Summer tourism in Colorado has been booming in recent years, the result of ski towns refusing to sacrifice a season’s worth of income, and savvy travelers catching on to all the mountains have to offer when the snow melts. In 2012, the town of Snowmass’ tourism board, cognizant of the money to be made and the fun to be had, decided to revamp its 10-year-old Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest (June 12–14). The board reached out to Steve Gumble—CEO and owner of SBG Productions, which also puts on the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival—to take over the annual event. “The festival was sort of stagnant,” says Gumble, “And they really wanted to inject some life into it.”
By 2013, SBG had given the festival a complete makeover, modeling it after Telluride Blues & Brews in terms of sourcing craft beer and quality tunes, but also making sure to incorporate the old event’s chili cook-off component. The three-day happening was renamed Snowmass Mammoth Fest, and this year it will take place from June 12 to 14, featuring 11-member roots rock collective Tedeschi Trucks Band and soulful funk band Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Also performing is progressive string act Greensky Bluegrass and indie-folk trio the Lone Bellow, among many more. With more than 25 microbreweries, food, and craft vendors—most of whom are Colorado based—and a capacity of just over 3,000 people, Snowmass Mammoth offers a festival unlike any other in the state.
The winner of the Snowmass’ red chili cook-off takes home a $600 purse. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Swanson)
The festival begins on Friday, with a free day of music and the Chili Grand Tasting at the Snowmass Village Mall. The chili cook-off continues on Saturday, and is free for anyone to walk the mall and taste chili. The winner of the cook-off takes home a $600 purse in the red chili division (plus $250 for green, $100 for salsa), and automatically advances to the International Chili Society’s World Championship (where the cash prize is a cool $25,000 for the red chili winner). There’s no hard cut-off for the chili competition, so if you’re interested, feel free to submit an application.
Snowmass Village Mall is a quick five-minute shuttle ride from the festival grounds in Town Park, where camping, the main stage, and all the beer vendors are located. “This year we’ve stepped up the artists, we’ve got a bigger stage, and we’ve really enhanced our VIP area,” explains Gumble, emphasizing that the festival continues to preserve a good flow and an easy layout despite its growing size. The main acts play Saturday and Sunday, with the former skewing folk and the latter rock. Regardless, the music is cross-generational, and families are encouraged, as there’s a kids area with bounce houses and games. Gumble recommends everyone bring a tarp, low-back lawn chairs, and coolers to fully soak in the experience and stay comfortable throughout the weekend.
“It’s a super good value. You can come here and see 14 bands over the weekend, drink amazing beer, and there’s free chili,” says Gumble, “It’s really an experience as opposed to a concert. And the overall experience is so worth the drive.”
(Photo Credit: Jeremy Swanson)