Gliding to the oldies |

Gliding to the oldies

Ski band tradition continues with classic rock, new director

Mike McCollum

Steamboat Springs High School's Ski Band performs on Lincoln Avenue at Winter Carnival.

— Steamboat Springs High School’s new band director Jim Knapp has never attended Winter Carnival, but he’s well aware of the precedent set by the school’s famous Ski Band.

“I moved here in August last year, and I immediately began trying to build an image in my head about Ski Band,” said Knapp, who has watched videotapes of Ski Band performances and talked with Ski Band alumni to get a better understanding of expectations and challenges.

“I’m doing my best to stick to tradition and keep it similar. It’s quite a tradition, and there is a little bit of pressure, but this is my contribution to it.”

One of the most familiar and anticipated sights of the annual Winter Carnival is the performance by the high school band, which skis in full formation and regalia down Lincoln Avenue while playing tunes such as “Anchors Away,” the high school’s fight song.

“With it being such a short parade, we’ll play a couple tunes two or three times,” he said. “We’ll also be performing (Maynard Ferguson’s) ‘Gospel John,’ a rock anthem from the ’70s.”

The Ski Band began in 1935 under the leadership of director Gerald McGuire, who suggested his band strap on skis while playing in the Winter Carnival. The decades that followed the original appearance of the ski band have magnified its uniqueness and increased its notoriety.

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The band of about 35 students rehearses in front of the high school, but it doesn’t spend more than a day or two preparing for the annual tradition. All the practice in the world can’t prevent the obstacles posed by cold Northwest Colorado winters.

Frozen saliva can wreak havoc on expensive instruments, and moist lips can become stuck to metal and brass mouthpieces. But the band has learned from past experiences – plastic mouthpieces are now used on most of the instruments.

Other obstacles include choppy snow and the messes left behind by horses that participate in other Winter Carnival events. Of course, the latter also provides great incentive for band members to stay upright.

The ski band will perform during the annual Winter Carnival parade Feb. 10.