Bluebird Snow Report: 3/31/21

Base Depth: 45″
Past 7-Day Snow Total: 8″
Current Conditions: Melt–Freeze, Corn Snow, Mashed Potatoes, Slush, Soup, Glop, Spring Skiing!

Skin Tracks 100% Open: West Bowl, Lost in the Woodwards, Meat Hill, Elkhide Uptrack, Ruder’s Ridge, Continental Divide, Wapiti Way

Downhill Zones: West Bowl, the Hundred Acre Woods, the Whumphing Willows, Meat Hill, the Bearclaw Meadows, Ursa Major, Ruder’s Ridge, Skyline, Krem de la Krem, Cow Call, Plume.

Last week’s Thursday / Friday storm brought a surprise powder day to Bear Mountain: 8″ of fresh with soft turns and big smiles.

This weekend will be closing weekend for Bluebird Backcountry’s first full season, and we’re going out with a bang! Warm temps and spring skiing will be in full swing Friday, continuing through to Saturday and Sunday. Expect full-on “beach conditions” with highs in the mid 50s, dipping just below freezing with clear skies at night. Hopefully with this weather pattern, the snowpack will set up just enough at night to be supportable in the morning, and ripe with corn by 10:30.

Friday and Saturday will be relatively calm, with a slight westerly breeze on Sunday. Watch out for variable snow and sub-snow hazards as our snowpack begins to melt.

Bring out the sunscreen, gaper outfits, apres attitude, and let’s finish the season strong! We’re open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. After that, see you next year!

Photos: Erik Lambert

One Couple’s Quest to Visit All 33 Colorado Ski Resorts

It started as an antidote to cabin fever. 

This January, after a year of working from home amid COVID-19 restrictions, Jenn Ridder and James Owens of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, decided it was time to get out of town. 

“I don’t know if we started off wanting to ski all the resorts in Colorado,” Owens says. “But we wanted January to be the month where we’d ski every weekend and go to parts of the state we’d never been to before,” says Owens. So they took trips to some of the furthest corners of Colorado, visiting ski areas like Wolf Creek, Monarch, and Purgatory.

“Exploring the mountains is very much a part of who we are.” Photo: Kat Ciamaichelo

Both Ridder and Owens grew up in Colorado. By the time they met (both were working on the senate campaign trail in 2014) they’d each skied a number of mountains along the I-70 corridor. They soon found that a love of skiing wasn’t the only thing they had in common. In 2019, they were married. The ceremony was held on a little hill near their home. 

The first month of the quest to bust cabin fever was a huge success. By the time February arrived, Ridder and Owens felt like they were on a roll. They started to wonder just how many ski resorts they could fit into a season. So, they put their heads together and drafted a plan to tick all 33 of Colorado’s downhill mountains. 

“Every good adventure requires a spreadsheet,” Owens laughs. Theirs included the name and location of each ski area, whether it was on the IKON or GEMS pass, and the closing date. Timing would be the hardest part; both Ridder and Owens work 9-to-5 jobs, which left only weekends to ski. 

“But exploring mountains is very much a part of who we are,” Owens says. “We were just enjoying getting to know all the different ski cultures in different areas of the state.” 

Howelsen Hill, in Steamboat Springs, is the oldest continuously operating ski area in the US. Learning about Colorado ski history has been one of the highlights of the couple’s quest to ski out the state. Photo: By S. Larson, Courtesy of Steamboat Springs Chamber

On March 26, Ridder and Owens made it out to Bluebird for a quick afternoon session—their first time ever backcountry skiing. It was their 25th ski area of the season.

“It’s probably also the coolest mountain we’ve skied in the state,” Owens says. “Showing up, it’s like you’ve arrived at an Antarctic base camp or a moon base. There’s all these tents and a fire going. It was great to meet everyone and swap stories—there was this real sense of camaraderie.” 

Bluebird’s cozy base area gives it a unique, remote feel, says Owens. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

So far, Ridder and Owens are on track to hit all 33 resorts by the end of the season. 

“We’ve got four more weeks of this. There’s laundry that’s been piling up. But we’re looking forward to seeing this through,” Owens says. “So far, we’re on track to finish. Then we’ll just have to think up the next adventure.”

Backcountry Skiing with Kids: How to Get Started

Between the safety considerations, fitness requirements, and sheer scarcity of small-enough gear, backcountry skiing with kids can feel like a daunting task. But once you’ve fallen in love with the wide-open landscapes and winter solitude, it’s natural to want to share it with your child. We can say from experience that there’s nothing more rewarding.

One of the founding goals of Bluebird Backcountry was to create a ski area that was safe and accessible for new skiers and riders to learn their craft—and kiddos definitely fall into that category. After seasons of working with guides, parents, and experienced instructors, a few common themes have emerged. 

Here are some of the most important steps for staying safe, having fun, and fostering a lifelong love of backcountry skiing with kids.

Bluebird has provided a safe, beginner-friendly environment for the McLennan girls. Photo: Rob McLennan

1. Go Hiking Together 


According to dad and Bluebird regular Quentin Schappa, getting his son proficient on skis started a long time ago—and a long way from snow. 

“The first step is to get the kids interested in hiking. You can do that in the summer. My kids have been hiking since they could walk,” he says. By the time Schappa’s son Brody was seven years old, he’d summited four Fourteeners. But the climbs weren’t about building fitness, Schappa says.  

“When you go up to elevation in Colorado, every day in summer there’s a thunderstorm,” he explains. “So I had to teach them, ‘Is it safe to go up? What time is it? How high do we want to go?’ And of course when you have to turn around 200 feet from the summit, that teaches you an important lesson, too—that the victory is in the journey.” 

All those learnings became invaluable as the family ventured into snowshoeing and, later, backcountry skiing. 

Baby Rhea has become a regular at Bluebird even before her first days on skis. Photo: Molly Fales

2. Get the Kids on Skis

Little kids learn fast. Take advantage of the learning years and put them in ski school early if you can, says ski guide Kyle Judson, whose son first stood up on skis when he was two years old. (It’s OK if you don’t have that kind of access to ski resorts—even annual family ski trips can give kids a huge boost.) 

Getting a head start on ski skills will ease the transition to ungroomed snow later on. And there are other skills kids can have fun learning when they’re young, too, Judson says.

“I guess we’ve been preparing him for backcountry skiing his whole life, whether he knew it or not,” Judson says. “We would play hide-and-go-seek with beacons when he was four or five years old. He always thought that was pretty cool.” 

3. Foster the Stoke

When you introduce your kid to a new sport, it’s important to make sure the excitement is coming from the kid, not projected by the parent, says Schappa. For his family, watching Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research ski movies has been a fun source of inspiration. He says his kids love having pro athletes to look up to. Plus, ski movies provide valuable insight behind the scenes.

“At the resort, the kids are doing 18 to 25 laps a day,” says Schappa. “When you have to hike a bunch and just do one or two runs, that’s a different mindset.” For Brody, now 11, watching his heroes hike up ridge lines definitely brought that message home. Schappa says it prepared Brody for switching gears when he learned to uphill ski. 

Finding gear that fits can be one of the biggest challenges of backcountry skiing with kids. Photo: Rob McLennan

4. Get the Gear

Finding the right gear can be one of the biggest limitations to backcountry skiing with kids.

“You just can’t find touring bindings small enough for really young kids,” Schappa says. That’s one of the main reasons his children had to wait until they were 9 years old to start touring.

Brody Schappa currently uses Marker F10 touring bindings, which come at a low enough DIN setting to accommodate a kid’s light weight. He also uses Hagan Z02 skis and skimo skins (which don’t have clips in the back) that Schappa cut to size himself.     

Kyle Judson’s son, who’s now 14, has had luck fitting into women’s gear, which comes in smaller sizes. Judson adds that consignment stores, used gear shops like the Wilderness Exchange and Confluence Kayaks, and even Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist have been invaluable for tracking down small gear at an affordable price. 

Bluebird Backcountry’s mellow, accessible terrain has made an ideal early stomping ground for the Judson family. Photo: Kyle Judson

5. Pick an Easy First Objective 

When picking a first backcountry ski objective for kids, the key is to start small.

One example: Bluebird staff member Rob McLennan first took his oldest daughter backcountry skiing when she was 14. “Our first uphill outing was literally out the back door of our condo, across the golf course, and along a bike trail,” he explains. “It gave us the ability to turn around at any point and be home in minutes.” Heading out without a set objective or turnaround point helps keep things relaxed. That way, your kid can choose to tour at his or her own comfort level. 

Similarly, Judson took his son out on a groomed road pretty close to the house. It was a zone with zero avalanche danger and just enough uphill to get used to touring gear. 

After that, the next step for both McLennan and Judson was coming to Bluebird. There, patrolled boundaries, avalanche mitigation, and base-area amenities all help provide a safe learning space that puts young minds at ease, they say.  

Whenever Judson and his son ski together, safety discussions are a constant. Photo: Kyle Judson

6. Focus on Safety

In 2018, despite extensive avalanche education and years of professional ski guiding experience, Kyle Judson was caught in an avalanche. He was carried 1,000 vertical feet and sustained serious injuries. For his son, the incident brought avalanche safety very close to home.

“Education became a big thing for us. So, teaching him why avalanches happen in certain terrain versus other terrain, and teaching him what can be done to prevent it,” Judson says. “I started trying to shed light on those big unknowns.”

Having fun is important, says Judson, but for his family, safety always comes first in the backcountry. It’s a frequent point of discussion whenever he and his son ski together.

As for kids venturing out on their own? Education is the first consideration, Judson says.

“I think 16 or 17 is probably an appropriate age to take an AIARE course,” he explains. “Eearlier than that, the seriousness of it might be lost a bit. But once they’re understanding the risks and responsibilities around driving a vehicle or watching a sibling, I feel like they’re able to absorb more of that information.” 

Both Schappa and Judson say they feel 18 is an appropriate age for beginning to think about letting their kids go backcountry touring without mom or dad. That is, as long as they have a demonstrated understanding of the terrain and a solid tour plan in place. 

Giant s’mores from the Bluebird Snack Yurt make a great post-tour reward. Photo: Quentin Schappa

7. Keep it Fun 

“You want to make sure your kids understand what’s happening and that they feel like part of the team,” Judson says. “And you also want to make sure it doesn’t feel like a burden or something they don’t want to do.” 

Judson tries to balance educational moments on the mountain with plenty of breaks, goofing off, and check-ins to make sure everyone is comfortable.

For McLennan, snacks are another key ingredient to keeping the stoke high. Gummies like watermelon Clif Bloks, gummy bears, sour gummy worms, and Swedish fish are among his daughters’ favorites. Whenever they stop to discuss snowpack, everyone gets a treat.

“The key is to focus on safety, fun, and learning—in that order,” McLennan says. 

Full Moon, Full Value

It was only a few years ago that I learned a universal truth: the full moon always rises in the east at roughly the same time that the sun sets in the west. It makes for quite the year-round tradition. When the sky is clear, I gravitate to beach bonfires, dusk hikes, night floats, and untouched slopes to watch the old man peek out from behind the dunes, pines, flatwater, or cornices.

No matter the season, such a tradition is best when shared. Fortunately my cousins and closest friends remind me of the upcoming lunar cycle as frequently as I remind them.

Our skins silently press a track. We meander through aspens that tower taller than usual. Purple and blue pastels fill the atmosphere. In that magical hour, when there’s a chance to pause and breathe deeply, our skins slow. We stomp and settle in high on the ridge. For a moment we commune with Bear and Diamond Mountains, Whiteley nodding in the distance. Kat pours steaming Glühwein. No one objects, and the drink inspires a pivot to friendly chatter and beginnings of bonds among strangers.

As true darkness sneaks in, we make a last push to the top of West Bowl. We flip on headlamps and rip skins. Thick anticipation builds as we prepare to drop in to that first dark steep. When one goes, all. A zigzag of light and crisscrossing tracks swoosh the face. We throw aspen shadows in every direction. Anticipation mutates to euphoria. Like a pack raised together from birth, we hoot and howl at the emerging moon, hoping the darkness below is a never-ending run.

This was our February full moon event at Bluebird Backcountry — and my favorite run of the year. I look forward to another lap and meeting you this Saturday, March 27, for our next full moon event (tickets here). My cousin missed the last one… I’m texting him now.

— Erik Lambert, Bluebird Co-founder

Photos: Erik Lambert

Bluebird Snow Report: 3/24/21

Base Depth: 47″
Past 7-Day Snow Total: 3″
Current Conditions: Spring Skiing! Melt-Freeze, Corn

Skin Tracks 100% Open: West Bowl, Lost in the Woodwards, Meat Hill, Elkhide Uptrack, Ruder’s Ridge, Continental Divide, Wapiti Way

Downhill Zones: West Bowl, the Hundred Acre Woods, the Whumphing Willows, Meat Hill, the Bearclaw Meadows, Ursa Major, Ruder’s Ridge, Skyline, Krem de la Krem, Cow Call, Plume.

Last week, spring was in full swing at Bear Mountain! With soft riding conditions in the afternoon, and a poppin’ apres scene at the base + lots of live music, the vibes were high.

Thursday and Friday will bring a short blast of winter back to the Northern mountains, with lower temps and a 80% chance of snow showers. Bluebird may pick up 2–4 inches of fresh snow before the weekend brings back the sunshine and warm afternoons.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday will be sunny spring riding conditions: firm in the morning and a full-on corn harvest in the afternoon!

Highs for the weekend look to be in low- to mid-40s, with steady winds out of the west blowing 7–10mph, gusting higher at times.

This is our final full week before one last 3-day run April 2–4. Lots of music, events, Friends of CAIC fundraisers, education, and of course skiing on the calendar! See you out there.

Photo: Rob McLennan

Photo: Emily Simmons

Photo: Justin Wilhelm

Soraya McMahon is the Most Interesting Woman in the World

Bluebird Backcountry Base Area Director Soraya Khalje McMahon doesn’t always ride motorcycles. But when she does, she goes street racing. And it’s child’s play—literally.

That’s because McMahon was 9 years old when she got her motorcycle.

“It was young, but not that young,” she laughs. That’s because she grew up in Amsterdam, where mopeds and motorcycles are a more casual part of commuter culture, and motorcycle racing is an established sport.

Still, convincing her parents was no small feat. “I was obsessed with motorcycles as a kid. I begged and begged my parents, and finally they were like, ‘Fine. Fine.’ and got me one, thinking it was just going to be a phase or something.”

It wasn’t a phase. Pretty soon McMahon was on the youth racing circuit. 

McMahon started racing bikes as a child. Photo: Courtesy of Soraya McMahon

She credits her early passion for the sport to an innate love of speed, a need to work with her hands, and a laser-sharp sense of focus that calms her mind—a focus her clinically diagnosed OCD and ADHD make difficult to find in everyday life. She also gives a lot of credit to her parents for supporting what became the first of a string of extreme hobbies. In some ways, she says, they kind of get it. After all, they’ve experienced plenty of extremes in their own lives.  

McMahon is now the Bluebird Backcountry base area director. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

Soraya McMahon doesn’t always save lives. But when she does, she’s still in the womb.

When she was in her 20s, McMahon’s mother, Susan, moved from the U.S. to Afghanistan on a whim to help a friend start a clothing factory. There she met a handsome, well-read local hotel owner named Qadir. They fell in love and got married.

But by the time Susan was pregnant with McMahon, the country had begun to dissolve.

“The Russians invaded and all hell broke loose,” McMahon says. It became politically dangerous for anyone with foreign connections. “My dad came into the house one day and went over to my mom, and was like, ‘Sweetheart. Listen. Pack a bag, a small one like you’re a tourist. Take a car. Go to Pakistan. And I will see you in two weeks. If you don’t see me, go to America.”

Qadir had bribed an official, trading a pack of nudie playing cards for an exit visa.

So, his pregnant wife took the car and drove over the Khyber Pass into Pakistan, where she waited. But after two weeks, there was still no sign of Qadir.

The handsome young Qadir Khalje, circa 1980. Photo: Courtesy of Soraya McMahon

Finally, Susan managed to make a phone call home. She was told that he was coming on a bus from Herat, and he would be there on Friday at 5:00 PM. If he didn’t show, she was to assume the worst had happened and leave Pakistan immediately. 

Later, McMahon learned, her father had been torn between fleeing and staying to fight for his country. The only thing that convinced him to leave was the baby girl steadily growing in her mother’s belly. Today, Qadir still claims his unborn daughter saved his life. 

On Friday, Susan arrived at the bus stop and waited. Five o’clock rolled around. The bus came, and the passengers dispersed. But her husband was not among them. 

Just as she began to panic, there was a commotion of explanation and someone told her there was a second 5:00 bus that day, and it was still on its way. So Susan waited. And this time, Qadir appeared.

Reunited at last but without any money or resources, the couple fled to London, then Amsterdam, where they started a new life and raised their daughter. 

“No matter what happens now, they’re both like, ‘Whatever, we have each other,’” McMahon says. “They’re both really into treasuring the moment.”

Susan and Qadir are still together, and as supportive as ever. McMahon even convinced her dad to motorcycle around South America with her a few years ago. Photo: Courtesy of Soraya McMahon

Soraya McMahon doesn’t always hold down a regular office job. But when she does, it’s as a physicist at NASA.

Having developed an early fascination with motors and mechanics, McMahon went to school for physics and eventually landed a dream job as a theoretical physicist for NASA.

“But I didn’t love it,” she says. “I went home for Christmas and my mom was like, ‘Are you OK?’ I was like, no I’m not.” McMahon was depressed. She loved physics, but something was missing. She had realized that to be happy she really needed to be working with her hands.

“My mom asked me what I wanted to do, and I said all I really wanted was to go snowboarding in Colorado,” McMahon recalls. “So she said, ‘Go. Pack up your car. Quit your job. You’re not married. You don’t have kids. Just go and do it.’” 

“I realized if she moved to Afghanistan when she was my age, I could move across the country,” McMahon says. So she quit her job, packed up her stuff, and drove to Colorado.  

Born a rebel. Photo: Courtesy of Soraya McMahon

Soraya McMahon doesn’t always try downhill mountain biking. But when she does, she goes pro. And dominates.

“I moved to Colorado, but I really didn’t have a summer sport,” McMahon says. She liked the idea of mountain biking but had decided the tedious uphill portion was just not for her. Then a friend told her that Keystone Resort had lift-serviced downhill courses. 

McMahon tried it and was immediately hooked. Pretty soon, she was driving to Keystone every day she could.

“I had this crappy old bike, but the downhilling community is really supportive and they just embrace new riders,” she says. That year, 2005, she entered her first race. By 2009, she had her pro license. Sponsored by Giant Bicycles and a few other brands, McMahon raced and rode for 10 years, winning several national championships. 

McMahon spent 10 years as a pro mountain bike racer. Photo: Courtesy of Soraya McMahon

But after a decade, the sport had taken a toll on her body.

“It’s a lot of sleeping in airports with your bike,” she explains. “And crashing in downhill is no joke. It’s just painful, and it gets more painful the older you get. And if you’re pushing yourself, you’re crashing.”

She retired in 2013. (Though she has since started motocross racing.) 

Soraya McMahon doesn’t always dabble in bike mechanics. But when she does, she ends up owning the shop.

“When I was 25, I walked into a bike shop in Boulder, and I said, ‘Listen. You don’t know me. I know virtually nothing about bicycles. But I’m really smart and I’m really hard-working, and you don’t have to pay me a lot.” 

Kevin Kelly at Full Cycle hired her on the spot. She worked at Full Cycle for a few years before moving to Aspen, where she got a job at Ute City Cycles. She eventually invested in the shop, becoming a part owner and general manager. 

It was there that she discovered splitboarding.

“In the winters I had these clients—billionaires from Brazil. The Brazillionaires. They’re both helicopter pilots, and they had matching helicopters,” she explains. “They were really lovely people. And one day, the dad was like, ‘Hey. You like going into the backcountry. I’m going to get this splitboard thing, and we’re going to go together.’” 

McMahon had gone on a few hut trips and taken her AIARE 1 course, but splitboarding opened up the backcountry in a whole new way for her.

McMahon’s signature enthusiasm is one of the secret ingredients to Bluebird’s fun, down-to-earth vibe. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

“I had thought for so long that I was a downhiller, a sprinter, and that I just wasn’t cut out for the long endurance stuff,” she says. But between falling in love with backcountry skinning (and deciding on a whim to ride the Leadville 100) she realized endurance sports could be her thing, too.

“I don’t know if you could have convinced me that when I was 25 or 30. But I stuck with it, and now spending time in nature in this way is something I really love.” 

Soraya McMahon doesn’t always manage ski areas. But when she does, she’s as kickass at it as she is at everything else. 

In November of 2020, Soraya McMahon joined the Bluebird Backcountry team as the director of the base area. Her background in operations, volunteering with teens and new mountain bikers, and providing excellent customer service in outdoor shops across Colorado has made her a pretty perfect fit for the gig. 

You can find her running the show, skinning uphill with her signature cowboy hat on, and dominating in our regular staff s’mores-eating contests. 

She is truly the Most Interesting Woman in the World. 

Maybe even more interesting than the Dos Equis guy.

A Love Letter to Bear Mountain

For its first couple of years, Bluebird Backcountry was more a concept than a place. Bluebird has existed at Mosquito Pass, Whiteley Peak, and even, for a weekend during our prototype phase, at Winter Park Resort. That’s because the Bluebird vibe transcends location. Between the amazing culture of the Colorado backcountry community, and Bluebird’s passionate staff, it’s possible to make magic happen anywhere. That said, we’re so glad that “anywhere” is Bear Mountain.

We now have a long-term lease for Bear Mountain, so we’ll be here again for the 21/22 season. (Keep an eye out for season passes coming very soon!) And while it’s been fun playing the field, we can’t wait to settle into this awesome spot. It was hard to narrow down all our favorite things about Bear Mountain to just 10, but we did our best. Here’s why this little slice of Jackson and Grand Counties is the best home we could imagine for Bluebird. 

Those summit views 😍

It’s hard work to gain any summit, but this one rewards skiers and riders with amazing views. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

Guests can skin to Bear Mountain’s 9,845-foot summit, and from there, the possibilities are endless—a nice long run down Ursa Major or, if you’re with a Bluebird guide, you can drop into the Far Side zone. But before you rip skins, it’s worth lingering for the summit views, which include the Flat Tops, iconic Rabbit Ears Peak, and our old stomping grounds, 10,115-foot Whiteley Peak. 

Cute critters

Our guests get the best wildlife shots! Photo: Adam Christopher

The bears may be hibernating when Bluebird is operating, but there’s plenty of other fauna to spot. Our team has seen all kinds of animal tracks on the property, and we’ve even been lucky enough to spot some ridiculously cute residents, like curious ermines, moose, birds of prey, and this (surprisingly large) snowshoe hare. If you’re lucky, you might just spot some wildlife on the skin track!

It feels like an adventure… 

What’s an adventure without an approach? Photo: Justin Wilhelm

The 1.9-mile drive between the road and the Bluebird Base can sure feel long, especially when you’re excited to hit the slopes. And we’ll admit it’s an ongoing challenge to keep that stretch plowed. But what’s an adventure without an approach? “That drive,” says longtime Bluebirder Trent Ruder, “just takes me away from my cares and puts me in the mood.” We couldn’t agree more.

…but it’s near all the amenities

Bluebird is a skip away from incredible restaurants, breweries, and distilleries. Photo: Table 79

Despite its remote feel, Bear Mountain is only about 40 minutes from both Kremmling and Steamboat Springs (and only about two hours from the Front Range). Both towns know how to make a guest feel welcome. Whether you’re looking for fine après dining or a casual place to grab a brew, cozy cabins or an ultra-affordable room, our partners have you covered with deep discounts for Bluebird pass holders.

Gorgeous glades

The quiet, peaceful Lost in the Woodwards skin track is a staff favorite. Photo: Doug McLennan

“My favorite skin track is Lost in the Woodwards,” says Kat Ciamaichelo, Bluebird’s events manager. “It’s absolutely beautiful, always peaceful—even on stormy days—and climbs a nice mellow incline through aspens, pine and some ridge-top meadows.” There’s something so magical about ascending through the trees, and this zone captures it perfectly. 

It’s skimo-ready

The steep couloirs off the Bear summit make for a fun, challenging portion of the Bacon Brawl skimo race course. Photo: Brendan McCue

This season, we hosted the first-ever Bacon Brawl at Bluebird Backcountry, and it won’t be our last skimo race. The varied terrain (including the steep chutes pictured here) make for an incredible, challenging course, and we’re excited to see what we can cook up with the COSMIC team for next year’s race.

Lungbuster skin tracks

The hard work of skinning uphill is well worth it at Bear Mountain. Photo: Doug McLennan

When you’re looking for a workout, Ruder’s Ridge is a fan favorite. It gains 610 feet at an average steepness of 21 degrees, so it’s a real bear (sorry), but the reward is well worth it. “It’s a killer view back towards West Bowl, Rabbit Ears, and Baker Mountain, all places I love to play,” says Avalanche Program Director Lucas Mouttet. Kat agrees: “It just feels so cool to climb up a hard skin track and then see where you came from—so far away!”

More (and more varied) terrain

We love that there’s something everyone in your group can enjoy at Bluebird. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

“I love Bear Mountain because the terrain is so varied,” says Morgan Ash, Bluebird’s rental shop manager. “It allows people to expand their horizons into new types of terrain, snow conditions they’ve never ridden, and can help a new backcountry skier develop an extensive portfolio of skills that they might not have access to at other locations.” Morgan nailed it: there’s something for everyone at Bluebird.

Plenty of snow

We rely on Mother Nature for our snow. She definitely keeps us on our toes, but even this season—a dry one in many places—she delivered. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

One of the reasons we set up shop a little up the road from our previous location at Whiteley Peak is that Bear Mountain gets way more snow in an average winter than Whiteley, despite their close proximity. Since we’re not in the business of manufacturing snow, that’s important. “West Bowl’s leeward face brings in more snow than I expected at first glance,” Trent points out. It’s true: We’ve seen some serious powder days at Bluebird this season.

The best base area

We love our solar-powered base area. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

The quality of the skiing is important, but when it comes to community, a good base area is key. With plenty of parking, proximity to the Mountain Portal, and, perhaps most crucially, room for a snack yurt, Bear’s base has been the site of many fond memories. Of course, as we’ve learned over the last few years, the people at that base area are what really makes it feel like home. 

We can’t wait to see you for our closing weekends… and next season!

Bluebird Snow Report: 3/17/21

Here’s the latest from the mountain!

Base Depth: 55″
Past 7-Day Snow Total: 8″
Current Conditions: Powder, Wind Drift, Corn

Skin Tracks 100% Open: West Bowl, Lost in the Woodwards, Meat Hill, Elkhide Uptrack, Ruder’s Ridge, Continental Divide, Wapiti Way

Downhill Zones 100% Open: West Bowl, the Hundred Acre Woods, the Whumphing Willows, Meat Hill, the Bearclaw Meadows, Ursa Major, Ruder’s Ridge, Skyline, Hammerdown, Krem de la Krem, Cow Call, Plume.

While last week’s upslope event favored the Front Range, Bear Mountain picked up another 8 inches of new snow between Saturday and Sunday. High winds on Sunday blew this snow around, drifting 1-2 feet in places with plenty of soft riding conditions.

Thursday and Friday look to be beautiful spring days on the mountain. With highs near and above 40, and calm conditions, get ready to break out your Hawaiian shirts and sunscreen!

Winds will pick up over the weekend, bringing chances of snow Saturday, Sunday, and into Monday. Bear Mountain is expecting 3-6 inches from this system.

Highs for the weekend look to be in the mid 30s, with stiff westerly winds gusting up to 25mph on Saturday afternoon.

Snow, sun, or stars, we are finding every week packed with fun:

Photo: Justin Wilhelm

Photo: Erik Lambert

Photo: Erik Lambert

Photo: Justin Wilhelm

5 Ways to Ski More Sustainably

As big proponents of human-powered recreation (after all, Bluebird Backcountry is the only human-powered ski area in the US), we’ve long wondered whether or not backcountry skiing is more sustainable than resort skiing. 

With lifts and snow-makers running all day and the heat cranking in big lodges, it would be easy to imagine that ski resorts have a huge carbon footprint. Likewise, it would follow that eschewing those resorts should come with a lot of carbon savings. 

The truth is that both backcountry and resort recreation result in a lot of carbon emissions, but not from the ski areas themselves. Most of the carbon cost of a ski day comes from lodging and transportation. 

That’s good news and bad news. The good news is that we don’t have to feel guilty about frequenting our favorite resorts, which are great venues for learning downhill techniques in an accessible, avalanche-controlled environment. The bad news is that most skiers and riders have big carbon footprints, regardless of venue, and we all need to step up our game to ensure that we’re enjoying the mountains in an eco-friendly way. 

So, is backcountry skiing more sustainable than resort skiing? Sure, but only by a little bit. Here’s what you can do to ski more sustainably—and what Bluebird is doing to hold up our end of the deal.

5 Ways to Ski More Sustainably

1. Take it Backcountry  

Human-powered transportation for the (environmental) win. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

OK, we know we just said that lifts aren’t skiing’s main source of carbon output. But groomers, lifts, snow-makers, and gondolas all require a lot of energy to operate, and a lot of resources to build and maintain. (Some resorts are working to up their renewable energy use, but that can be a long process.) 

Plus, wide-open ski-resort groomers are often created by clear-cutting strips of mountainside. That removes swathes of valuable woodland habitat from the landscape.

Backcountry skiing and splitboarding not only let you ski more sustainably by saving on fossil fuels, but they also help adventurers establish a closer connection with nature—the first step in becoming passionate about protecting wild places in the future. 

(New to the sport? As a patrolled, avalanche-mitigated, lift-free ski area, Bluebird Backcountry is a great place to take a clinic, test out some rental gear, or otherwise try backcountry skiing or splitboarding in a safer environment. Bonus: The base area’s electronics and lighting are entirely solar-powered.)  

Bluebird Backcountry’s efficient, solar-powered layout provides plenty of comfort while keeping our energy needs low—one way we help guests ski more sustainably. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

2. Carpool to the slopes 

Right now, COVID-19 is a big barrier to carpooling. But it’s never too early to make a resolution to pack your car with buddies the next time you head to the mountains in “normal times.”

Carpooling not only drastically reduces your personal carbon footprint; it alleviates traffic problems for everybody else, too. 

(Pro Tip: Get a 4-Pack or 10-Pack of day passes next time you bring your crew to Bluebird Backcountry. The passes are transferable, so you and your friends can all save money by going in together.)  

3. Be Mindful of Your Plastic Waste  

The Bluebird Snack Yurt uses compostable dishware from Eco-Products and reclaimed wood trays from Crosscut Reclaimed. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

A great way to ski more sustainably is to travel more sustainably.

Many of us are really good about bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, or bringing our coffee to work in our own travel mug. But for a lot of us, that all goes out the window when we travel. 

You can reduce your carbon footprint (and save money) by packing your lunch in a reusable container and bringing your own coffee to the slopes in a thermos instead of buying something wrapped in styrofoam or plastic on the road. 

At Bluebird, we balance convenience and consciousness by serving all our base-area food—like s’mores, local breakfast burritos, hot coffee, and chili—in compostable dishware by Eco-Products. Our food trays are also made from reclaimed wood. (Locals Meg and Jack Norton at Crosscut Reclaimed created the trays as well as our Mountain Portal, which is made from sustainably harvested beetle-kill pine.) 

4. Reduce Your Vacation Commute

The best way to reduce your commute? Cozy up in a four-season camper just two miles from the Bluebird base area. Photo: Adventure Lodge Camper Van Rentals

The best thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to pack your ski or snowboard days back-to-back. Instead of driving back and forth from the mountain every day or every weekend, turn a trip into a longer vacation. Then, book lodging as close to the ski area as possible. Better yet: Go in with some friends to reduce your lodging footprint. 

At Bluebird, we offer affordable camping just 2 miles from the Bluebird base. If you have a good four-season setup, camping at Bluebird is hands-down the most eco-friendly option for an extended weekend. 

5. Eat Local 

The base area may be fueled by sunlight, but as for the staff? We’re fueled by s’mores. 😎 Photo: Justin Wilhelm

One of the best ways to ski more sustainably is to travel more sustainably. Opt for local meat or produce and locally sourced supplies, which have a lower carbon footprint from reduced shipping requirements.

At Bluebird, we source all the ingredients for our hot food from the local general store, the Kremmling Mercantile. The snacks we serve at our base are also from local brands like Honey Stinger or KeenOne, most of which are based 50 miles or fewer from Bluebird Backcountry. 

On Sundays, we offer another fun dining option, too: In the afternoon, Elevated Independent Energy powers up their solar-powered grill to make lunch for Bluebird guests. (Elevated Independent Energy has been providing all the solar power that keeps the lights on at the base area—another big sustainability win!)

Elevated Independent Energy used their solar-powered grill to cook up Sunday lunches for Bluebird guests all season long. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

The Story Behind the Bluebird Backcountry Portal

Somewhere between Steamboat Springs and Kremmling, Colorado, you’ll find an interdimensional portal. At over 10 feet tall it’s striking to look at, though you’d be forgiven if you mistook it for part of the mountain. After all, it’s made of native beetle-kill pine—as much a part of Colorado as the hills or the snow. 

The portal is the bridge between two worlds: The comforting familiarity of the front-country, and the beckoning wilds of the backcountry. On the way out, it serves as a reminder for backcountry preparedness. And on the way back to the base, it welcomes skiers and riders home.

The portal sign, hand-painted by Megan Norton, welcomes backcountry skiers and riders home. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

It was built, as you might expect of an interdimensional portal, by craftspeople of the highest caliber: Jack and Megan Norton, of CrossCut Reclaimed in Kremmling, Colorado.

“When Bluebird Backcountry approached us to build the Mountain Portal we were instantly taken in with the idea,” Jack explains. “The figurative and physical symbolism was just too good to pass up.”

The Nortons are in the business of transferring and preserving the spirit of Old America—an artist and a woodworker by training, they find a new purpose for everything from historical industrial interiors, to old barn walls, to wood recovered from beetle-kill zones across the West.     

“We chose beetle-kill lodgepole pine instead of reclaimed wood for the Portal structure because it’s native to the valley where Bluebird is located, and it’s totally Colorado,” Jack Norton says. Jack built the wooden structure, and the sign, created from old reclaimed floor joist, was designed, laid out, hand-painted, and finished by Megan. 

Jack Norton built the mountain portal from beetle-kill pine—a quintessentially Colorado material. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

“The goal of the overall design was to be sturdy and enduring and to age and weather to become part of its surroundings,” Jack says. “The next time you pass through the portal, give it some love because it has the potential to be more than a couple pieces of wood and metal. The Portal could represent the very beginnings for a badass mountain guide, or the starting point for a search and rescue volunteer who someday saves many lives. And it’s undoubtedly the beginning of many people’s lifelong backcountry journeys.”

Jack adds that he’s no wizard (though we certainly feel the magic of the Portal every time we pass through it).

“I’m just a guy who’s good at making sawdust,” he laughs. “But I believe that energy accumulates at locations, and I believe the Mountain Portal can be one of them with everyone’s help.” 

Beware all ye who enter here: Tons of fun lie ahead. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

P.S. Jack and Megan have hidden a message on the Portal. If you find it, there’s a prize waiting for you. Contact Jack at jack(at)crosscutreclaimed.com and tell him what it is, and he’ll make “something (small) and cool” just for you.