Location

What are you doing for the 2020/21 season?

We are working on that right now! Our email subscribers will be the first to know our plans. 

Where is Bluebird Backcountry at Peak Ranch located?

In February and March 2020, we opened Whiteley Peak (elevation 10,115’) to the public for skiing for the first time. Bluebird Backcountry at Peak Ranch is roughly: 

  • 20 miles north of Kremmling, Colorado
  • A one-hour drive north of Silverthorne
  • A 2.5-ish hour drive from the Front Range
  • A 40-minute drive southeast of Steamboat Springs

What’s the skiing like at Peak Ranch?

Limited skier visits provide an alternative to crowded resorts and offer a more natural and remote experience where guests can explore and learn, spot wildlife, and take in grand views. The property is entirely unimproved and offers everything from challenging brush to glorious meadows and old-growth aspens.

How much skiing is there?

The entire zone is 1,500 acres. There’s roughly 400 acres of avalanche-evaluated terrain in bounds; another roughly 1,100 acres of out-of-bounds skiing may be accessed with a guide (limited availability) hired through Bluebird Backcountry.

Is your location at Peak Ranch permanent?

Bluebird Backcountry leased Whiteley Peak for a trial season this past winter with hopes of establishing a permanent location at the ranch or elsewhere in years to come.

General

What is a human-powered backcountry ski area… isn’t that an oxymoron?

Bluebird Backcountry aims to blend the best of the backcountry with the best of resorts. We have almost everything you’d expect at a small ski area—a lodge and warming hut, on-site rentals, instructors, and ski patrol to evaluate avalanche terrain and respond to emergencies—but we don’t have any chairlifts. Guests use backcountry touring equipment to hike and skin uphill before transitioning to ski or snowboard back down. It’s a welcoming place to adventure, learn and practice backcountry skills, and meet other people who are also interested in ski touring.

Why are you opening a backcountry ski area?

We believe that a human-powered ski area will accomplish a lot:

  • Welcome new backcountry skiers and splitboarders in a more familiar environment
  • Serve the demand for backcountry/uphill experiences and ski-resort alternatives 
  • Create a friendly space for people to try, learn, practice, and hone their skills so they aren’t endangering themselves and others in the true backcountry
  • Provide a thoughtful educational bridge into and out of Avy 1 education
  • Offer a place for families and more risk-averse skiers to enjoy ski touring
  • Provide a gathering place for the backcountry community

Have you tried this anywhere else?

Yes. In addition to our test season at Peak Ranch in 2020, we ran six test days in March and April of 2019. 171 skiers and splitboarders participated at Mosquito Pass (south of Breckenridge, Colorado) and at Winter Park Resort. We collected tons of data and learned some valuable lessons that we applied in a more formal setting this year at Peak Ranch.

Is this legit?

The short answer is Yes! Bluebird Backcountry:

  • Has a highly experienced, professional snow safety and ski patrol team
  • Is an affiliate member of the National Ski Areas Association
  • Is insured by MountainGuard, a major ski-area insurer
  • Partners with Colorado Mountain School guide service and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center
  • Partners with manufacturers Ortovox, Black Diamond, Dynafit, and Weston
  • Partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and Winter Park Resort to run test days in 2019

Has been featured in New York Times, Outside Magazine, Adventure Journal, and more

Is this like Silverton Mountain?

Silverton helped pioneer sidecountry (backcountry-like terrain accessed via chairlift), and they’re a great place to go for “Colorado’s steepest heli & lift-served skiing.” We love skiing at Silverton, and we have a different vision for Bluebird Backcountry:

  • A purely human-powered experience
  • Plenty of mellow terrain in addition to steeps
  • An experience designed around introductory and continuing backcountry education 

We are aware of numerous locations in the U.S., Canada, and beyond that provide part (but not all) of the experience we’ve developed for Bluebird Backcountry.

How did Bluebird Backcountry get started?

Co-founder Jeff Woodward realized learning to backcountry ski was unnecessarily difficult when he took his brother, Danny, out for his first day of ski touring in 2016. Jeff soon recruited Erik Lambert and other friends and started working on a better way to introduce people to backcountry skiing. Since then a volunteer planning squad has formed to help concept and execute on the idea. You can learn more about our origin story here.

Logistics

When is Bluebird Backcountry open?

We are determining a plan for the 2020–2021 season now.

In the spring of 2020 we were open for 15 test days (well, 14 days due to COVID-19) between February 15 and March 15, 2020.

I’ve never been backcountry skiing or snowboarding. Is Bluebird Backcountry for me?

Absolutely. In fact, Bluebird Backcountry was created with folks like you in mind. Beginner packages include everything you need to get started: access to avalanche-evaluated slopes, an introductory lesson, and backcountry rental equipment. We envision a fun and welcoming place where you can learn touring basics, try out new gear, and meet new partners.

How hard is skiing uphill?

Skiing uphill is challenging. It’s also rewarding. You should be a good skier and relatively in shape to try backcountry skiing. But you don’t need to be a marathon runner to enjoy it — most anyone who’s fit (and can ski a blue square or black diamond at a resort) can give it a try.

I’m an experienced backcountry skier or splitboarder. Is Bluebird Backcountry for me?

Yes! We have beautiful terrain that’s worth exploring. There’s everything from mellow meadows in-bounds to steep and rugged terrain out-of-bounds that’s accessible with a guide hired through Bluebird Backcountry. Bring a few friends for a unique and fun day of skiing away from the crowded resorts.

Will the skiing be evaluated for avalanches?

Yes. We have professionals assessing our snow pack and opening and closing terrain as necessary. Additionally, much of the in-bounds terrain is a slope angle that is fun to ski yet has low probability of hazard. We are not controlling terrain with bombs this year; however, we hope to open more steep terrain and use other methods of control in the future.

What about ski patrol?

Yes, we have a highly experienced ski patrol team to open and close terrain and respond to medical or other emergencies. Additionally, all Bluebird Backcountry staff has at least a CPR and basic first-aid certification. We’ll have communication devices and a snowmobile on hand to aid in any emergencies that might arise.

How much does this cost?

During our test season, Bluebird day passes cost $50, and optional 3-hour backcountry lessons cost an additional $50. Backcountry rental equipment was available on site at or below market rates. 

I don’t have my own gear. Can I rent it from you?

Absolutely! We know that it’s an expensive commitment to buy backcountry touring gear, especially before you’ve had a chance to try it out. That’s why we rent high-quality equipment from Black Diamond, Dynafit, Weston, and Spark on-site at reasonable rates. We also require that guests be equipped with rescue gear (beacon, probe, shovel). We rent that on-site as well.

Will there be instructors and guides on-site?

Yes. If you’re brand new to backcountry skiing or splitboarding, you can sign up for a lesson, where a knowledgeable instructor will show you how to use your gear and give you backcountry pointers. If you’ve got the basics down and are ready to take your skills to the next level, you can hire a ski guide to show you the best routes and help you hone your skills.

How many people are allowed on the mountain?

During our test season, no more than 300 skiers were allowed on the mountain on any given operating day. We will limit skier numbers as necessary to address COVID-19 concerns and to ensure a great skier experience.

Do I have to wear a beacon?

We require all guests to carry working snow safety gear (beacon, probe, and shovel). Even though Bluebird Backcountry has an avalanche-evaluated area, part of our mission is to instill good backcountry habits — and this is one of them.

What if I forget something?

We’ve got you covered. In addition to rentals, we have a small retail shop with various essentials, including snacks and hot drinks, sunglasses, ski straps, hats, gloves, and just about anything else you might need.

What if I get really cold?

Our instructors are on hand to share backcountry travel tips to prevent you from getting super cold. But we know it can happen! We will have a warming hut partway up the mountain, as well as a lodge at our base area, so you’ll be able to get a hot drink and warm up during or after your tour.

Are there bathrooms?

Yes, we have port-a-potties on site.

Are dogs allowed?

We love dogs. We love skiing with dogs. Unfortunately, we can’t allow them at Bluebird Backcountry this season––largely for their own safety. Not all new backcountry skiers are ready to ski alongside sometimes-erratic four-legged friends, and we don’t want anyone (or any dogs) to get hurt.

Want to get involved?

Email info@bluebirdbackcountry.com and we’ll get you plugged in. 

Have another question?

Please use our contact form. We’d love to hear from you.

 BLUEBIRD BACKCOUNTRY, LLC
© COPYRIGHT 2020

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