Steamboat WonderGuide: WinterWonderGrass survival guide |

Steamboat WonderGuide: WinterWonderGrass survival guide

Trout Steak Revival plays the Main Stage at WinterWonderGrass in 2018. (Photo by Katie Berning)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Here is a beginner’s guide to festival-ing during WinterWonderGrass.

Cellphone etiquette

Everyone loves a good selfie, but one of the best parts of going to a festival is zipping your phone away and being part of the community, without the boundaries of a lens or a filter.

Camera flashes and the glow of texting, Instagramming phones are distracting and disrespectful to the artists on stage. It’s increasingly common for musicians to ban phone use at their shows. Dozens of phones held up to record video will obstruct the views of your fellow festival-goers, and seeing phones used during live music takes away from the show’s feeling of solidarity. Try putting your phone on airplane mode to save battery and ward off distracting beeps and buzzes.

Taking too many photos also detracts from our personal experience, as seen in the “photo-taking impairment effect,” documented by psychologist Linda Henkel at Connecticut’s Fairfield University. The idea is that the more we record digitally, the less we pay attention to the actual event as it’s happening and the fewer details about it we remember, since we’re subconsciously relying on the external device to record the experience for us.

Luckily, there will be digital mountains of professional and crowd-sourced photographs on the festival’s website gallery and on social media to look at later, when we’re in the grips of festival nostalgia.

On social media: #WWGSteamboat @WWGFestival

Buddy system

It’s not only for grade-school field trips and middle-of-the-night bathroom runs at summer camp.

With winter temperatures that could lull cellphones into a deep sleep, a limited number of outlets and charging stations, and cell networks that may get overwhelmed with as many as 15,000 visitors set to be in Steamboat Springs for the weekend, it’s smart to plan ahead with your festival friends: where to meet up if everyone gets separated, and when to head to which show.

There’s no shame in keeping a backup copy of important phone numbers, addresses or your parking location on your arm in nontoxic marker. Better safe than sorry.

Physical preparation

Whether you opt for an organized yoga class or hold your teetering self upright against a ski rack while in the flamingo pose, stretching is key to not letting a festival turn into a mopey, achy endeavor. Make sure to hit your feet, legs, arms, back and neck before and after each bout of extended standing.

As for during the festival, your body will thank you for maintaining straight posture and slightly bent knees (rather than knees locked straight).

Hydration, hydration, hydration. Don’t let cold weather fool you into thinking you’re not thirsty — high altitude, dancing, skiing and alcohol are all great dehydrators. Be a regular at the free water fill stations, and drink every drop. If your urine is any darker than pale yellow, chug more. A good strategy to keep your hydration in check is to balance every serving of alcohol or coffee with 12 ounces of good ol’ H2O. Feeling alert and level headed is well worth frequent Porta-Potty trips.

Carbs and lean protein are the trustiest and most reliable of festival foods and will keep you boogying long past when everyone else hits their wall.

Crowd etiquette

If you’re lucky enough to have made it to the front of the crowd, appreciate your fantastic festival real estate. If you’re in the middle or back of the pack, appreciate the fact that you get to see the entire picture of the show. Loud talking during music, squirming up to nudge someone else out of the way and poach their spot, wearing a ridiculously tall hat while standing directly in front of a much shorter person and dancing so hard that you spill a drink on someone are all less fun than respecting everyone’s experience and doing your part to lift the mood of the entire event.


Winter WonderGrass is among the most eco-friendly festivals, and organizers make sustainable behavior during the event extremely accessible. Single-use plastic bottles will not be sold. Bringing a refillable water bottle or purchasing one at the festival are encouraged, complemented by free water fill stations. The Klean Kanteen stainless steel commemorative mug that comes with the purchase of a three-day festival ticket will reduce the number of single-use cups used.

Food vendors attending the festival — many of which are local — will serve food only with compostable plates and utensils. Recycling and composting sort stations, staffed by the festival’s Green Team, are available throughout the venue, which led to Winter WonderGrass 2016 achieving an 89 percent diversion of waste to recycling and composting efforts. And if you spy a can that didn’t make it into a recycling bin, you can be the hero of that can and deliver it to where it should go.

Attendees are reminded to dispose of cigarettes in safe, appropriate areas and to avoid costumes that shed and impact the environment, such as feathers, glitter and glow sticks. Organizers are aiming to achieve Zero Waste status during this year’s festival.

Being a respectful, friendly and good human

We can all help build a grinning, grooving, warm and fuzzy festival community by being respectful and inclusive to everyone: fellow festivarians, festival workers and festival rule enforcers. High-fives are the universal language of having fun, and kindness is as contagious as a bluegrass boogie.

If you see someone who needs water or medical assistance, be a good human and help out if you can. Representatives from the local police and fire stations also will be onsite for everyone’s safety.

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