To be fair, Vail Mountain has been celebrating this season’s early and plentiful snow for a month already. The resort opened earlier than expected for skiing and boarding on Nov. 14.
“We have 95 inches of snow so far this season, which is huge for this time of year. We’re 90 percent open already, and that’s good news for Vail,” said Vail Resorts spokeswoman Maggie Meisinger.
The winter celebration continues Thursday though Sunday with Vail Snow Days, a free winter kick-off. Expanded to four days this year, it starts Thursday with a 5 p.m. Pray for Snow Kick Off Party and Bonfire at Golden Peak with music from local band Rewind, a torchlight parade, fire dancers, a snowball-eating contest and fireworks.
“Vail Snow Days is back and bigger than ever. We always try to bring in bands that really speak to the masses, and we brought in some bigger names this year,” Meisinger said. “It attracts both music lovers and snow lovers. You’ll see people who are just there to ski and happen upon the concerts. You’ll see families with kids, college kids, locals, extended families getting an early start to the holidays. It’s a great multigenerational event.”
The big “tickets” (with no tickets required) are Friday’s concert headlined by Denver rock-and-soul band Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and Saturday’s concert by Americana musician Shakey Graves. These will be in a new venue this year, at Ford Park, 522 S. Frontage Road, just east of Vail Village, which will accommodate more concertgoers than previous outdoor Snow Days performances by the Greyboy Allstars, Wilco, 10,000 Maniacs and Big Head Todd and The Monsters, which packed the village’s Solaris Plaza.
On Friday, Rateliff and band will perform songs such as “You Worry Me,” the hit single off sophomore album “Tearing at the Seams,” released in March, and “Hey Mama,” which they played recently on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” along with fan favorites including “S.O.B.” Opening band Wildermiss, an indie rock quartet out of Denver, will get the show started at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 6. Bundle up for the high-energy, standing-room- only outdoor show.
Saturday, head back to Ford Park for a performance by Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter Graves, aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia. His third album, “Can’t Wake Up,” released in May (listen to single “Mansion Door”), is a departure from previous twangy/bluesy tunes such as 2014’s “Dearly Departed.” The Devon Allman Project with special guest Duane Betts, playing blues, rock and Allman Brothers Band favorites, will start the music at 6:30 p.m.
“Obviously having two days of headline concerts is the big news this year, but there are so many new Snow Days events. The kickoff bonfire is going to be huge. It’s all really just a celebration of the early season,” Meisinger said.
For a full list of music offerings, visit goo.gl/hxdE43. Additionally, many restaurants, shops and spas are offering deals. Look for the “Savor Vail” symbol on storefront windows to find participating businesses. Find out more on the website.
MICHELLE KARAS, THE GAZETTE, MICHELLE.KARAS@GAZETTE.COM