Snowball Festival's organizers on how it came together and what inspired it

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This weekend's Snowball Festival in the Vail Valley has already surpassed expectations. Barely in its first year, and the festival has put together an impressive lineup that includes acts like Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, the Flaming Lips, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Local Natives and Diplo, alongside a slew of locals such as Gauntlet Hair, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Air Dubai, Big Gigantic, Eoto, MTHDS and Savoy, among others - which are slated to perform on three stages. In advance of the fest, we caught up with organizers to find out more about how the whole thing came together and what went into crafting the bill.

Westword: What sparked the Snowball Festival?

Chip Herter: The entire idea stemmed from one person's mind, Chad Donnelly, who is noted as the creator of the festival. His combined love for the mountains and music conjured up the idea of bringing a major music festival to the Vail Valley. When I approached him to help, I was inspired by the void left in the Colorado festival scene after the Monolith music festival disbanded.

They put on a great production, and they were a viable resource for bringing indie and electronic music to the fans in Colorado. When they announced that there would no longer be a Monolith Festival, there was an opportunity for something new to happen. The Snow Ball had perfect timing.

Latane Hughes: Chad had this dream before Coachella of last year... By the end of summer, 2010, it had started to become a reality. We just wanted to explore the idea of using snowy mountains and winter weather as a festival setting, to offer an environment that is unlike the common "summer" festival. The ability to combine our festival tickets with the mountain's lift tickets gives the festival something unique in terms of experience and offers a value to the festival's patrons that they cannot get at other music festivals.

This picked up a lot of momentum fast. What factors came into play in regards to this taking off so quickly?

CH: The concept took off very fast. There is no way of avoiding the delicious pun that the festival "snowballed" into something bigger than we could have dreamed of. For the most part, we can only attribute this growth to the artists that agreed to be on the bill, and the fans that love them. It's a combination of knowing good music and knowing what the fans want to see. Right out of the gate, confirming Pretty Lights and Bassnectar was an awesome representation of both, and tying it all together with the Flaming Lips, opened up the event to an even broader audience.

LH: I think it helped that people like myself and [Vail promoter & Snowball Talent Buyer] Scotty Stoughton had pre-existing relationships with many of the artists. Both he and I put on independent concert promotions in Los Angeles and Vail, respectively. And when the idea of this festival came into play, we reached out to many people we had previously worked with and asked them if they would be interested.

Most of them dug the idea and blocked off the dates... and there you have it. It also helps that our festival falls just a week before SXSW, so many artists from all over the world were already in the country, looking to gig. As far as the quickness of the idea reaching the fans, information travels faster than ever these days. There is no other
way to explain it. With the power of the Internet anything is conceivable, and social networks have been very valuable to us in terms of shaping the festival experience.

Who is in charge of organizing the talent?

LH: While I was the main programming director, we were pretty focused on keeping the talent decisions very internal amongst a core of us, so as not to have the lineup be watered down by too many different "cooks in the kitchen." Branding the festival as progressive, hip, and daring was something we wanted from the start.

Everything moves faster these days, and people are more willing to try new things than ever before. So we want to be sure to run at that speed and set a precedent that we are a festival that you shouldn't miss out on or overlook. We want all of the festival goers in 2012 to look back at the 2011 lineup and say, "Wow, I can't believe all these guys played together last year... these guys are all huge now... I should definitely not miss out this year."

Being the first of it's kind in Vail, what were the expectations when this first was announced?

CH: We can safely say, we did not know what to expect; but what we've seen is an overwhelming response of support from the businesses and residents in Vail Valley, especially the town of Avon, as well as the enthusiastic support of music fans all over the world. It is a very conceptual festival -- combining world-class music with the world-renowned skiing/snowboarding terrain of the Vail Valley -- and the positive response we've seen has exceeded any expectations we may have had.

There is music for everyone from Flaming Lips fans, to the big name dubsteppers like Bassnectar. Then there is local talent like Robotic Pirate Monkey and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. How did the local talent make it's way in?

CH: From the start, we agreed that regional talent needed to have a presence in the festival's programming. It is our way to show support for the bolstering music community in Colorado, and it is our way of staying grounded to our Colorado roots amidst such a massive national lineup. The Colorado music scene is nothing short of exciting, and these bands deserve to be highlighted among the world-class talent on the bill. Not just because they are home-grown, but also because they possess unmatchable talent, even on a national level.

LH: Local talent provides the soul of the festival. What better way to reach the true music fans in Colorado than to involve and inspire the local talent within the region. They are the tastemakers, the medium to the true fans, the people that are the most passionate [music] fans themselves, and directly convey the excitement of the festival to the Colorado population. As we have always said, this festival is very grass-roots, and it's launch is very much credited to the talent at the ground floor like Gauntlet Hair, RPM, Candy Claws, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Springdale Quartet, Air Dubai and others.


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