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Hearing is believing

A skier whooshes past carrying a tuba. A bass drum player, then a trombone, trumpet, and piccolo fall in behind. The band strikes up and snatches of music fill the slopes as the players make their way up the hill.

Ninety members of the University of California, Berkeley’s marching band, showed up Friday at Sierra-at-Tahoe for some music and a little free skiing. At noon, a majority of the band put both talents on display as they skied down “Easy Rider” while playing the university’s fight song.

Ernie Chan, with bass drum in tow, discussed the merits of playing a large instrument while skiing.



“If it gets windy it could be potentially interesting,” he said, shading his eyes to look up at the slope.

“We try to make a wedge because that’s what we do on the field,” Chan explained. “It works for a while but then we tend to spread out.”




Sunlight glinted off the brass section as the “skiing” band formed at the top of the slope. The wedge held for half the hill with each member in a full “snowplow” stance. Tubas took the lead and the band finished the song and run in a serpentine pattern. A couple of brave tuba players even added a march step into their skiing as they reached the bottom.

“I’ve never seen a marching band ski down a hill before,” one snowboarder commented after the unusual performance.

Jeff Malmquist, 21, a saxophone player, and a couple others sat out during the downhill run.

“This is my first day skiing. I haven’t been able to stand up yet, let alone play while I go down,” Malmquist admitted. “Maybe by Sunday I’ll be able to.”

The band welcomed skiers at 9 a.m. with a 20-minute concert, and ended the day with more music. David Durein, band manager, said the band sought out the playing engagement, but Sierra-at-Tahoe was more than happy to oblige.

“We’re always looking for ways to give the customers an entertainment surprise,” said Tracy Owen Chapman, Sierra’s director of marketing.”The noon performance is perfect because a lot of people will be in lodge having lunch.”

Some of Sierra’s employees also enjoyed the music.

“I give them credit for playing live music for us,” said Alex Donaldson, 22, who works at the ski check. “It makes me want to go to Berkeley.”

John Edley, 20, said he was impressed by the number of band members who came.

“It’s the biggest band I’ve ever seen at a ski resort,” Edley said. “I’ve seen U.C. Davis play at Homewood a lot, but never this many people.”

Durein said the band tries to make about two trips a year to play at the resorts. The musicians were scheduled at Kirkwood on Saturday and Heavenly on Sunday.

“We’ve done this enough that the resorts start to expect our call,” Durein said.

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