So You Wanna Plan a Ski Trip?

If you wanna go on a ski trip, there’s gonna be some planning involved. But luckily, planning for a ski trip is a lot of fun. The only thing more fun than planning for the trip, is going on it. Hanging out with friends, drooling over aerial photos and maps, fantasizing about conditions — it’s very exciting stuff.


Ski trips come in many shapes and sizes. Flying to a remote area, taking a boat to the terminus of a tidewater glacier, hauling your gear for a full day up the glacier, setting up basecamp, and skiing 60 degree couloirs in the surrounding mountains for a couple weeks is one example of a ski trip. Skiing the hill in your backyard is also considered a ski trip.


Not too surprisingly these two ski trips require very different planning and preparation. The simple chart below can help you determine the level of planning required for your trip. This chart, however, doesn’t cover every type of ski trip. For example, maybe you are planning a backcountry ski trip, but you’re going to stay in the front country and maybe you’re hiring a guide or you’ve got a local friend in the area who is going to act as your guide. There are a lot of factors that will dictate the amount of planning you need to do, so this chart simply serves as a good jumping off point.


Planning a Ski Trip


The Five Ws of Planning a Ski Trip


The questions below are a great place to begin your ski trip planning.




Who am I bringing with me?


The right answer: Good company


The Bluebird answer: If you wanna bring 199 of your closest friends and rent out the entire mountain, you can do that. If you wanna bring your furry quadruped friend, feel free — as long as they are a dog and not a donkey or gorilla (or any other type of quadruped). If you wanna bring your friend who has never tried backcountry skiing before, please do! If you want to bring your chess club (and get discounted rates if have more than 10 in your group), come on down! Friends, family, significant others, you can bring whoever you want, as long as they are either a well-behaved human or dog.


Additional thoughts: Bringing a compatible crew is key to a successful ski trip. If you’re an experienced backcountry skier and you’re taking your significant other to Bluebird for their first time backcountry skiing, but you want to go ski the Pucker Chutes, it might be a frustrating experience for all parties involved. If you adjust your objective from “skiing the Pucker Chutes” to “helping my significant other learn to backcountry ski,” then you’re more likely to have a positive experience (though the jury is still out on whether teaching your significant other how to backcountry ski is a good idea, so if you’d rather leave it to the professionals then you should check out our backcountry lessons). If you really want to ski the Pucker Chutes, then you might want to consider bringing a friend with a similar level of experience.




What am I bringing with me?


The right answer: A positive attitude (it goes a long way)


The Bluebird answer: If you got ‘em, bring your splitboard or skis with backcountry touring bindings, skins, snowboard boots or ski touring boots, beacon, shovel, probe, and backpack. If you don’t have any of this gear, no worries, we rent all of the above items (except snowboard boots). Of course you will also want to bring warm winter apparel (it can get quite chilly at Bear Mountain), your brain bucket (a.k.a. helmet), and snacks (we do have some snacks available onsite, including FREE BACON at our mid-mountain warming hut, The Perch). And if you’re staying with us, you should also bring a sleeping bag and headlight.


Additional thoughts: Leaving gear at home is a bummer. Take a page out of Saint Nicholas’ book: make a list and check it twice.


What are my goals/objectives?


The right answer: Be safe, have fun


The Bluebird answer: Maybe your only objective is to be safe and have fun. That’s great. At Bluebird, we work hard so that it is easy for you to achieve this goal. With on-site ski patrol and constant monitoring of terrain, Bluebird allows everyone to enjoy backcountry skiing and snowboarding regardless of your avalanche education. We know the backcountry can be intimidating, so we created a place where you can ski more & worry less.

Maybe you’re coming to Bluebird for a backcountry lesson or an avalanche course and your goal is to learn something new. This is another great, achievable goal, as all of our instructors have a wealth of knowledge that they are excited to share with you.


Additional thoughts: Like in any endeavor, it can be fun to set lofty goals for your ski trip, but the only way you get to those goals is by setting smaller, more achievable ones. You have to walk before you can run.




When am I going?


The right answer: Whenever you can


The Bluebird answer: Between Opening Day and Closing Day (usually late December to late March) and between Thursday and Monday (since we don’t operate on Tuesdays or Wednesdays) — because showing up when we’re closed is a lot less fun. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say specifically when the best time to come to Bluebird is. We tend to receive greater snowfall during the months of January and February and we tend to have more sun and spring-like conditions towards the end of our season in March. Though we’ve had warm sunny days in January and cold stormy days in March, so all you can really do is roll the dice (and sleep with pajamas inside out and backwards before and during your visit — a tradition proven to increase the likelihood of heavy overnight snowfall).


Additional thoughts: If you’re going on a front country ski trip to a resort, another consideration is crowds (don’t worry — you won’t find those at Bluebird since we limit the number of skiers and riders to 200 a day). If you can avoid going to a major resort during the holiday season or a holiday weekend, you will likely spend less time waiting in lift lines and more time skiing.




Where am I skiing?


The right answer: A mountain (unless you’re planning a cross country ski trip)


The Bluebird answer: Bear Mountain – of course that’s not too specific though. With over 1000 acres of ski-patrolled and avalanche-managed terrain and 3000 acres of guided-only terrain, there’s a lot to explore. It’s not a bad idea to narrow your scope to a specific zone like West Bowl, The North Face or The Far Side and Pucker Chutes.


Additional thoughts: Don’t forget to plan this part of your trip. It’s hard to go somewhere if you don’t know where somewhere is. Or it’s very easy, depending on how you look at it.


Where am I staying? (for multi-day trips)


The right answer: Some place warm.

A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talkin’ bout a little place called… As-pen.

Lloyd Christmas (Dumb and Dumber) quotes aside, Aspen is a great place to stay if you’re skiing there (it doesn’t make as much sense if you’re skiing at Breckenridge). But the important piece here is, “some place warm.” 


The Bluebird answer: The Grizzly Hostel, a Skin-to Dome, a Basecamp Dome, a Campfire Cabin, a Brown Bear Cabin, in your camper in our parking lot. You’ve got options. The great thing about all these options is that they’re warm (hopefully your camper is too) because they all have a heat source (hopefully your camper does too). They’re also all ski-in/ski-out, a.k.a. no driving necessary.


Additional thoughts: Staying close to where you’re skiing makes a huge difference. Unfortunately the closer you are to the skiing, the more you usually pay. This isn’t always the case (take Bluebird for example), so if you can find lodging that bucks this trend then you should snatch it up.






Because ski trips are fun!


A beautiful day on the skin track

Enjoying the sunshine and blue skies during a trip to Bluebird. Photo: Lauren Deeley


Recent studies have shown that planning a trip (it doesn’t matter if you don’t even go on that trip) is good for your mental health. So don’t stop at planning one real ski trip this winter, plan five fake ones that you’re not actually going to take -it’ll make you happier.


Happy planning! (literally, it’s scientifically proven)

FAQ Spotlight: Should I stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Vail or at Bluebird?

We wanted to do a spotlight on one of our most frequently asked questions: Should I stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Vail or at Bluebird Backcountry? While this might seem like a fairly straightforward question, it is actually more convoluted than you would think. If you are coming to ski at Bluebird then it makes sense to stay at Bluebird and if you are coming to ski at Vail then it makes sense to stay at Bluebird. See? Not as straightforward as you thought. Even with a nearly two hour drive between the two locations it is likely more cost effective to stay with us and buy gas to drive to Vail.


bluebird backcountry brown bear cabins

Welcome home. Photo: Justin Wilhelm


Cost isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing where to stay, but it is a factor. And while we might be biased, we think you should pick us for lots of reasons — here are five.

5 Reasons You Should Stay at Bluebird This Winter


Zero Commute

Spending half of your day sitting in traffic to get to and from the ski mountain means you don’t get as much time doing what you drove all that way to do: go skiing. Unfortunately not all of us are lucky enough to live on the mountain or in a ski town, so the commute is just something we have to begrudgingly accept. Bluebird was no exception to this reality last winter. But, we wanted to change that for this winter. We want you to be able to spend as much time as possible on the mountain, going skiing, and as little time as possible sitting in traffic. Enter Bluebird Basecamp. Zero commute lodging located on Bear Mountain. Simply open the door and go.


Keep Your Arms and Legs

Now maybe you’re thinking ski-in/ski-out slopeside lodging? Pshhhh, I can’t afford that. Unlike other ski resorts, Bluebird’s slopeside lodging doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. We made our lodging affordable so more people can have the experience of spending the night cozied up on a snow covered mountain in the winter.


No Crowds

Coming to Bluebird can feel a little bit like you time traveled to a land before chairlifts, lift lines, and busy slopes. Our lodging offers a soulful respite from the crowds. It is physically distant by design and intended to give you an opportunity to decompress from the busyness of everyday life. We’re not saying staying at Bluebird is therapeutic, but we’re also not saying it isn’t. Maybe that double negative made you think too hard and you need to relax a little? Well there’s no better way to relax than a night at Bluebird.


Something for Everyone

Do you have an adventurous family or a bunch of touring buddies that want to spend a night or two on Bear Mountain with you? We’ve got you covered: Skin-To and Basecamp domes both sleep up to five guests. Looking for a chill evening with your touring buddy or significant other? We’ve got you covered: Brown Bear and Campfire cabins both sleep two guests. You’re coming up to Bluebird solo and hoping to meet some people to ski with? We’ve got you covered: Grizzly Hostel is the best way to meet other backcountry enthusiasts. Maybe you’re doing #vanlife and just need a spot to park your rig? We’ve got you covered: We offer camping in our lot, complete with fire rings, picnic tables and restrooms.



Last, but certainly not least: don’t worry, we didn’t forget your furry four-legged canine friends. Last year we had dog days on operational weekdays only. This year we are excited to announce that every day we operate is a dog day! With the exception of Grizzly Hostel, all of our lodging options are dog friendly. That means you don’t have to put your pup in the kennel when you book a night at Bluebird. Instead, they can come along for the adventure. Dog Passes are $10 a day, and are FREE with the purchase of 22/23 Season Pass.


Click here to learn more about our new lodging.


bluebird backcountry brown bear cabins

Take your coat off and stay a while. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

Using onX Backcountry for Scouting Lines Ahead of Winter

While we daydream about soft turns and wait for the first flakes to fly, this time of year is great for scouting ski lines for the upcoming season. By doing your homework, you’ll spend less time looking for lines and more time skiing them when the snow arrives.

There are a lot of different ways to scout lines. At Bluebird we like to use a combination of both digital tools and our eyeballs. Our digital tool of choice is onX Backcountry— a GPS navigation app designed for hiking and skiing. Using onX, you can explore the terrain around you from the comfort of your home. With topographic layers, satellite imagery, and 3 dimensional effects, you can figure out what terrain might become your new favorite ski zone.

Once you’ve identified some areas with potential, it’s fun to spend the day exploring them in person. Navigation and mapping techniques have come a long way since the days of using the position of the sun and stars. Despite these technological advancements, seeing something on a screen is never quite the same as seeing it in person.

waiting for snow to fall on backcountry lines

Admiring from afar and waiting for the Naked Lady Couloir, a classic Southwest Colorado ski descent, to fill with snow. Photo: Ti Eversole

There is a lot to consider when scoping out lines because a lot of things go into making a good ski line. Here are just a handful of questions to ask yourself when scouting ski lines:

What is the approximate slope angle or pitch?

Too steep and you may get yourself into trouble (depending on your skill level). Not steep enough and it will be difficult to maintain momentum.

If the line you are considering is in avalanche terrain, where would the best places be to dig a pit and assess the snowpack?

Even in zones with avalanche forecasts, it’s a good idea to do your own research because forecasts cover large areas and your specific line may have different avalanche problems.

When skiing the line with friends, where are the best places to regroup?

When stopping anywhere while skiing a line it is important to do so in predetermined safe zones.

What aspect is the line?

Selecting an area with multiple available aspects is great as it gives you options when different avalanche problems exist. Having a few aspect options also gives you the best chance at finding good conditions. A north facing line can ski much differently than an east facing line that is right next to it.

Is the line above treeline?

Lines above treeline are often affected differently by the sun and wind than lines below treeline. This is especially important to note if your line transitions between these two zones.

If not, are the trees spaced widely enough to make skiing possible and enjoyable?

If you want to ski rather than bushwhack through dense vegetation, it’s a good idea to figure out the answer to this one.

What other potential hazards exist?

When it comes to identifying hazards while scouting lines during the off season, you will mostly be looking at terrain hazards. Weather and snowpack hazards are typically assessed closer to the time when you will be skiing or riding. However, you may still be able to find anecdotal or historical information about the weather and snowpack hazards that exist in the area you plan to ski.

How can I mitigate those hazards?

A great way to get this information is through backcountry travel and avalanche courses. If you haven’t taken one of these courses, we highly recommend it. If you have, there is always more to learn, either through additional formal education or simply by spending time with friends and mentors assessing weather, snowpack, terrain, and human factors.

Are there any special pieces of gear I might need to ski this line?

When getting into advanced terrain, it can be a good idea to carry crampons, ice axe(s), and maybe even a harness, rope, and climbing hardware.

Do I have the experience, knowledge, and skills to navigate this terrain safely?

This is a big one. Be honest with yourself. Just because your more experienced friend thinks it will be a walk in the park, does not mean it will be easy for you. This is one of heuristic traps that backcountry travelers can fall victim to if they are not careful.

Where can I park my car?

Parking your car in the wrong spot can be annoying for others or even dangerous. Make sure you follow all parking instructions at trailheads and don’t park on private property unless it is allowed. Trailheads have been shut down due to improper parking. Access to these places we like to recreate is a privilege, not a right. If we are respectful, we will ensure that this access continues to be available in the future.

What is the best approach route to access the line from the trailhead?

While a straight line is the shortest path from point A to point B, it is usually not the best path when trying to get to the top of a line. By looking at surrounding features like cliff bands, steep slopes, ridgelines, and areas of dense vegetation you can avoid a treacherous climb or a frustrating slog.

Based on distance and elevation, roughly how long will it take me to get to the top of my line and then back to the car?

With some experience in the backcountry you can get a general gist of how fast you move through different terrain. Having this rough estimate is helpful as it gives you the best shot at skiing your objective, and will keep you from getting caught in the dark.

scouting lines close to the road

Not all scouting missions require extensive mileage. Don’t forget to make time to seek out shorter lines close to the road for those days when you only have time for a hot lap or two. Photo: Ti Eversole

This might seem like a lot to consider, but this is by no means a comprehensive list. It’s a lot of work to search for, plan for, and execute a backcountry ski line, so you might as well get started now. You’ll be glad you put in this time during the preseason when the snow starts falling and you know exactly where you’re heading to ski. As they say, “You reap what you sow.”

Happy Scouting!

If you are looking for some technical information or guidance about using onX, specifically right before and during a tour, check out our article on how our education team uses onX.

If you are looking for additional resources for planning your ski tour, check out the video below from two time US Extreme Freeskiing Champion, Griffin Post.

Bluebird Backcountry Announces Lodging, Joins Indy Pass for the 22/23 Season

New overnight options and pass partnership will make backcountry ski area experience more accessible.

Steamboat Springs, Colo. — Colorado’s beloved backcountry ski area is gearing up for an exciting winter. Bluebird Backcountry has announced that they will offer on-site, overnight accommodations for the 2022/2023 ski season. In addition, the state’s only non-lift-served resort will join the Indy Pass, offering Indy passholders two days of access with no blackout dates.


Bluebird’s new lodging offerings will include a hut trip experience, where guests will skin less than two miles on pre-set skin tracks to access their choice of either a cabin or an insulated geodesic dome. Bluebird will also have insulated domes located in the base area. Other lodging options include a hostel-style cabin that can sleep up to five guests, with camping returning to the base area parking lot this season as well.

“Hut trips with friends and family are an integral part of the backcountry skiing experience,” said Bluebird Backcountry co-founder Jeff  Woodward. “We wanted to bring that to Bluebird and give our guests a convenient place to stay where they can immerse themselves in the backcountry culture and get a better sense of our vibe and welcoming atmosphere.”

In its first year offering lodging, Bluebird will have roughly 40 beds available for a wide range of group sizes — from comfortable group options to hostel-style accommodations for the solo traveler. All lodging offerings will have a heat source, as well as access to a kitchen and restroom facilities. The on-mountain domes will have their own kitchen space and rustic toilet setup; whereas, the base area domes  and cabins will have a shared kitchen space and port-a-potties. Running water and WiFi will not be available in lodging units, although WiFi will be available at the communal dome in the base area for those wishing to work from Bluebird.

In line with Bluebird’s goal to build a low-impact backcountry ski area, the geodesic domes are temporary structures that Bluebird will take down each spring as part of its Leave No Trace initiative. The cabins are existing ranch cabins that are being repurposed as on-site accommodations.

For a limited time, Bluebird is offering an introductory rate of 30% off during their Early Bird Special, now through September 30, 2022. Reservations start at $59/night, and are available online. Book your stay.

Family backcountry skiing


Bluebird Backcountry will join the Indy Pass for the 2022/2023 season to provide in-bounds backcountry ski access to Indy Passholders. The Indy Pass is North America’s fastest growing multi-mountain pass, whose mission is to support independent ski areas in the true spirit of skiing.

“Bluebird’s mission to revive the soul of skiing aligns perfectly with the goals of the Indy Pass,” said Woodward. “We love the mom & pop ski area culture that the Indy Pass continues to support, and look forward to making the backcountry more accessible for this season’s Indy Passholders.”

Bluebird Backcountry will offer a discounted lodging package for Indy passholders interested in learning how to backcountry ski or splitboard. The Indy exclusive package also includes a beginner backcountry lesson and gear rental, with no blackout dates.

The Indy Pass also announced today that they will add Illinois’ most popular winter resort, Chestnut Mountain, and Michigan’s newest named resort, Snowriver — both of which will also offer two days each to Indy passholders this season.

“The Indy Pass is the dominant pass in the Midwest with 26 resorts now,” said Indy Pass founder Doug Fish. “With the recent explosion of off-piste, uphill exploration, we are proud to welcome Bluebird Backcountry, the world’s first and only resort dedicated to human-powered skiing and riding.”

Indy Pass Pre-Season Prices End September 13th

Indy Base Pass – Adult $299, Kids (12-and-under) $139

Indy+ Pass – Adult $399, Kids $189 (no blackouts)

Indy Base AddOn Pass – Adult $199, Kids $99 (partner and allied resort season passholders only)

Indy+ AddOn Pass – Adult $309, Kids $149 (no blackouts)

Indy Cross Country (XC) Pass – Adult $69, Kids $29 (no blackouts)

Click here to purchase your 22/23 Indy Pass.