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The First Non-Lift Ski Resort Opens In Less Than A Month In Colorado


Getting up the mountain to ski or ride using one's own power is nothing new. If one were to trace the history of skiing back far enough it's likely they would find that all that existed was the backcountry. However, there are still more than a few skiers and riders today that enjoy getting out their skins and snowshoes and heading into the backcountry just for the fun of it. But, where does one go and how does one learn? Well, even for those of us that don't have specific answers to those questions, we do still have some answers. But, the newest answer to those questions will be at Colorado's newest ski area, Bluebird Backcountry.

"Our vision is to blend the best of the backcountry with the best of resorts. We will have almost everything you’d expect at a small ski area—a lodge and warming hut, on-site rentals, lessons, and ski patrol to evaluate avalanche terrain and respond to emergencies—but we won’t have any chairlifts. Guests will use backcountry touring equipment to hike and skin uphill before transitioning to ski or snowboard back down. We imagine a welcoming place to explore, learn and practice backcountry skills, ski great lines, and cozy up in a hut with a hot chocolate and new friends."

An idea to make backcountry skiing and riding more accessible to the masses is becoming the first new ski area in Colorado since Silverton Mountain Ski Area opened in 2002. The idea is to have a place that will be inviting and feel safe, but give guests the opportunity to hike up the mountain instead of taking a lift.

Co-founder Jeff Woodward on-site at Bluebird Backcountry.
(Photo by volunteer Justin Wilhelm)
Bluebird Backcountry will be open on February 15th for a limited season, but with all of the backcountry wonders that founders Erik Lambert and Jeff Woodward wanted to bring to the table. The ski area is going to be set up on Whiteley Peak, which stands up 10,115 feet just between the towns of Kremmling and Steamboat Springs. This will give visitors the chance to take on close to 1,500 acres of unimproved powder fields, old-growth aspen skiing, and a pretty high summit which could get someone about 2,000 feet of vertical. About 300 of those acres will be available to explore freely for any guest. The rest will be accessible with mountain guides.

To get the funding for a ski area based on a new idea, Lambert and Woodward used a modern way to fund the project. Through the use of Kickstarter, the two have been raising the funding to cover the costs of opening a brand new ski area, which is not cheap. However, at this time, the campaign has raised more than double their initial amount. It would seem that more than a few people are interested in having such a place exist. If you are one of those people, head to the Kickstarter campaign page to throw in your contribution. You can get yourself one or more of the several different perks they offer, as well as purchasing day tickets ahead of opening day.

Speaking of day tickets, one can be yours for $50. Kick in another $50 and you can add optional two-hour backcountry lessons. As stated above, there will also be a rental shop, so you don't have to have your own gear to head into the backcountry. Rental prices have not been set, but according to the website, they will be at or below market rates. Considering the costs associated with other ski resorts, a person could get the backcountry experience for a bit less than some day tickets.

This really could be a true blend of ski resort safety and convenience with the open-world freedom of backcountry skiing and riding. Also, the practicality of a ski area like this is more than obvious. It's not only a training ground for those interested in a cheaper, easier, and safer experience when learning about backcountry skiing and riding, but this place will be almost a hidden gem. There won't be the crowds that some of this mountain's neighbors have. It could almost become a skiing paradise.
 
The in-bounds skiing at Bluebird Backcountry. (Photo by volunteer Justin Wilhelm)
 Thumbnail Credit: Bluebird Backcountry

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