With a global pandemic still part of our lives, this year’s ski season is about striking a balance between hitting the slopes and staying safe, and the first full season at Bluebird Backcountry couldn’t come at a better time. The backcountry ski area — which prides itself on being Colorado’s grassroots, mom-and-pop ski destination — is selling season passes and tickets for a crowd-free, pandemic-proof experience unlike anything else in the state.
In 2016, Bluebird Backcountry started as a concept. Two years later, the founders sent out a survey to gauge interest in their idea for a ski area without chairlifts, before holding several weekends of prototypes at Colorado locations in spring 2019 and a two-week prototype at Peak Ranch in spring 2020.
This season, Bluebird is taking everything to the next level, holding its first full season at its brand new location at Bear Mountain, north of Kremmling and south of Steamboat Springs. The location includes 1,200 acres for inbounds skiing and 3,000 acres for guided skiing only.
“We have the ability to move around but our hope is that this is a long-term home,” said Erik Lambert, who co-founded Bluebird Backcountry with Jeff Woodward. “It’s going to be the first time we’ve operated at this spot so we have a lot to learn and are excited about it. There will be great terrain to start learning on and for those who are more experienced, there’s a lot more steep terrain than we had last year.”
The ski area expects to open on December 24 and stay open through March 28. Bluebird will be open five days a week, Thursdays through Mondays, and limit capacity to 200 skiers every day. Off the slopes, car camping and tent camping will be available on Thursday through Sunday nights. On the slopes, visitors will have opportunities to backcountry ski without guidance or to learn and develop their skills through Bluebird’s extensive educational offerings.
“Part of the reason we’re doing this is that there’s a groundswell of interest and curiosity in backcountry skiing. We’ve seen a desire for there to be a lower barrier to entry for people to get involved,” Lambert said. “At Bluebird, there’s a lower risk than being out in the true wilderness, but we also are providing that wilderness experience to people.”
He added that while the ski area naturally navigates the pandemic — affording its 200 daily skiers more than 1,000 acres to spread out and social distance — Bluebird is also taking extra precautions to ensure visitors’ safety. In the base area and warming huts, masks will be required and capacity will be limited. Staff members and guests who are taking lessons will be required to undergo a health screening. The ski area is also putting technology in place to allow visitors to check-in at the gate using their phone, without having any interactions where they could potentially be exposed to COVID-19.
Season passes are on sale now for $299, but are going quickly, Lambert said. On October 15, Bluebird also began selling ticket packs at early bird price points, with a four-pack running $179 and a 10-pack running $399. Ticket packs can be shared among multiple skiers.
“So many people are going to have the best day of their winter at Bluebird,” Lambert said. “It’s incredibly exciting and rewarding that we’ve been able to get to this point.”