Bluebird Snow Report: 1/27/21

Here’s the latest from the mountain!

Base Depth: 32″
Past 7-Day Snow Total: 11″
Current Conditions: Powder
Terrain Open: West Bowl, Meat Hill, Lost in the Woodwards

There has been a change in the weather pattern across Colorado. A series of storms has dropped a much-needed boost to our snowpack. While some parts of the Southern mountains got more of a boost, the Northern mountains are next in line. Riders have enjoyed fresh tracks all week, and the snow continued to fall Tuesday. A drying trend is expected today through Friday. The next pacific storm will bring light snow to the northern mountains Friday and ramp up early on Saturday.

Bluebird has over 30 inches of snow at the base stake. Ski Patrol reports collapsible snow on some north facing slopes that have not been packed. We look forward to opening new terrain as the snow continues to build.
See you out there!

Photo: Doug McLennan

What Gear Do I Need to Come to Bluebird Backcountry?

There are ski patrollers but no lifts? Gear rentals but no heated cafeterias? As the first backcountry-only ski area in the US, Bluebird Backcountry kind of created its own category of outdoor adventure zone. So, if you have some questions on what exactly you need to bring to ski or ride at Bluebird, you’re not alone. 

To help you prepare, we created the ultimate Bluebird Backcountry packing list.

 

Opt for a 25-35 liter pack with a good hipbelt. How else are you going to carry all those dog treats? Photo: Kathryn Ciamaichelo 

A Good Backpack

Your packing list starts with a good backpack. Backcountry safety is all about winter self-sufficiency, and that means having a system to carry the essentials with you. We recommend a pack with a wide, sturdy hipbelt to take the load and keep your shoulders from getting sore. A good hiking pack will do, but most backcountry skiers and splitboarders strongly prefer a backcountry touring pack with dedicated compartments for avalanche gear. 

  • A 25- to 35-liter pack 

Avalanche Safety Equipment 

Bluebird Backcountry is patrolled by some of the best snow safety experts in the biz. We close slopes that we evaluate to have high avalanche risk. However, Bluebird still sits somewhere between resorts and wilderness on the spectrum of avalanche safety. Whenever there’s even the slightest concern about snow conditions, it’s best practice to bring a full avy safety kit. To ski or ride at Bluebird, you must bring the following gear (avalanche safety gear is also available for rent at our base area): 

  • Avalanche beacon (required)
  • Avalanche probe (required)
  • Avalanche shovel (required) 

Avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel are required at Bluebird. Plus you’ll need them to win cool prizes in our rescue drill contests! Photo: Doug McLennan

The Big Essentials 

Now for the fun stuff. You can rent the following gear at Bluebird or bring your own.

  • Boots (make sure any ski boots have a walk mode; regular snowboard boots are compatible with splitboard bindings) 
  • Skis or splitboard with AT bindings 
  • Collapsible poles
  • Skins 

Warm Layers

A big part of having fun and learning effectively in the backcountry is knowing how to stay comfortable in cold and variable weather. That all comes down to smart layering. We recommend wearing and/or packing the following. 

  • Wool or synthetic baselayer bottoms
  • Wool or synthetic baselayer top 
  • Ski socks
  • Wool or synthetic undies
  • Neck gaiter
  • Warm hat
  • Lightweight touring gloves
  • Warm mittens or downhill gloves
  • Wool or synthetic midlayer
  • Softshell pants (or hardshell pants with zippers for venting)
  • A waterproof shell jacket
  • A warm puffy jacket for stops and emergencies
  • An insulated vest or lightweight puffy

A good hardshell jacket, like the Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell, pictured, blocks wind and keeps out snow while you shred. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

Other Essentials 

Stay comfortable over a full day outdoors by packing these important odds and ends. 

  • Face mask
  • Sunhat
  • Chapstick
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Goggles

Food and Water

Bluebird Backcountry has lots of great food offerings at our base area this year. Think giant s’mores, chili, and breakfast burritos. However, it’s always good practice to throw a few things in your pack to keep you fueled on the skintrack. (If you forget, you can stop by the Bluebird Base Area, where we offer snacks from local brands like Patter Bars, Kate’s Real Food Bars, Upqua Oats, Mike’s Mighty Ramen, and Honeystinger.) We also recommend bringing warm beverages—they make it easier to stay hydrated in the cold. 

Fuel up between runs with giant s’mores at the Bluebird base area. Photo: Doug McLennan

Emergency Safety Gear 

We also recommend getting into the habit of packing these backcountry essentials, too, which will give you an extra layer of security in the true backcountry. (However, thanks to our staff of trained patrollers, this gear is less critical at Bluebird Backcountry and isn’t required.) 

  • Extra batteries for your beacon
  • Headlamp 
  • First-aid kit
  • Repair kit 
  • Satellite beacon (PLB)
  • Backcountry radios 
  • Emergency shelter or safety blanket 
  • Spare socks
  • Spare gloves
  • A helmet (not required at Bluebird, but recommended)

Softshell pants, lightweight gloves, and a synthetic midlayer are usually perfect for skinning in Colorado’s typical dry snow conditions. Photo: Doug McLennan

 

How to Camp in Your Car in Winter

Learn to camp in your car in winter, and you’ll be putting in first tracks all season long.

This year at Bluebird Backcountry, we’re excited to announce that we’re allowing slopeside camping in our parking lot for just $25 per night. (Season passes come with five nights free.)

Camping in your car in winter can be a great way to save money and eliminate your mountain commute. However, you’ll need a vehicle outfitted for four-season camping to do it. Here are our tips for ensuring a safe and cozy night.

 

All you need to camp in your car in winter is the right setup and a little fourth-season savvy.

Safety Considerations for Sleeping in Your Car

At Bluebird Backcountry, we’re all about safety. We can’t spend all day raving about beacon checks and helmets and then leave you out in the cold without a little risk-management talk.

So, before you camp in your car in winter, ask yourself these questions.

How Cold is Too Cold to Sleep in My Car?

This depends on your gear and your setup, but here’s some conventional wisdom to prevent sleepless nights (and hypothermia).

Trucks and SUVs

Think of your car like you would a tent. If you have a 15°F sleeping bag, your lower limit for sleeping in a car in winter should be around 15°F.

Cargo Vans

A well-insulated van without a heater is generally comfortable down to around 0°F with a good mattress, a large down comforter, and one person. With two people (twice the body heat) it’s usually comfortable to around -10°F.

Campers and RVs

Vans and campers with propane or electric heaters can be comfortable in any weather. (If you don’t have your own four-season camper, you can rent one from Native Campervans or Escape Campervans in Denver, or A-Lodge in Boulder.)

Do I Have a Backup Plan?

Even die-hard ski bums have to call in a favor when the nights get really cold. If you’re new to camping in your car in winter, have a backup plan. We recommend keeping in mind a nearby hotel you know is open late. It’s also smart to have a space blanket, extra warm layers, and a full gas tank—that way you can run the car heater for a few minutes if you wake up cold.

Of course, the best way to ensure a cozy evening is to prepare your car the right way.

 

A camper trailer parked in the snow demonstrates how effective a propane heating system can be.
An RV or camper trailer with built-in heating is a great way to ensure four-season comfort.

Outfit Your Car for Winter Camping

Everyone has a different setup, but these basics will get you cozy in no time.

1. Fold down your back seats.

Make sure your seats fold down fully and lay flat enough to sleep on.

2. Add insulation.

Cars lose most of their heat through their windows. Trap warmth by putting a thick reflective sun shield in your front windshield, and cutting insets out of Reflectix wrap (available at most hardware stores) for your other windows. Push the insets into the windows before getting ready for bed.

 

A couple eats dinner by their car, which is insulated with silver Reflectix window insets.
Window insulation is a must to camp in your car in winter. (Twinkle lights are a close second.)

 

3. Throw in a mattress.

Car seats aren’t great insulators. For camping in your car, we recommend a 6- to 8-inch-thick memory foam mattress, which you can cut down to size with a bread knife. They’re also easy to fold up for storage. A sleeping pad rated for winter camping will also work. (Pro tip: Stack a foam sleeping pad on top of an inflatable to up the insulation value.)

4. Build your bedding.

Grab your pillows and choose the right blankets. We recommend using a sleeping bag rated to at least 0°F, or colder if you want to brave below-zero temps. A few thick down comforters can also work for temperatures around 0°F.

 

A sleeping bag and sleeping pad provide warmth in the back of an SUV.
A warm sleeping bag and a little pop-up organization go a long way. Photo: Miki Yoshihito

 

5. Pick the right pajamas.

Your skiing baselayers make great winter PJs. Most of us who frequently sleep in a car also wear a hat and thick, loose socks. (Snug-fitting ski socks can reduce your circulation while you sleep, leaving you with cold toes.)

6. Heat it up.

Before bed, blast the car’s heater so you can crawl into warm blankets. While you wait, we recommend eating a bedtime snack and brushing your teeth. Maybe even floss. (We’re all about that dental hygiene.) Be sure to turn off the car before sleep.

7. Crack your windows.

Cars can get stuffy, even in winter. We recommend cracking your front windows just an inch or so to promote air flow.

8. Dream of fresh pow.

And in the morning, shred.

 

A woman smiles in the doorway of a van amid several inches of snowfall.
Car-camping gives you front-row seats to classic Colorado powder days.

Lessons from a Lifetime Spent in the Colorado Snowpack

Picture it: it’s the mid-1990s, and Summit County is getting yet another record-setting storm. There’s relatively little traffic on I-70, so getting up to Breckenridge, Keystone, or Copper Mountain is an easy trip. If you’re a snow-loving kid growing up in Denver, things are as good as it gets. 

For Lucas Mouttet, that was reality. He spent those snow-heavy La Niña years ripping laps at the Summit County ski areas, and when it was time to head off to college, Lucas wasn’t ready to leave the Colorado mountains behind. So he enrolled at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where he studied microbiology and immunology. 

With the ski areas along the I-70 corridor now 90 minutes farther away, Lucas started looking for a closer mountain fix for his weekends. That’s how he discovered backcountry skiing at Cameron Pass.

“I would bootpack up by myself,” he recalls. “Then I read an article in the local paper where someone made a comment about the ‘idiots’ doing exactly that.” When two people were killed in separate avalanches in the very spot where Lucas had been skiing solo, he realized he needed to learn more about how to travel safely in the backcountry. 

The Bluebird Avalanche Education Director, Lucas Mouttet, in action.

Though backcountry skiing was on the rise, it hadn’t yet gained the level of popularity we see today, so Lucas had to get creative to get an avalanche education. He chatted up brand reps at the local gear shop to learn more. In 2006, he started working with the Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol, which acts as a search-and-rescue group and teaches avalanche courses in the Cameron Pass area. 

The following season, Lucas completed his Instructor Training Course with the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), the industry standard for avalanche education curriculum. But he didn’t stop at completing the certification—he continued checking out snowpacks around the world, climbing and skiing across the United States, South America, and Europe. (His favorite place to ski, aside from his home state, is British Columbia.) In 2016, Lucas launched Never Summer Outdoor School, which conducts avalanche and wilderness medicine courses in Colorado and Wyoming. 

Today, Lucas is the Bluebird Avalanche Program Director, and he oversees each of the AIARE courses offered at Bear Mountain. In addition to managing Bluebird’s staff of qualified AIARE instructors and communicating with students, this also means honing avalanche curriculum, scouting out the best spots for courses to bring students to teach them as much as possible about the snow, and sometimes acting as course leader. (And, since Bluebird is a startup, it also means plenty of “other duties as assigned.”) 

When he’s not playing in the snow with his students, Lucas is likely playing in the snow with his family. He, his wife, and their two daughters, ages 8 and 10 (the older of whom has already skied West Bowl at Bluebird this season), live just down the road from Bluebird Backcountry in Steamboat Springs, where they spend as much time as possible together on the slopes. 

Lucas’ best tip for spending long days outside? “A hot drink in a thermos,” he says, without hesitation. “I probably go through 10 boxes of Yogi Egyptian Licorice tea every winter.” 

Lucas and his family spend as much time as possible on the slopes together.

Sign up for your AIARE course at Bluebird

Keep an eye out for a future post on Lucas’ tips for showing up fully prepared to your AIARE avalanche course!

Quiz: Which Backcountry Lesson Is Right For You?

At Bluebird Backcountry, our philosophy is that it’s easier to learn about avalanche safety—a crucial component of backcountry education—when you already know the basics. That theory is rooted in a core tenet of experiential education called the hierarchy of needs. This idea was developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow, and posits that our basic needs (food, shelter, water) must be met before humans can move onto more complex endeavors (in this case, snow science). 

That’s why Bluebird introduced the backcountry lesson during our first season in February 2020. After the huge success of that lesson, our education team decided to expand. Now, you can sign up for all kinds of Bluebird educational offerings, all of which are designed to help get you ready for an avalanche course by giving you a strong foundation of both technical skills and backcountry confidence.

Take this quiz to figure out which Bluebird Backcountry lesson is right for you.

First, tell us about yourself.

How many times have you been backcountry skiing or splitboarding? 

A – Zero! This will be my first time.

B – Just once. 

C – A handful of times.

D – I’ve been quite a few times, but never taken an avalanche course.

 

How familiar are you with your touring gear? 

A – Not at all. If something went wrong, I’m not sure I’d know!

B – A little. I can transition without help. 

C – Pretty familiar. I know what everything’s called and what it does, but I couldn’t fix anything if it broke.

D – Very. But I could probably be more efficient at using it. 

 

How long are you comfortable being outside in the winter backcountry? 

A – I have no idea! I’ve been snowshoeing or skiing at a resort, but I know this is different. I’m not sure what to expect. 

B – Most of a day, especially since I know there are warming huts on the mountain.

C – I know how to stay warm and hydrated, so I’m mostly confident for a full day outside.

D – I’m a seasoned winter athlete. I’ll stay out as long as it takes to get in a bunch of laps!

 

Quick: Moguls or groomers? 

A – I’m still working on tackling ungroomed terrain—my comfort zone is that sweet, sweet corduroy.

B – I’m ready for some medium-sized bumps, but I’m not sure about icy spots or obstacles. 

C – I’m comfortable on just about anything at the resort.

D – I’m ready for whatever conditions the backcountry can throw at me. 

 

Are you comfortable using maps to plan a route and follow it? 

A – Maybe, if I’ll be on trails the whole time.

B – I think I can identify avalanche terrain, but I’m not super confident yet.

C – Most of the time. I can even set a decent skin track! 

D – Oh yeah. I’m a pro at using my Gaia GPS app

If you got…

 

Mostly As

Backcountry 1: Intro to Backcountry

Our classic Intro to Backcountry lesson is geared toward brand-new backcountry skiers and riders and folks who have only clicked into their AT bindings a handful of times. You’ll get to know your touring and rescue gear and learn basic skinning techniques, backcountry etiquette, Leave No Trace best practices, and how to transition from uphill to downhill. 

You’ll leave this course acquainted with your gear and ready to hone your backcountry skills. At the end of the three-hour (half-day) lesson, your instructor will make a personalized recommendation for the next step in your backcountry journey. Then you can decide whether to take another lap or head back to the base area for a s’more.

Book Your Backcountry 1 Lesson

 

Mostly Bs

Backcountry 2: Backcountry Skills

This lesson is geared toward skiers and splitboarders who have spent several days on touring gear and are comfortable with their equipment and basic skinning techniques. In Backcountry 2,  you’ll learn best practices for staying comfortable in the remote backcountry (including basic equipment troubleshooting), develop more efficient skinning techniques for varying terrain, and improve your downhill technique in variable conditions, which requires very different movement skills  from typical in-bounds skiing or snowboarding. 

You’ll leave this course knowing how to prepare for a day in the backcountry, and with better uphill and downhill technique. At the end of this lesson, your instructor will make a personalized recommendation for the next step in your backcountry journey.

Book Your Backcountry 2 Lesson

 

Mostly Cs

Backcountry 3: Avalanche Prep

You’re so close! The final installment in our three-lesson Backcountry Progression is the bridge between the skills you’ve already learned and your avalanche education. This lesson is geared towards folks who are familiar with their touring gear, can skin uphill in terrain of varying steepness, and can comfortably ski or splitboard most of the terrain at Bluebird Backcountry. It covers trip planning basics and introduces how to make useful observations about current conditions, as well as more advanced skinning and downhill movement. 

You’ll leave this course feeling prepared to learn about avalanches and how to avoid them. Most importantly, you’ll know enough about backcountry travel that you’ll be able to focus on what matters in your AIARE course.

Book Your Backcountry 3 Lesson

 

Mostly Ds

Continuing Ed

Sounds like you’ve got some backcountry experience under your belt, and you’re ready to sign up for an AIARE avalanche course. If you’ve got some time before your AIARE 1 and want to brush up on any specifics, check out a two-hour Bluebird clinic. Bluebird offers several at our base each week on topics like Skin Like a Pro, Route Planning Basics, Equipment Repair 101, and Winter Emergency Skills. Or sign on for a Ski with a Mentor session, which is basically a short private lesson where you can pick your mentor’s brain on the skills you’re looking to improve. 

 

Use this handy flowchart to help you choose the best backcountry lesson for you.

Bluebird Snow Report: 1/20/21

Here’s the latest from the mountain!

Base Depth: 29″
Past 7-Day Snow Total: 7″
Current Conditions: Powder, Wind Drift
Terrain Open: West Bowl, Meat Hill, Lost in the Woodwards (new!)

This week was a mixed bag of cold temps, new snow and (yup) wind. While the wind storm on Wednesday mostly stripped wide-open terrain, the aspens collected fresh snow and helped pack some of the downed trees, creating fun riding.

Bluebird saw about 7 ” of new snow spread out over the course of the week, allowing us to open the Lost in the Woodwards skin track and the adjacent 100 Acre Woods. Our base stake has been hovering just under 30″ and is very much wanting to climb to new heights.
The Northern mountains are forecasted to get some significant snowfall over the coming weekend. Southwest winds will bring warmer temps to the ski area and it looks like the lifting jet will wring out some much-needed moisture over the coming weekend. High temps could reach as high as 30 degrees.

See you out there!

 

The Bluebird Patrollers on Skiing, Snow Safety, and a 32-Year Friendship

Ski patrolling is a notoriously difficult job, and like in any tough gig, the coworkers in the trenches are bound to get close. Even still, Bluebird Backcountry patrollers Bob Tierney and Pat Ahern are an exception: After meeting on the job 32 years ago, these two are still best friends.

“It was 1988, and we were both new patrollers in Breckenridge,” Ahern says. He remembers first spotting Tierney in a first-aid class as part of their training. Before long, they were officially coworkers, and they found they gravitated toward one another.

Then, that first Christmas on the patrol, Ahern, a Breckenridge local, helped Tierney cut down his first holiday tree. “We ended up forging a long-term friendship,” Ahern says.

 

Pat Ahern (left) and Bob Tierney (right) have been ski patrollers and best friends for 32 years.

 

Over the years the two grew up, got married, had kids, and switched jobs, slowly moving up the ranks in the world of avalanche safety and big-mountain patrolling. But they stayed in touch, vacationing with their families, and skiing together whenever they could.

“We’ve really helped each other out during some hard times,” says Ahern. “When I was brand new at Silverton Mountain, it was really scary and there were lots of obstacles because we were a small patrol tackling a big mountain. Bob gave me a lot of advice and support during that time.” 

By the time Bluebird Backcountry founders Jeff Woodward and Erik Lambert started looking for their first head patrollers, Tierney and Ahern came as kind of a package deal.

“When the opportunity came up, Bob was the first person I called to see if he was interested,” says Ahern, who Woodward and Lambert had contacted through a friend. “I got lucky to get someone with so much experience, enthusiasm, and strength.”

As Tierney tells it, Ahern got lucky for other reasons, too. 

“We live together for the season in Kremmling. He’ll make me breakfast, I’ll make him lunch. And then I usually make dinner because I’m a better cook than he is,” Tierney laughs.

 

a ski patroller evaluates a snow slope for avalanche safety

Bob Tierney evaluates a slope for avalanche risk while planning out Bluebird Backcountry’s snow safety strategy. Photo: Jeff Woodward 

Working at Bluebird has given Ahern and Tierney a chance to reunite as coworkers after all these years. It’s also given Bluebird a top-notch team of seasoned patrollers who work seamlessly together.

“We really don’t have to communicate what we’re going to do as much because we know each other’s patterns and strengths and weaknesses,” Tierney explains. “We are able to work really well together. There’s not a lot of ego between us.”

The job has also provided the two lifelong skiers a way to give back to the backcountry community in a new way.

“Backcountry skiing can provide a lot of peacefulness,” says Tierney. “It gives people a break in their lives. It helps them see more beauty.”

Bluebird, he explains, provides a unique opportunity to share that beauty.

“The way Bluebird is set up, the main goal is to educate and enable people to get out into the backcountry in a safer manner. And it is exciting to be a part of it, not just because it’s new but because it’s different from any other ski area,” says Ahern. “Hopefully with Bob and I’s experience over the years, we can add to that.” 

two ski patrollers at Bluebird Backcountry

With over 60 years of combined snow safety and ski patrolling experience, Bluebird Backcountry guests can rest easy knowing Pat and Bob are on the job. Photo: Justin Wilhelm 

 

Bluebird Snow Report: 1/13/21

Here’s the latest from the mountain!

Base Depth: 22″
Past 7-Day Snow Total: 6″
Current Conditions: Powder and wind drift
Terrain Open: West Bowl, Meat Hill
Reminder: We reopen starting this Thursday, January 14!

Six inches of new snow fell in the past week at Bluebird, with below-zero temperatures keeping conditions light and fluffy. Due to our closure last week, fresh tracks will be abundant this Thursday.

Terrain has not changed dramatically since our last opening. Skier compaction and improved snowpack cohesion have reduced signs of instability such as persistent “whumpfing” and shooting cracks. With the long-range forecast calling for a shifting jet stream and a stormier second half of January, we have our fingers crossed and will open new zones as soon as possible.

The short-range forecast calls for blustery conditions Wednesday night into Thursday. Westerly winds could push the thermometer to 7 below on Wednesday night. Thursday will be partly sunny and windy, with a high around 15. Another storm rolling through the Northern mountains Saturday into Sunday could toss us a 3-6” refill. Prepare for the cold this week at Bluebird by layering wisely.

See you out there!

Bluebird Snow Report: 1/6/21

We got a glorious 5+” refill on Tuesday:

Base Depth: 29″
Past 7-Day Snow Total: 20″
Current Conditions: Powder and wind drift
Terrain Open: West Bowl, Meat Hill
Reminder: We are not open this weekend but expect to reopen Thursday, January 14.

With 20” of new snow over the last week, snow conditions are improving rapidly. Last Tuesday’s storm came in warm and ended cold, which is a good scenario for snow stability as well as covering sub-snow hazards. This means we’re getting closer to opening new terrain!

Strong winds and new snowfall have created drifts 2–3 feet deep on leeward aspects. We are actively mitigating avalanche concern areas. With limited terrain and low snow conditions in the woods, slow skiing and cautious route finding is recommended.

Low pressure continues to wash over Northern Colorado this weekend, bringing lows in the single digits and highs near 23F. Light snowfall is expected from Thursday–Saturday with high-side totals around 2”. Winds from the south and west will come at 6mph, in the afternoons gusting to 15mph.

 

How Bluebird Backcountry Works to Keep Our Community Safe

At Bluebird Backcountry, we hope our guests have fun (and maybe even learn something), but safety is our top priority. That’s true whether we’re talking about avalanches, weather conditions, or other risks associated with traveling in the mountains. 

It’s also true — and we never thought we’d have occasion to say this — about operating during a pandemic. That’s why we spent the lead-up to the 2020/21 ski season developing a comprehensive COVID-19 Plan. Our plan has been approved by Jackson County, where Bear Mountain is located, and by the State of Colorado. To keep our guests and staff healthy, we:

  • Communicate with guests before they arrive at Bluebird
  • Strictly enforce measures like physical distancing and mask wearing for all guests and staff
  • Frequently and carefully sanitize common areas
  • Have a response plan in place in case of a positive test result or exposure
  • Make sure our guests never, ever have to wait in a lift line

Here’s what you need to know about Bluebird Backcountry’s efforts to keep our guests and staff safe during these uncertain times.

Communicating Early and Often

A chairlift with a sign that reads "Sorry, out of service. Please use skintrack"

No lifts means no lift lines, which means less worrying about physical distancing.

Bluebird believes in developing good backcountry habits, like clear communication, early on. That’s why we’ve worked hard to make sure guests are aware of our COVID-19 policies before they arrive on site. (Check out what a day at Bluebird looks like.) 

Our efforts to prevent COVID-19 transmission begin before guests show up at Bear Mountain. This means having guests sign waivers online to minimize in-person contact, limiting the number of people on our 1,200 acres of terrain to 200 or fewer, and minimizing the number of people signed up for lessons to a number smaller than the CDC-recommended max. 

Contact Tracing

Face covering requirements are strictly enforced at Bluebird. There are still plenty of smiles under those masks!

We’re keeping careful records of everyone who shows up at Bluebird. We require all guests to have a day pass or season pass, and our new scanning system ensures we know who visited and when. This means that in the event of a positive test result, we’re able to quickly notify everyone who we know was in close contact. 

Like many ski areas, much of our staff resides in communal housing during the season. Bluebird staff are assigned to “pods,” meaning they primarily interact with members of their own households. (Don’t worry; our team is awesome and gets along just fine.)

On the Mountain

Backcountry travel lends itself to physical distancing as everyone settles into their own pace on the skin track.

Bluebird takes COVID spread prevention seriously at the mountain. We’ve moved as much of the day outside as possible to minimize person-to-person contact. On the rare occasion that folks do need to be in the lodge, face coverings are strictly required, and markers on the ground help guests maintain at least 6 feet from one another. Masks are also required when passing on the skin track and any other time physical distancing of 6+ feet can’t be maintained. Oh, and have we mentioned that no lifts = no lift lines? 

Our on-mountain staff has also been trained to understand as much as possible about COVID transmission, symptoms, and the requirements for sanitizing, distancing, and personal protection. Bluebird staff knows management will have their backs when it comes to enforcing those rules, too — that’s why we’re not shy about making sure everyone on site is wearing face coverings properly.

Response

In the event of a confirmed case of COVID at Bluebird, our contact tracing procedures mean we’re prepared to notify all staff and guests who we know were in close contact and may have been exposed. When staff may have been exposed, we provide testing resources and stay isolated until negative results come back. 

The bottom line: We care more about health and safety than making a buck. If a situation dictates that it’s best for our staff and guests to close down, we’re prepared to do so until guidelines signal resume operations again. In that case, we’ll work to notify guests as quickly as possible. (For more on our refund policy, check out our COVID page.) 

Next Steps

We’re continuing to refine our COVID plan as we get more information about the virus to better protect you, our staff, and the season. As a result, we’ll be implementing some changes in January 2021 and beyond, including (but not limited to): 

  • Moving all staff meetings outdoors
  • Implementing a testing program for staff
  • Improving ventilation
  • Developing redundant staff pods within each team
  • Cross-training staff on other team duties
  • Building additional safety barriers between staff and guests at check-in and in the rental shop
  • Activating a limited operations plan to remain open should any essential staff members get COVID in the future

Questions about Bluebird and COVID-19? Read more about whether it’s safe to ski during a pandemic or send us an email at info@bluebirdbackcountry.com