Tom Ross: Lively up yourself, Steamboat Springs |

Tom Ross: Lively up yourself, Steamboat Springs

Sam Bush makes it official -- spring skiing is here

Dammit, Steamboat! I’m in love with you all over again. If life gets much better than yesterday in Steamboat Springs, somebody’s gonna have to sit me down and explain how.

I woke up this weekend to the sight of two robins in my yard. I checked the calendar. Yep, it’s still February. Spring must be right around the block. In the meantime, there’s plenty of skiing to be done. We were treated to impossibly blue Colorado skies on Sunday and soft snow all day long. That would have been enough to make anyone’s day.

This is the time of year when you actually notice that the days are getting longer, and with each passing day, the increment by which they lengthen increases. It feels good. You can sense that winter, and all of the white fun that goes with it, could be slipping away. But it’s also a time of year when you feel reborn, and there’s enough sunlight left at the end of the skiing day that you can sit on a south-facing deck and sip a cold one. Even better yet, you can sit on a south-facing deck and watch the Sam Bush band play a free concert! Now that’s what I call aprÃs ski! Bush, the mandolinist and fiddler of New Grass Revival and Telluride Bluegrass Festival fame, brought a tight group of virtuosos to town to see if they couldn’t melt a little of the snow at the base of Headwall. Gondola Square was packed with people in the mood to celebrate the gradual changing of the seasons, and Bush’s dazzling mandolin playing lit the candle. To say that Bush plays bluegrass would be to oversimplify. His band laid down new grass, island grass and space grass.

He got the crowd moving with one of his classics, “Whayasay,” and the party really got started when the band rolled into “Howlin at the Moon” off the CD of the same name.

A medley of Bob Marley tunes, “Is this Love?” and “Lively up Yourself,” followed, and Steamboat livelied up.

Bush’s band proved it could rock with some Hendrix-grass licks that transitioned into a tune that one-time Jimi Hendrix collaborator Buddy Miles recorded live with Carlos Santana in 1972 — “Well my mind is goin’ through some changes.”

Bush pulled out an exotic four-string, solid body electric mandolin and flat wailed on it. When he busted a string, he kept playing until a crew member handed him another electric mandolin, and he put all of us through some changes.

The band tore up the Robert Johnson blues standard, “Crossroads,” and when the sun finally dropped behind Emerald Mountain, the reality of winter sent everybody home grinning.

March is Camelot month in Steamboat — it’s time for snow all night and cobalt skies all day. Make the most of it everyone.

Personal note to John Waldman: Sam Bush good. Sam Bush, very, very good. Sam Bush — come back soon.