Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum presents Voices of the Valley “Ski and Alpine Yodel Songs and Stories” on Thursday, December 19th, 2013 at 7:00 pm at the history museum, 225 North Cache. Musician, mountaineer and skier Bill Briggs will be accompanied by John Sidle, both of whom have been with the Stagecoach Band for years and are regulars at the Jackson Hole Hootenanny. Enjoy ski songs written by Bill and friends, as well as classic ski songs from as far back as the 1928.
Briggs’s interest in alpine songs flourished in college when he sang and played ski songs with the Dartmouth College Outing Club while pursuing his other two loves – skiing and climbing. He and his college friends traveled to Sun Valley, Alta, and Aspen to ski, singing for free beer at local bars. Along the way, they made up songs which Bill still performs, some of which include yodeling. Bill’s passion for music is obvious — he taught himself to play the guitar, banjo and autoharp. His life path changed directions when he decided “to give up on pre-med and focus on what I loved.”
Bill moved to Jackson Hole in 1958, working as an Exum Mountain Guide. After hitching from Maine and not finding a place to live when he arrived, he set up residence under the bridge at Moose. Friends and co-workers would join him there for music. Jack Dornan gave Briggs a good price on wine — this was added to iced tea, and “Teton Tea Parties” were born. The popular gatherings lasted ten years, and these “original” Tea Parties spread around the country. This is just one example of how Bill found unique ways to get people together to share music. He joined with Dick Barker and other musicians including some from the Grand Teton Music Festival, at the American Legion Hall, establishing the “Coffee House” gatherings which remained active for a few years in the 1960s. In 1969, he founded the Stagecoach Band with Ron Scott, a ski patrolman at Snow King, and in 1993, he and Dick Barker started the Jackson Hole Hootenanny — Bill still plays with both almost every Sunday and Monday respectively.
Briggs is a local legend, known for making skiing and mountaineering history on June 16, 1971 when he became the first person to ski the Grand Teton. His accomplishments are many, including making three other first descents in the Tetons, founding the Great American Ski School in 1966, becoming one of the original members of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, and directing the Ski School at Snow King from 1966 until 2008. Bill was inducted into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame in 2003, the United States Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2008, and the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2013. Pursuing his passions, Bill is a happy man. “If I were to say I had a favorite passion,” he says with a smile, “it’s people!”