Tram Jam Band
The originators of ski-bum music celebrate their 30th anniversary in 2023.
// By Mark Baker
You know it’s cold outside when you need a hair dryer to unstick your lips from the brass.
“Because the valves will freeze,” Peter “Chanman” Chandler says. The frontman for everyone’s favorite ski resort band, Tram Jam Band, a name that conjures an image of marmalade on the move, was talking about fellow band member Powell Miller and how he keeps his trumpet from icing up when it’s below zero—or colder. “Never any complaints—20 below or 40 above, they’re out there,” says Tim Mason, vice president of operations at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, of the band that’s been entertaining fellow skiers with its ski-bum music at the base of the JHMR tram for almost 30 years. Ski-bum music is “any kind of music that’s made by ski bums,” Chandler says. “And by ski bums, I mean people who are committed to the mountain. It’s music that ski bums listen to, which can range from reggae to bluegrass to the Grateful Dead.”
Today, the band includes Chandler, Miller, guitarist Jeff Eidemiller, drummer Andy Peterson, bass player John Clark, and saxophonist Jason Fritz. But in the beginning, 1993, it was just Chandler, who grew up on the coast of Maine and has a master of divinity degree from Harvard, and then-musical partner Bradley Parker. They told the resort they’d play for ski passes. Sometimes, they’d play resort bars until 2 a.m. and then just hang out and start playing again at 7 a.m.
The weather no longer fazes the band. Chandler remembers seeing “-12” on the temperature board one Saturday. “But it’s been colder,” he says. Sometimes the wind and snow blows sideways. Hard. “Somewhere along the line, it became easier. At some point, playing in a blizzard was no big deal,” Chandler says, although he admits, “There’s only so much good music you can play in that kind of weather.”
The Tram Jam Band plays covers and Chanman originals like “Gotta Take Some Turns,” “The Coffee Song,” and “Dream of You.” Sometimes, people show up just to listen. They aren’t even there to ski. “We have people who just hang out and listen,” Chandler says. “People are usually really into it.” Catch the Tram Jam Band every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (And, yes, they still get paid in ski passes, based on “mutual agreement.”) JH