Powder - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By rob story

Jam bands have han­dlers?

If you’ve ever lived more than a week in the moun­tains, you know how deeply skiers re­vere jam bands. You’re aware that Phish hails from Ver­mont and String Cheese In­ci­dent calls Colorado home. Per­haps you’ve popped a psilo­cy­bin cap and di­vined that jam band mu­sic in­volves re­peated crests and troughs—just as a mogul field does. And that the cli­mac­tic groove rep­re­sents a mo­ment of de­layed grat­i­fi­ca­tion, not un­like thigh-deep pow­der af­ter a long spell of high pres­sure.

Or maybe you’re a re­al­ist who rec­og­nizes skiers are about as di­verse as Bar­bara Bush’s pearls but even they can nail some nice dance moves in the course of a 13-minute song.

What­ever. Skiers and jam bands are sim­ply made for each other, and that’s why Tel­luride lo­cals were ec­static to learn String Cheese In­ci­dent would play a free show at a mid-slope restau­rant on an early spring day not too long ago.

The con­cert took place on a Sun­day af­ter­noon, with ami­able sun­shine beam­ing down on the Gor­rono Ranch event space (where I got mar­ried), which oc­cu­pies the op­po­site side of Coon­skin Ridge from down­town Tel­luride (where I got di­vorced). Colorado Free­dom Per­fume wafted out of glass pipes and into the hyper-blue sky. Not only were the as­sem­bled snowrid­ers en­joy­ing T-ride’s plen­ti­ful snow­pack, here they were gifted a free “ski-to per­for­mance” that for­bade losers who did not ride snow. Se­ri­ously, the ad warned, “No non-skier ac­cess is per­mit­ted.” Plus, the band slayed.

Folks in the Rock­ies re­gard SCI as the ul­ti­mate ski bum band, given its found­ing in Crested Butte. Most win­ters, the band stages “Win­ter Car­ni­val” tours to as­sorted ski ar­eas, so SCI can S-K-I. Watch­ing gui­tarist Billy Ner­shi smile into his mi­cro­phone, I glowed with ad­mi­ra­tion for my fel­low schralper, a guy who ac­tu­ally lived in Tel­luride when he joined the band. Ner­shi per­formed the whole two-hour show in his ski boots.

Heck, even I had swapped clunky Langes for comfy slip-ons in or­der to shake it, shake it, shake it like a Po­laroid pic­ture. Yet this meant Ner­shi was ready to click into bind­ings the mo­ment the show ended and I was not. As a re­sult, I was in­side Gor­rono’s wrestling my lit­tle pig­gies into polyurethane when the rock star stole my skis.

It’s true: Re­turn­ing to the rack where my cus­tom Wag­ner skis were stashed—the white ones with a green W logo at the tip—i found only my poles.

Dam­mit! What kind of scum­bag would burgle boards from a String Cheese show?!?

My mood spun from hip­pie bliss to mur­der­ous rage.

Se­cu­rity told me a con­fused drunk likely grabbed them by mis­take. But why would a con­fused drunk leave be­hind the at­tached poles?

Misty Maiden, the run be­low Gor­rono’s, sparkled with silky corn that af­ter­noon—or so I’m told. Me? I de­scended in sheer hu­mil­i­a­tion in­side a pa­trol to­bog­gan. On the way, a friend skied by, slow­ing long enough to nee­dle: “Oh, does wid­dle Rob­bie have a boo-boo?”

At the base of Lift 4, I an­grily stomped around, glar­ing at ski racks. Zip, zero, nada...un­til the valet ski check... and there they were! WTF? What kind of thief checks stolen goods at the valet?

The kind of thief who has “han­dlers,” it turns out. In their rush to es­cort the jam band star down to his ho­tel, Ner­shi’s han­dlers over­looked his nearby shred­sticks—the white ones with a blue W logo at the tip—and con­vinced him that my skis were his, de­spite the fact he kept lurch­ing out of bind­ings set for a sig­nif­i­cantly larger boot sole.

(Some­times, Colorado Free­dom Per­fume makes peo­ple ir­ra­tional.)

In the end, I got my skis back and the han­dlers said they were “su­per sorry, man.” They even per­suaded Ner­shi to call me the next day. The rock­ing rob­ber left a very nice, if ram­bling, three-minute apol­ogy that I sin­cerely ap­pre­ci­ated. I pre­served the voice­mail for months, till the Novem­ber day when my phone van­ished. I be­lieve the phone was sim­ply lost, and not stolen. But you never know.

Rob Story is a long­time Pow­der se­nior cor­re­spon­dent based in Tel­luride, Colorado. He’s lis­tened to enough jam band mu­sic for the en­tire state.

Photo: Re Wik­strom

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