Bluebird Backcountry adds 12 new runs, 4 skin tracks
In-bounds and backcountry might mean two different things for some winter athletes, but not for anyone familiar with Bluebird Backcountry.
The liftless, human-powered ski resort between Kremmling and Steamboat Springs is back for its second full season at Bear Mountain. After a productive offseason, Bluebird now has 12 new trails and four new skin tracks, claiming 400% more tree skiing and three times more terrain on the North Face.
“This is what we’ve been dreaming about the whole time, and we will continue to add runs,” co-founder Erik Lambert said. “This is going to be the biggest, sweeping change that we’ll do.”
Founders Lambert and Jeff Woodward skied every section of the mountain last year, determining the best snow and terrain for new trails. There are four extreme runs on the backside known as Couloir Zone, which was out of bounds last year. On the North Face, there are six new black runs, most of which were in a zone previously labeled a terrain trap. On the lower side of the Northeast Face there is also a new green/blue run and a blue run.
Last year was the first full season after a pair of trial winters in the vicinity of Bear Mountain. Bluebird and its landowners established a multiyear lease, so the Bluebird crew got to work with expanding during the summer.
The land is also used for guided hunts and cattle grazing, so the crew was given parts of the month of July to work in the area. Two weekends of volunteer work got the job done. About 50 volunteers and Bluebird staff cut saplings and thin branches to maintain the natural feel of the mountain but also clear a path for downhill action.
“Some of those trails are mostly natural, like where there were meadows that weren’t really accessible because they were hidden between thick trees,” Lambert said. “So, we’ve cleared out some of the trees, the saplings and done some limbing so it’s easier to get into those meadows, then you ski through those meadows that have big old growth aspens and things like that.”
In addition to expanding terrain, Bluebird staff worked on the access road to improve drainage.
Bluebird, the first new ski area in Colorado in two decades, has 1,200 acres of patrolled terrain, as well as guided terrain. Bluebird plans to hire more ski patrollers to keep an eye on the expanding inbound area.
The inbound terrain is controlled for avalanches by ski patrol, allowing skiers of every knowledge and skill level to enjoy their time at Bluebird. On the other side of the same coin, Bluebird values education and offers avalanche classes and refresher courses.
“The character of the mountain is going to remain very much the same,” Lambert said. “It’s going to have a pretty wild feel. It’s uncrowded.”
From the beginning, Bluebird has made decisions based on the feedback of their users. They continued that trend by implementing season passes for weekday access, as well as for those 26 and younger. Each pass is $100 less than the typical season pass. Additionally, after some trial runs, Bluebird is permitting dogs on weekdays. Since Bluebird is open Thursday through Monday, that means dogs are allowed Thursday, Friday and Monday.
“Everybody wants to ski with their dog,” Lambert said. “Unless their dog is a chihuahua.”
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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