JaxnLance here, well 1/2 of the combo this week. Jax my better half is out running a 155 mile self supported race through the jungles of Sri Lanka the next 7 days. A demanding ultra marathon with snakes, scorpions and leeches. She’s a bit of a glutton for punishment and no doubt she’s having a blast. She is attempting to be the first woman to complete (and win) the Racing the Planet race series that hosts stops in The Atacama Desert, Gobi Desert, Sahara Desert and Antarctica. The Sri Lanka jungle race being the first. You can follow her progress and updates here.
This week I thought I’d introduce you to the TRAM JAM. These familiar characters have been stationed at the bottom of the Gondola (or Tram) every Saturday at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for the last 22 years, jamming out roots rock reggae beats and keeping the stoke high for shred necks young and old.
Rain or shine, powder or piste, above or below zero temps these guys play no matter what. It’s all about sharing stoke and smiles, keeping it positive and entertaining the crowd with legendary ski bum music to get your ski boots stomping.
The group originally started back in 1993 as a duo and stationed themselves on the Tram Dock (hence their name). Things at the time were getting little tense in the tram line, people on a powder day were throwing skis left in line off the dock while their owners were getting warm in Nick Wilsons. It was quite common for folks to get in line up to 2 hours before the tram opened on a deep powder day and well, leaving your gear in line without you wasn’t really kosher to do technically. If you were in line you were in line, and truth be told that rule still holds true today (so don’t drop your gear and go).
Anyways as said things were abit tense then and that’s when the Tram Jam came in, they were there to entertain and keep the peace. Often times Tram Jam founders Bradly Parker and Peter “Chanman”Chandler wouldn’t even get a lick of sleep the night before as they played Friday nights 10-2am. Start time at the Tram Dock was early (7am) and well, sometimes the party just kept going.
Front man Chanman came to the Tetons back in 1978 from Sugarloaf Maine. His love of the ski bum lifestyle runs thick through his lyrics, as does elements of the divine and the mystic. I suppose you could call him the resident snow shaman.
Chanman holds a Masters degree from the Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge. There was a time when he considered becoming a traditional minister. The Tetons however to him were the only church he wanted to have, and he considers the skier bar patrons his congregation. His music is the only preaching he wants to do. By the way he just released a solo CD titled SOLO- and it’s really good, Check it out.
I asked a few of the guys why they do it. Why keep playing year after year, “Because we just keep getting better!” John Kidwell, trombone player laughed.
Guitarist Jeff Eidemiller says it’s all about the community. “We love being a part of it.” For him seeing a local young fan grow to a bearded man 22 years later is reward enough.
Contributing to the growth and lives of so many Teton skiers seemed to be the common thread among them all. That and family too. Chanman eloquently added that the guys are more than friends, “Each one is family. Friends come and go, you stick through thick and thin with family. “
Lord knows it’s not easy playing out there either. Negative 20 degrees (the coldest yet for them was this holiday season) makes things pretty challenging. Powell Miller the trumpet player often uses a hair dryer to thaw out his valves when they freeze.
Jeff on guitar showed me some pretty nasty fingertips- the result of having frozen bits of skin rip off. Jeff also has had his guitar run over by a snowmobile.
Surprisingly drummer Andy Peterson has had few problems with weather on his drum kit… soggy drumsticks and clangy cymbals were about it. It doesn’t seem like anything could deter his stoke to play.
Fortunately local ski clothing company STIO is a big supporter of the group and decks them out head to toe in bomber product to keep the good vibes flowing no matter what mother nature throws at them.
Be sure to check out the guys every Saturday and give them a hoot and a hi5, and if you are feeling generous buy them a round of beer. TRAM JAM is ski bum living history hard at work. They indeed are the soul center of the Teton ski culture personified in song and music. We are indeed in their debt for keeping the music flowing and snow gods happy. Thanks TRAM JAM for keeping the peace.
Words and Photography by Lance