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

Why You Should Take a Backcountry Lesson Before Your Avalanche Course

For years, newcomers to the backcountry have faced a chicken-or-egg conundrum: Should I take a backcountry lesson to learn to backcountry ski or splitboard, then take an avalanche course? Or do I need to have an avalanche course under my belt before I go off piste? 

They’re good questions—you’re certainly more equipped to make smart decisions in the backcountry once you’ve taken an avalanche course, but it’s a daunting proposition (and a big investment) to sign on for a three-day course when you’ve never been in the backcountry before. 

So Which Comes First: Avy Course or Backcountry Lesson?

At Bluebird Backcountry, our philosophy is that it’s easier to learn about avalanches when you’re not figuring out your gear for the first time or working hard to keep up with the group. That’s why our team of education experts has developed a progression of backcountry lessons geared toward folks who are new to the backcountry and preparing for their first avalanche courses.

The bottom line? You’ll get more out of your course once you get the basics down. 

Here’s what you should know before you take your avalanche course. 

How to Use Your Backcountry Gear

A backcountry skier performs a beacon check on a snowy hillside

Knowing some basics (like a beacon check) will go a long way when you’re trying to learn about avalanche safety.  Photo: Patrick Woods

Where do I carry my transceiver? How do these bindings work? Wait, my boots have a “walk mode”? 

You’ll want to make sure you know the answers by the first day of your AIARE course. That way you can focus on the curriculum—backcountry decision-making, identifying hazardous terrain, and snow science basics. 

Bluebird’s Backcountry 1 course covers all the basics of gear and backcountry transitions. At Bluebird, you can either rent gear or get to know your own on your backcountry lesson.  

How to Tour (and Ski or Ride) Efficiently

Two backcountry skiers move quickly along a frozen skin track during a lesson

Learning efficient skinning techniques before the first day of your AIARE course means you’ll have an easier time keeping up with your group.

Getting to the top is a little (okay, very) different when you’re getting there under your own power rather than on a lift. Once you’ve learned the basics, it’s a lot like hiking. But it takes some getting used to, and the technique is easier to learn when there’s a pro showing you the ropes.

The same goes for skiing or riding downhill. There’s no grooming in the backcountry, which means the terrain is a lot more variable. That, too, takes some getting used to—it’s not like skiing groomers or even moguls. You’ll have a much easier time keeping up with the rest of your AIARE cohort if you’re already familiar with good technique and backcountry snow conditions

How to Be Self-Sufficient in Winter Weather

A skier on a backcountry skiing lesson drinks water from a nalgene water bottle in winter

Self-care in the backcountry is a skill, too.  Photo: John LaGuardia

At a traditional ski area, you can head into the lodge to warm up, grab a snack, or hydrate. While there are warming huts (and delicious snacks) available at Bluebird Backcountry, you can think of Bluebird like a transition zone. None of those amenities will be available once you head into the backcountry proper.

You’ll want to know how to take care of yourself (and what snacks to pack) in the winter wilderness by the time you embark on your AIARE course. That’s why Bluebird instructors spend time covering self-care and backcountry tips and tricks in our backcountry lessons

This season, Bluebird Backcountry is offering Backcountry 1, 2, and 3 lessons to move students from never-ever to AIARE-ready (keep an eye out for a future post to help you determine which lesson is right for you). Ready to get started? Book your backcountry lesson here.

A group of backcountry skiers enjoy their backcountry skiing lesson

Backcountry 101 students hit the skintrack.  Photo: John LaGuardia

 

Bluebird Opening Day Crowns Nerf Biathlon Champion

After months of clearing deadfall, grading roads, building yurts, and mapping 4,200 acres of uncharted terrain, Bluebird Backcountry opened the gates at Bear Mountain to skiers and riders for the first time. To celebrate the inaugural tours—and to ring in the New Year—the Bluebird team threw a serious party. 

Searching for Champagne

One of Opening Day’s marquee events: a beacon search contest with a fizzy twist

Round after round of heated competition ensued. Couples faced off. Family members competed against one another. By the final round a clear victor emerged: One of our youngest competitors located the buried champagne a full seven seconds faster than anyone else despite a (socially distanced) crowd of determined hecklers. (He was under 21, but his dad was pretty stoked.)

 

The beacon search contest had some New Year-themed surprises.  Photo: Justin Wilhelm 

Introducing Your Nerf-Gun Biathlon Champion

Next up: Friday afternoon saw Bluebird’s first-ever nerf-gun biathlon. This one was just as tight a contest. Competitors showed off their gun-slinging flourishes, traded some serious trash talk, and, eventually, Steve Goodman pulled ahead, his lighting-fast touring skills making up for his under-polished marksmanship.

After three laps and three rounds of shooting, he reached the final challenge: Spinning around in a leather office chair and hitting a cowbell. He executed this task flawlessly and was crowned champion. 

 

It’s all in the breathing. Contestants let fly in our first annual Nerf Gun Biathlon. Photo: Kathryn Ciamaichelo 

Music and Voodoo 

Meanwhile, instructors taught $5 clinics on everything from gear repair to winter navigation, and founders Erik and Jeff led tours around the mountain. And, at the end of the day, guests enjoyed a rousing game of Kick the Grump, which involved a sturdy kickball and a snowman with “2020” painted on its side.  

On Saturday, Steamboat Springs’ Morningside String Band came to play. While cold temperatures and high winds forced them to play in the lodge for the first part of the afternoon, the weather eventually broke. The set moved outside, and dozens of skiers and riders gathered to listen.

For many of those present, it was the first time they’d heard live music since March. 

“It was a really special moment,” says Kat Chiamaichelo, a Steamboat local who was present throughout the weekend.  

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry 

And what’s a party without refreshments? Guests chowed down on giant s’mores, locally made breakfast burritos from Moose Cafe, free BBQ, and, of course, a champagne toast by the fire pit. (Got FOMO? No fear—s’mores and Sunday BBQs will be available on the mountain all season long.)

 

Dark chocolate salted pretzel s’mores? Dreamy. Photo: Kathryn Ciamaichelo.

And, of course, there was plenty of skiing and riding. To make sure everyone had the right equipment, the team cut the ribbon on our brand-new fleet of Weston Backcountry and Black Diamond rentals. 

Six inches of powder left left skiers and riders plenty to work with. There were buttery turns, playful tree-skiing, and miles of touring to be had. 

It’s been a long year of preparation, but this weekend, Bear Mountain delivered. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store, and we’re looking forward to hitting the slopes with all of you in the coming weeks! 

 

The first turns of the season did not disappoint. Photo: Justin Wilhelm.

How to Make 2021 Your Best Season Yet

Instead of making a New Year’s resolution you know you’ll never keep, commit to something you can really get excited about: Have more fun on skis or a board. 

It’s our favorite resolution because it makes improvement almost inevitable. Resolve to have more fun, and you’re all but guaranteed to improve your skiing and riding skills, up your experience level, and get out more in 2021. 

We polled the Bluebird Backcountry crew—a stacked team of lifelong skiers, splitboarders, and powder hounds—for their best tips. Here are our favorites for having more fun on the slopes and making 2021 your best year of skiing or riding yet.

 

a backcountry skier on dawn patrol looks at sunrise through snowy trees

Sunrise is better when there’s no office window in the way. Photo: Holly Mandarich via Unsplash

1. Play Hooky on a Powder Day.

The best way to have more fun on skis or a board? Make it feel just a little more badass. “Play hooky from work at least once,” recommends Bluebird team member and photographer Doug McLennan. Get in the habit of tracking upcoming storms on a weather app like OpenSnow, and treat yourself to a sick day the next time your favorite spots get a few inches of fresh. 

2. Up Your Snack Game.

You’re a grownup now, and it’s time to start snacking like one. “Stop bringing along that same stale Clif bar that’s been getting smushed in the brain of your pack for the last 3 seasons,” says Bluebird’s brand and marketing guru Emma Walker. “Bring food you’ll actually eat (and enjoy), and you’ll be amazed how much better your days on the skintrack feel!” Need some suggestions? Check out our list of the all-time best backcountry touring snacks.

 

a backcountry skier with skis on her back hikes under a rocky ridge

Set yourself a new challenge. You never know what new terrain you might end up in. Photo: Robson Hatskukami Morgan via Unsplash

3. Set a Crazy Goal.

Maybe it’s skinning 30,000 feet of vertical gain over the season, or finishing a skimo race [[link to cripple creek race]]. Maybe it’s sending your favorite run in a prom dress. Regardless, it’ll motivate you to get outside your comfort zone. Here’s a great one to start with: “Ski every run on the mountain—you’ll be sure to find some surprises!” suggests Bluebird volunteer and Jill-of-all-trades Sara Higgins. 

4. Get Out with Different Partners.

Life is just better with more adventure buddies. “Plan outings with friends of different abilities levels—people you can learn from and people you can teach,” says Bluebird partnership wrangler Laura Hansen. You’ll pick up a lot of tips from following a master’s lines. Conversely, teaching a newbie is a great way to refresh your own memory on the basics.

a group of backcountry skiers gathers on the mountain for a backcountry ski clinic

The best way to have fun? Hit the mountain with confidence.

5. Invest in Yourself with a Lesson or Course 

There’s no getting around it: Sports are more fun when you know what you’re doing. So take a little cash out of your self-care budget and buy yourself a movement skills lesson and/or an avalanche course to boost your confidence on the mountain.

6. Start Tracking Your Backcountry Days.

Data nerds, this one’s for you. Try an app like Strava or Gaia GPS and start recording your mileage, vertical gain, and touring loops. Not techy? Just start counting your days out. If by March you find you’ve reached 9 backcountry days, you might just feel motivated enough to squeeze in an even 10. If not? That’s OK, too—you’ll have a great benchmark for any goal-setting next year. 

7. Check the Avalanche Forecast Every Day. 

You don’t need a new year to start making this one a habit. Checking the local avalanche forecast only takes a few minutes, and it can make a huge difference in your personal safety.  And, of course, we recommend getting as much avalanche safety education as you can.

 

After all, the best way to truly guarantee a good backcountry day is to make sure you’re down safe in time for beers. 

Is it Safe to Snowboard or Ski in a Pandemic?

As ski areas open and COVID-19 cases continue to rise, even the most diehard snowsports fans among us are starting to ask: Is it responsible, or even safe, to snowboard or ski in a pandemic? What’s safer—ski resorts, or the backcountry? Or, for that matter, a backcountry ski area like Bluebird, which is a hybrid between the two? 

Competing Safety Concerns: Avalanches and COVID-19

From an avalanche perspective, it’s hard to beat the thorough mitigation and avalanche bombing that a traditional ski resort can provide. And crowding at popular backcountry trailheads is certainly a concern, says Anna DeBattiste with the Colorado Search and Rescue Association. That’s one reason that resorts—and their mandatory reservation systems—could look particularly appealing to skiers and snowboarders this year.

“We have last March as a barometer [for the way this ski season could look],” DeBattiste explains. “We saw a lot of crowding and lack of basic etiquette at trailheads.”

 

Backcountry skiers follow a popular skin track in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

Colorado’s popular beginner areas in particular can see a number of parties all at once.

 

She also notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a surge in interest in backcountry skiing and splitboarding this year. That could exacerbate crowding problems. It’s also possible that more users could result in more human-triggered avalanches. This is especially true in a state as notorious for its unstable snowpack as Colorado.

“The number of human-triggered avalanches we have is based on the avalanche conditions and the number of people out there,” explains Ethan Greene. Greene is the director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, or CAIC. “If we have normal conditions [for Colorado], and we have more people in the backcountry, you’d logically expect that we’d have more human-triggered avalanches than we do in a typical year,” he says.

 

A backcountry skier hikes up a remote snow chute in the Rocky Mountains.

When expert skiers hike deeper into avalanche terrain to escape crowds, that can also lead to more accidents.

 

Why Resorts Might Not Be Safer in a Pandemic

Even the resort solution isn’t a COVID-19 failsafe, says Bob Tierney, a patroller with over 20 years of experience at resorts. He currently manages avalanche mitigation at Bluebird Backcountry.

“At the resort, people are used to restrooms and getting a hot meal,” he notes. Because of that, Tierney predicts that there won’t be much change in the way people congregate at traditional ski areas, even with resort reservation systems in place.  

“Even if you make the choice to avoid the lodge and ride the lifts only with members of your household, you can’t escape the lift lines,” DeBattiste adds. “We’ve been promoting uphilling at ski resorts [as an alternative], though some resorts have made their uphill policies more restrictive this year.” (You can find more information about specific resorts’ policies on their websites.) 

 

Skiers crowd around a ski lift at a ski resort.

“You can’t escape the lift line.”

 

How to Safely Backcountry Ski in a Pandemic

 The third option: heading to a controlled backcountry ski area. At these locations, avalanche professionals help mitigate natural hazards, and reservation systems and spaced-out bathrooms prevent crowding bottlenecks. Plus, no lifts means no waiting in lift lines. (As of writing, Bluebird Backcountry is the only backcountry-specific ski area in the US.) 

 “We have it set up so you just don’t have a lot of people breathing down your neck,” Tierney says of Bluebird’s base layout. “‘Space not speed’ is our mantra here.”

More experienced skiers and splitboarders can also escape the crowds in the unpatrolled backcountry by opting for weekday laps, driving to more remote trailheads, or skinning deeper into the wilderness.

Greene urges these users to keep in mind that, though it might be COVID-safer, the backcountry poses the same issues this year as it does every year.

“The people who are more experienced are just as susceptible, or in some cases more susceptible than beginners. because these are people who tend to go into avalanche terrain a lot,” Greene adds. “On top of that, they’re just as susceptible as other people when it comes to making decisions in high-stress environments. That could mean whiteout conditions, or getting into an argument with your significant other as you walked out the door that day.”

Pile on the stresses that come from living during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you’re dealing with a lot more human factors in your decision-making. 

 

Two backcountry skiers climb to the top of a remote mountain ridge.

The deep backcountry offers valuable solitude, but more objective hazards.

 

Backcountry skiers and splitboarders need to have their winter navigation skills, avalanche awareness, and outdoor self-sufficiency dialed before venturing out on their own.

“The first thing you need to do is get the education,” DeBattiste recommends, urging backcountry skiers and splitboarders to take an AIARE course (or at minimum an avalanche awareness course) and practice beacon drills until they’re rote memory.

Gaining Backcountry Experience

However, education alone isn’t enough to make you a backcountry expert. The other critical piece is getting out and accruing backcountry experience under the supervision of an experienced mentor, says DeBattiste. She adds that skiers and splitboarders should make sure their mentor understands the particular hazards of the local snowpack. (Snowpack hazards can vary widely between states and regions of the US.) 

You can hire a professional backcountry skiing guide through your local guide service, or, at Bluebird, sign up for a guided day or lesson with backcountry experts.

If any year is the year to invest in your education and play it safe, this is it, says DeBattiste.

“It’s great for people to get out into the backcountry as long as they’re doing it responsibly,” she says. “This year, be part of the solution.”

17 Must-Do Adventures Near Bluebird Backcountry

Nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Bluebird Backcountry sits between two adventure epicenters: Kremmling and Steamboat Springs. Take advantage of the prime location by sampling the full array of winter adventure, good food, and mountain town charm. To get you started, we put together this guide to the best things to do near Bluebird.

The Steamboat area is famous for deep pow and fun terrain. Photo: Sean Kelley via Unsplash

Adventures 

The Colorado Rockies offer adventures of every shape and size. Round out your visit with these unforgettable outings.

1. Go ice climbing at Fish Creek Falls.

This 80-foot waterall just east of Steamboat Springs freezes in the winter, providing great introductory terrain for ice climbing. (Be sure to hire a local guide service if you’re new to the sport.)

2. Try Nordic skiing at Howelsen Hill.

America’s oldest operating ski area, Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, provides free skiing on Sundays.  

3. Go ice skating.

Howelsen Hill also offers free outdoor ice skating on its two tennis courts, which are converted into rinks in winter.

4. Soak in a hot spring.

Take a rest day to soak those sore muscles in the natural, spring-fed Strawberry Park Hot Springs or downtown Steamboat’s Old Town Hot Springs.

5. Keep skiing!

Colorado is a great place to ski, and ski-area hopping is an amazing way to get to know the state. Here are some of our favorites (other than Bluebird, of course):

  • Seamboat Resort: Steamboat is a great lift-accessed ski area with a lot of character. You can pay for a lift ticket, or splitboard or ski uphill at the resort as long as you go before or after operating hours and sign up for a $20 uphill season pass.
  • Local Backcountry: Experienced groups will also find plenty of unmitigated backcountry terrain to keep them busy. Try Buffalo Pass for easy to intermediate lines, or Hahn’s Peak for great views and some glade skiing.  

Table 79 offers upscale fare in a mountain-meets-urban atmosphere. Photo: Table 79 Foodbar

Food & Drink

Mountain town eateries have tons of character (and amazing food, to boot.) These local brew-pubs, restaurants, and cafés offer Bluebird visitors some amazing deals. 

For Date Night

Head to The Barley in Steamboat Springs for top-notch drinks in fun, laid-back digs. Sip Colorado craft beers on the patio, or get a round of beers and snacks to toast a backcountry day well-spent. Sweet perk: Bring your Bluebird day pass for BOGO drinks.

We also love Steamboat Whiskey Co., which provides all-day happy hour pricing with your Bluebird day pass or season pass. (Big whiskey fan? Grab a coin at the Bluebird base area lodge for a free spirits tasting.) 

Bring your Bluebird pass for a free beverage at Aurum. Photo: Aurum Food & Wine

For Celebrations

When an occasion calls for a little extra flair, treat yourself to an elevated dining experience at Aurum Yurt or Table 79 Foodbar. Bonus: At Aurum, Bluebird day pass gets you a free house wine, draft beer, or well drink with the purchase of a small plate or app.   

For Casual Family Dining

The Dean West restaurant in Kremmling is our go-to for hearty meals with easy-going atmosphere. Also check out partner establishment Grand Adventure Brewing for pub fare and an extensive tap of local brews. Bring your Bluebird passport for a free beer. (Get more than half the stamps? Make that two free beers.) 

For Breakfast

Grab an omelet, homemade French toast, or a hot cup of coffee to fuel your ski day at Kremmling’s Moose Café. (The Moose will also be providing breakfast burritos on-site at Bluebird this year.) 

Head to Hotel Eastin for a cozy, quirky home away from home. Photo: Hotel Eastin

Lodging

Whether you’re looking for a cozy mountain cabin or a VRBO big enough for the whole family, these nearby lodging options have you covered.

Hotels

Check out the boutique Hotel Eastin for historic western digs. (Note: Some rooms share a hostel-style communal bathroom, which lets Hotel Eastin offer them at a very economical price point.) Hotel Eastin is about a half-hour’s drive from Bluebird Backcountry. 

For a more traditional hotel experience, try Steamboat Hotel in Steamboat Springs, also about a 30-minute drive from Bluebird. Steamboat Hotel, Hotel Eastin, and the nearby Steamboat Mountain Lodge all offer 15% discounts to Bluebird day pass or season pass holders. Just mention Bluebird at checkout. 

Cabins

If a cozy winter cabin is more your speed, we recommend booking a stay at the Muddy Creek Cabins. Each one has a kitchenette, wifi, and a gorgeous view of the surrounding valley.

VRBO

This lodge-style vacation rental sleeps up to 14 adults and offers discount for Bluebird skiers for stays two nights or longer (just email eschumm@msn.com and mention Bluebird). It’s located just north of Kremmling, about 35-minute drive from Bluebird Backcountry. 

Backdoor Sports offers a great variety of gear—and some unique flair. Photo: Rahel Schneider

Shopping

Get your gear fix and expert fitting advice at one of these local shops.  

  1. If you’re into thrifting: Check out Boomerang Sports Exchange in Steamboat Springs for a great selection of second-hand gear.
  2. If you’re driving from the Denver area: Be sure to stop by Two Pines Supply in Granby, Colorado, which sits right on the border of the breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park.
  3. If you’re passing through Steamboat Springs: We recommend stopping in both Backdoor Sports and One Stop Ski Shop, both of which offer unbeatable customer service and quality ski and splitboard gear. Keep an eye out for Honey Stinger snacks and Big Agnes camping equipment—both are local brands, born and bred in Steamboat.

The Best Backcountry Touring Snacks of All Time

There’s one thing we and your dentist can agree on: Nothing is worse than biting into a frozen protein bar. Sure, you can try to warm it up in your pocket, or chip off flakes with a knife. But somehow, that just doesn’t sound as good as say, homemade banana bread or a family-size pepperoni pizza.

To help you level-up your winter snacking game, we polled the whole Bluebird Backcountry squad—a team of seasoned patrollers, skiers, splitboarders, and all-around winter adventurers. Here are the results. 

Warm banana bread with a little butter.

Bonus points if you bring enough to share. Photo: Priscilla Du Preez

1. Banana Bread

It’s delicious and freeze-proof, and bananas and chocolate chips provide a blood-sugar lift without being overly sweet. “This was my go-to for mega-cold ice climbing days before I started skiing. It’s still the best winter snack there is,” says our storytelling lead Corey Buhay.

2. Poptarts

They’re great pocket-temperature, and even better frozen. Plus, the added nostalgia points keep these high on our list of classics.

A volunteer cooks bacon at the Bluebird Backcountry ski area.

We’ll be serving up free bacon at Bluebird Backcountry all season long. Photo: Doug McLennon

3. Pocket Bacon

Crunchy. Salty. Oh, so perfect. Don’t have time to make yourself a pound of hickory-smoked before your ski day? We’ve got you covered. Head to Bluebird’s Perch warming hut, where we’ll be serving bacon strips hot and fresh off the grill all day, every day.

4. Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Cream Cheese

This sweet, creamy classic is an easy make-ahead meal that always hits the spot. It’s a freeze-proof winter snack, and bagels have natural structural integrity: “It doesn’t get smooshed in your pack like a sandwich,” says Bluebird Planning Squad Member Doug McLennan.

Breakfast burritos make a great winter snack for adventures on skis.

Breakfast, lunch—when you’re backcountry skiing of splitboarding, it’s always a good time for a burrito. Photo: Rob McLennon

5. Breakfast Burritos

Make two in the morning, and you’ll have both a hot breakfast and a perfect, high-protein lunch. “They’re still delicious, even if slightly chilly from riding in your pack,” says Bluebird marketing guru Emma Walker of her go-to winter snack.

6. Full-fat Trail Mix

This is an easy recipe: Coconut flakes, cashews, and dark chocolate chips. It’s all the best parts of trail mix, but with none of the tooth-breakers. Plus, the high-fat content of the ingredients means they’re relatively lightweight, high-calorie, and ideally suited to providing all-day fuel on the mountain.

pepperoni pizza as an ideal snack for backcountry skiing and splitboarding

Whats better than hot pizza? Cold pizza after 1,000 feet of vertical gain. Photo: Amirali Mirhashemian

7. Cold Pizza

Step one: Buy a large pepperoni pizza the night before your backcountry ski or splitboard day. Step two: Fold it into quarters and stuff it into a gallon zip-top bag. Step three: Enjoy your favorite food, all day long.

8. Salted Baked Potato

It’s tough to replenish electrolytes on the mountain, especially when you’re not in the mood for goos or gummies. Our fix: Throw a few small potatoes in the oven when you wake up. Right as you’re walking out the door, pull them out, roll them in salt, wrap them in tin foil, and stick them in your pockets. “A friend of mine once pulled one out during an adventure race, still warm—it was amazing,” says Bluebird team member Rob McLennan.

9. Toasted Banana Peanut-Butter Sandwich

Almost like the classic PB&J, but way more elevated. Well-toasted bread provides a satisfying crunch come lunchtime, and the natural sugars and fiber from the banana will keep you energized during those final laps.

Bring hot soup in a thermos for your next backcountry ski tour.

Bonus: You can drink the broth. Photo: Jonas Jacobsson

10. Hot Soup in a Thermos

In the morning, throw some ramen noodles into hot broth and seal tight. By lunch, they’ll be soft enough to slurp, and you’ll have a hot, hydrating meal. 

11. A Flask of Maple Syrup

Don’t knock it until you try it. A quick hit of Grade A maple syrup brings you right out of a low blood-sugar bonk. “Never leave home without it,” says rental gear fleetmaster Brock Nelson.

12. Whitney’s Famous Power Balls

These bite-sized morsels have everything you need for a day of hard charging. Whitney Bradberry, Bluebird’s social media extraordinaire, was generous enough to share her special recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup unsweetened peanut butter 
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • Flax seeds (ground or whole), to taste
  • Dark chocolate chips, to taste 
  • Dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Combine ingredients in a large bowl until the mixture is wet enough to form clumps. (If too sticky, add more oats) 
  • Roll into balls with your hands. Let chill in the fridge. 
  • Pack a few into a zip-top bag and throw into your pack the morning before your backcountry ski touring or splitboarding outing