to be behind 50,000 fans trying to see your favorite artist.”
Although the Snowball experience is a series of small venues, stages and experiences — the overall crowd is expected to top out at 40,000, selling out for the first time in existence.
“Part of Snowball is enjoying the outdoors, and we have the perfect location for that,” said Catherine Ross, Executive Director of the Winter Park and Frasier Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of times we do music here, the artists enjoy being here as much as playing music here.”
The reality that artists feel coming from the Colorado scene, growing largely out of the local region can be disconnecting to the passion that is felt throughout the state. Snowball brings all of the loose ends of what is influenced within local areas, passion that artists feel, and music lovers relate to: the Colorado pride.
As the main national music festivals such as Coachella, Sasquatch, SXSW, Outside Lands, and Boonaroo don’t have geographic presence around Colorado, Snowball gives local fans a chance to experience festivals in an intimate home-state way.
“Growing up in a place that, until recently most of the nation hadn’t heard of made it interesting to start touring nationally,” Michal Menert, an elec- tronic artist under the Pretty Lights label, from Fort Collins said. “Being an artist from Colorado right now is an amazing thing because there’s the out- lines of styles and sounds but really it’s a blank can- vas that we can paint in any way we like. More than ever right now, Colorado artists are the architects of their own destiny with a lot of people paying attention to what they do with it.”
“It’s really inspiring to see people you personally know really well kill it on stage. The fans are supper supportive, there is a lot of inspiration in that,” Gray Mitch of Savoy, an electronic band out of Boulder said. Savoy performed at the festival in 2012.
“There has been a very big change of pace recently with what’s popular in music, we’re just grasping onto that.”
Although local artists are important to Snow- ball, the lineup is diverse giving participants a chance to experience new artists, ones they may not otherwise have a chance to see.
“There’s a ton of diversity. We are passionate about local artists, and we work tirelessly to show that. Its about half and half, we have a ton of local artists and that’s something to be proud of,” Don- nelly said. It’s a festival built for the fans—we want to expose new music yet we also want people to have their favorites.”
Eclectic variety sets the stage for an already musically excited audience, which spreads that pas- sion into different sounds to diversify an already rich music platform.
Snowball is something the whole state can be proud of. The reality that the local fan base pushed through in supporting Colorado to have the thriving current, modern music scene that is does is a huge feat that was created out of passion on a grassroots level.
“Colorado is something else, really. You’ll have any artist that tours through here tell you that. Calling it home and let- ting the surroundings inspire me is a huge factor of who I’ve become,” Menert said. “Five years ago when I started playing out and producing, it wasn’t the Mecca it has grown into, and there wasn’t the universal connectivity of social media, so trying to push your dream into Colorado was really difficult. But those who stuck with it now have a very tangible fruit from their labor, and we are able to bring our dreams to life and have a community of really diverse and amazing artists.”
Snowball is a reminder of how far Colorado has come within its music scene — balanced with all that makes the state special.
“Colorado has become a hot bed for music and that definitely drives the fan excitement. Colorado takes a ton of pride in
being from here and having artists like Pretty Lights and Big G [Gigantic],” Donnelly said. “Snowball has become more than a fest—it has become a celebration of that pride.”
“It was a little more intimate than what we have been used to — everyone was just so having a great time. You didn’t see people being bothered by the snow or the cold, they’re used to it all.” Mitch said. “We’re excited to get back [to Colorado] — we fuck- ing love Colorado.”
Aside from the around 50 artists, a silent disco, special acoustic sets, a firework show, and big air expedition by professional skiers and snowboarders, Snowball Festival goers can explore the many surrounding national parks, ski or snowboard Winter Park Resort, or explore down town, which is in walking distance from the festival grounds. Having asked Donnelly his favorite place to ski, “Mary Jane,” was the answer.
“We know people will enjoy their recreational time as much as they enjoy their festival time,” Ross said.
Snowball Music festival is at the heart and soul of the green and white Colorado passion felt throughout our state. This is an in-state adventure that no electronic-music lover will want to miss. Music, mountains and bars in walking distance — a mile high soul’s paradise.
“Colorado really shines thorough — people that love the mountains, just some of the greatest people, it’s a whole different festival, it’s a whole different feel,” Donnelly said.