Ski Band is a crowd pleaser


— As if playing a musical instrument while skiing in formation isn't tough enough.

Throw in a shoddy course, messy horses and frozen instrument valves and slides, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

For the past six decades, the Steamboat Ski Band has wowed Winter Carnival crowds, despite the occasional slip-ups.

"Every year somebody's going to fall," bandleader Dan Isbell said. "Each year we get better and better at it. The next step is to have the snowcats in front of us so we get a nice groomed path. It can be like a battlefield out there."

About 50 Steamboat Springs High School and Steamboat Springs Middle School students are in the band, which grows in size every year, Isbell said.

"The kids are sounding better each year, which helps motivate them to stay," he said. "And word spreads. Kids have fun doing it."

The attention doesn't hurt, either.

"We've been on T.V. all across the country," Isbell said. "Each year we get some kind of publicity from it."

Unlike the band, Isbell will not be on skis. Instead, he'll be responsible for picking up dropped stuff -- including band members -- and making sure the band stays in formation.

"I'll kind of keep them all together," he said.

This year, the band will play Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man."

Winter Carnival is a unique event for the band, Isbell said.

"It kind of lets us get loose and have a good time in front of a huge, enthusiastic crowd," he said.

The ski band started in 1935 under the leadership of former high school band director Gerald McGuire. At the time, McGuire figured that because his band students "skied as well or better than they played," they might as well play on skis, according to Tom Bie's "Steamboat, Ski Town USA."


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