This article originally appeared on Powder.com and was republished with permission.
In a magnificent stroke of luck, or perhaps some divine intervention by Ullr himself, Bluebird Backcountry created a chairless ski area right when the world actually needed one. The company announced today that it will open for a full ski season this year, after last year’s test season, with more terrain, more classes, and more services. To deliver on these promises while keeping skier, rider, and staff safety at the forefront of all decisions, Bluebird Backcountry is moving the backcountry ski area four miles northwest to Bear Mountain (9,845’). The new location is on the Continental Divide near Rabbit Ears Pass and is centrally located about 30 minutes from Kremmling and Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
This announcement comes hot on the heels of the Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s roll out of the Forecast Pledge. The pledge focuses on increased avalanche safety awareness by asking backcountry users to promise to read the avalanche forecast before entering the backcountry each day.
“Our new location at Bear Mountain not only receives 45 percent more snow annually, it’s also huge, allowing our guests to have an uncrowded, powder-filled backcountry adventure,” said Jeff Woodward, co-founder and CEO.
The new ski area has a maximum capacity of 200 guests a day on the mountain, spread across 1,200 acres of inbounds terrain. For comparison, Arapahoe Basin has 1,428 skiable acres.
With no chairlifts or motorized guest transportation and physical distancing serving as a natural component of backcountry travel, Bluebird Backcountry is uniquely positioned to keep its guests safe this winter. While COVID-19 has forced traditional ski areas to work out challenges of crowded lift lines, gondolas, and cafeterias, Bluebird Backcountry spent time this offseason evolving its guest experience both on and off the snow. On snow, the ski area has designed runs on primarily north- and east-facing aspects, crafted a signature education progression for backcountry ski and splitboard lessons and clinics, certified its avalanche education programs, and expanded its guided-only skiing zone to 3,000 acres. Off the mountain, Bluebird Backcountry will offer slopeside camping and food options from a food truck.
Now an official AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) provider, Bluebird Backcountry will teach avalanche courses with experienced and credentialed instructors. For skiers and splitboarders who are beginning their backcountry journey, Bluebird is introducing a unique three-lesson progression designed to welcome all experience levels, including those who have never tried backcountry skiing or splitboarding (backcountry snowboarding). These courses offer hands-on learning with backcountry gear, movement, skills, etiquette, and Leave No Trace principles. They help backcountry travelers develop good habits and ultimately prepare them for AIARE training, which they can now experience on-site.
“We expect backcountry use and demand for avalanche education to be at an all-time high this year,” said Vickie Hormuth, executive director of AIARE. “Recreationists of all abilities and backcountry experience levels will be looking for uncrowded places to play, making education more important than ever. Bluebird Backcountry is filling a much-needed gap to help resort skiers transition properly by learning both backcountry and avalanche essentials in a comfortable environment. Bluebird’s model is the future of in-bounds backcountry learning, and we are proud to partner with them to provide top-notch, forward-thinking avalanche education.”
Bluebird is also introducing a unique mentorship program this year called Bluebird+. The membership offers aspiring backcountry travelers access to Bluebird’s Backcountry 1, 2, and 3 courses, unlimited clinics and ski-with-a-mentor days, as well as discounts on AIARE training, guided lessons, and snow safety gear.
In addition to the new products, services, and safety measures, Bluebird Backcountry will continue to offer traditional ski-area comforts within its marked boundary, including great tree skiing, backcountry ski and splitboard rentals, touring lessons, warming huts, bathrooms, and a professional on-site ski patrol for medical response and avalanche evaluation.
Season pass holders will have unlimited access to the mountain, with no reservations required. Season passes are extremely limited and on sale at for $299 starting today, along with Bluebird+ ($250) and AIARE courses ($250–$550). Day passes and multi-day passes will be limited and require reservations. Day passes, rental, lesson, clinic, and guide reservations will go on sale in November.
Bluebird Backcountry expects opening day at Bear Mountain to be Dec. 24, 2020, and closing day to be March 28, 2021. Operations will run five days a week, Thursdays through Mondays, and camping will be available weekly Thursday night through Sunday night.
To learn more about Bluebird Backcountry or to buy a pass, visit http://bluebirdbackcountry.com.
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