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How to Properly Store Your Skis or Snowboard Over the Summer

To truly love your gear is to care for it during the times when it’s easy to prioritize (i.e. powder days) and the times when it’s not (i.e. mountain biking season). An easy way to show that love: Store your skis or snowboard with care to ensure your gear outlasts the summer heat.

Before you give your backcountry skis or splitboard one last loving caress for the season, there are a couple of things you should do first. Follow these six tips, and your planks will remain snappy, supple, and damage-resistant for seasons to come.  

skier looks over the edge of a rocky couloir

Spring skiing: Sun, glory—and plenty of mud and core-shots.🤘 Photo: Lucas Mouttet

1. Clean ‘em up.

If you did your fair share of spring skiing, you’ve probably got some mud and pine needles stuck in your bindings. Scrub them down with water and a clean rag. (Try to avoid using soap or detergents on your bindings.)

2. Scrub off any rust.

Use a scouring pad to remove any rust from your edges to prevent corrosion during storage. Fix any obvious burrs. Better yet: Go ahead and get your edges sharpened and base tuned now to avoid long wait times in fall.

A ski tech in a blue jacket tunes a pair of skis

Get your skis professionally tuned over the summer to give yourself a head start on next season. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

3. Treat Your Base.

If you live somewhere with hot summers and dry air, you may want to treat your base before you store your skis or snowboard for the season.

  1. Scrape off any residual wax or skin glue. Wipe down your base with base cleaner.
  2. When the base is clean and dry, fix any core shots.  
  3. Cover the entire length of the base with a thick layer of hot wax. Use a soft storage wax, usually labeled as warm-weather wax or base-prep wax.
  4. Leave the wax on. It will keep your planks from drying out or becoming brittle over the summer. (When the snow starts falling again, scrape off the storage wax and re-wax with a temperature-appropriate product. Voila: You’re ready for your best season yet.)

4. Take off your bindings.

If you want to get serious about improving the longevity of your backcountry gear, store your skis or snowboard separate from your bindings. Bindings create tension through the base, and leaving them on could alter the shape of your skis or board over time. Be sure to store your bindings somewhere they won’t get lost or crushed. You may also want to consider loosening them or turning down the DIN to reduce tension even further.

Skis and snowboards in storage lean against a wall indoors

Store your skis or snowboards in a cool, dry corner where they won’t be knocked over or disturbed during the summer. Photo: Erik Lambert

 5. Find a safe spot.

Don’t store your skis or snowboard in rooftop boxes, attics, or other places that get ultra-hot in the summer. Instead, find a closet or a cool, dry corner of the garage or basement. Make sure your skis aren’t tightly strapped, compressed by locked-together brakes, or hanging from their tips when you put them away; they should be in a neutral, relaxed position. If you keep them in a bag, make sure both your skis and the bag are completely dry first. Otherwise, you risk rust.

6. Wish your winter gear sweet dreams. 

Sing your skis a lullaby, wish them well—whatever you need to do to ease the pain of goodbyes. After all, winter will be here before you know it, and you’ll be reunited with your old friends soon enough.

Want to give you and your skis something to look forward to? Bluebird Backcountry 2021/22 Season Passes are on sale now!

a small bird sits atop a pair of red skis under sunny, blue skies

Your backcountry gear worked hard for you this season. Thank it by storing your skis or snowboard with care. Photo: Logan Mayer via Unsplash

 

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

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!

How to Choose a Backcountry Ski Setup 

So you’ve been backcountry skiing a few times and you’re ready to choose a backcountry ski setup. Making the leap is one of the most exciting parts of getting started in backcountry skiing. But it can also be pretty overwhelming. 

Camber or rocker? Paulownia or poplar? Fiberglass or carbon? There are so many skis out there (and so many friends with really strong opinions). If you find yourself leaving gear conversations with your head spinning like a kid throwing 360s at the terrain park, you’re not alone. 

To demystify the process and help you choose a backcountry ski setup that works for you, we talked to Andy Merriman, who’s been involved in engineering and designing skis for nearly 17 years. As Black Diamond’s ski category manager and an experienced backcountry skier himself, he’s got some insider tips for picking the perfect setup. 

1. Think of your backcountry ski setup as an integrated system.

Think of your boots, bindings, skins, and skis not as four distinct pieces of gear but as a single system designed to work together, Merriman says. Different bindings work better with different boots, and some skins work best with certain skis. Before you buy something new, ask an expert how it will pair with what you’ve already got. 

Your boots, bindings, skis, and skins should work in harmony. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

2. Pick a mid-weight ski. 

“Weight isn’t everything, but it does matter,” Merriman says. Resort skis, which are often made of heavier materials like fiberglass and poplar wood, handle well on the downhill, but the weight will leave you huffing on the uphills. Lighter skis, on the other hand, are dreamy while touring, but they can result in a bouncier, more unstable ride. Plus, the lighter the ski, the less durable it will be.

Merriman recommends finding a ski that hits the middle of the weight spectrum by using a mix of materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber, and lighter woods like paulownia or balsam. (Around 5.5 to 8 pounds is a good ballpark range, though your ideal ski weight will vary depending on your height and weight.)

3. Look for a 95- to 105-mm waist.

“When it comes to the width of the ski, the snow that you ski is obviously a factor,” Merriman explains. “In places where they get a ton of snow, you’ll see people skiing with 115mm underfoot. But most of the time, 95 to 105 is that sweet spot for a backcountry ski. “Whenever I travel to ski, unless I have a specific objective, I take a Helio Carbon 104,” Merriman says. “I would say that for 90% of what I go out to ski, the Helio Carbon 104 is perfect.”

4. Stick with the length you’re used to. 

Sure, shorter skis can be helpful when it comes to making kick turns or maneuvering in tight trees, but they provide less float when it comes to powder, Merriman says. At the end of the day, “I wouldn’t think there’s anything different about selecting a ski length for the backcountry than a resort.” Stick with the length you’re used to skiing. 

A waist between 95 and 105mm is the sweet spot for most backcountry skiing.

5. Consider your goals. 

When you choose a backcountry ski setup, it’s important to consider your actual plans for use. Are you going all in on backcountry skiing? A lighter-weight, backcountry-specific ski (like the Helio Carbon 104 Merriman likes) could be the best option for you. Want to split your time between the resorts and the backcountry? Pick a ski designed to do both. “The Helio Recon is a great option,” Merriman says. “It’s got a poplar core and it’s pretty light, but it’s made with fiberglass instead of all carbon. It’s a really solid in-bounds and out-of-bounds ski.” Bonus: It’s also a little less expensive. 

6. Pick a ski that’s intuitive to use. 

Aggressive, hard-charging skis may sound fancy, but stiff skis make it harder to initiate turns—which is already tough enough in variable backcountry snow. If you’re new to backcountry skiing, look for a ski that’s a little softer with a shorter turn radius. (Again, the Helio Carbon ticks this box. It also has a full ABS sidewall, which means great edge stability for a really intuitive feel.)

7. Look for traditional camber and early-rise tip. 

The best ski shape for you totally depends on your personal preferences and style. However, Merriman says that some of the most popular backcountry skis are those with a traditional camber (that means they’re arched in the middle) and an early-rise tip (they scoop upward at the front to give you a lift over powder.) 

Pick a ski that matches your goals. In this case: as many backcountry laps as possible.

8. Find boots that fit. 

The most important qualities in a boot: They keep your feet warm, and they fit you well. We recommend going to a professional bootfitter or reputable shop when you’re working to choose a backcountry ski setup. There, you can have your boots professionally fitted and your liners molded to your feet if need be.

9. Don’t overthink your bindings.

After a pricey ski purchase, it can be tempting to skimp on bindings. But the last thing you want when you’re transitioning on a frigid, windy ridge is having a binding freeze, get stuck, or break. Bindings are a crucial part of a backcountry ski setup. It pays to buy a pair that’s high quality, and that works well with your boot. 

For first-time backcountry skiers, Merriman recommends keeping it simple. Like skis, look for something that’s in the mid-range in terms of weight. Then, “make sure it has the features you’re looking for,” Merriman says. For new backcountry skiers, brakes and two or three levels of heel riser settings are usually the way to go, he adds. 

10. Test-drive as much gear as you can. 

The longer you backcountry ski, the better idea you’ll have of what gear you like and don’t like. Before you choose a backcountry ski setup, it can be helpful to try out as many models as you can, says Merriman. (Bluebird Backcountry offers rentals of boots, skins, splitboards, and backcountry skis—including the Helio Carbon.) 

Bluebird’s rental fleet, at your service. Photo: Erik Lambert

10 Reasons to Start Backcountry Skiing or Splitboarding

Backcountry skiing and splitboarding are having a moment, but plenty of adventurous folks are still on the fence about giving it a try. Maybe that describes you. Maybe it describes a friend or partner you’re trying to convince. Either way, we made this list to help you take the plunge.

1. It’s better than snowshoeing.

Ok, we’re a little biased, but backcountry touring is definitely cooler than post-holing in snowshoes. Skinning on AT skis or a splitboard is the most efficient way to cover distance over deep snow.

2. You can do it anywhere.

No need to drive hours to the nearest resort. Once you learn to tour safely, any mountain can be your playground. (Brand new? Bluebird Backcountry is a great place to practice backcountry skiing or splitboarding in a more controlled environment.)

3. It’s great exercise.

Legs, arms, core—touring is basically nature’s elliptical. Plus, just think how good that burger will taste when you’ve been charging uphill all day.

4. It’s better for the environment.

It’s easy math: Ski lifts run on fossil fuels; your legs run on burritos. The latter produce a lot less greenhouse gas. (We can’t speak to the other kind of gas, though.) Backcountry touring is one easy way to reduce your impact as a skier or snowboarder.

 

Four backcountry skiers explore the mountain terrain of Bluebird Backcountry.

Skiers explore the terrain of Bluebird Backcountry. No lifts, no lift lines…dreamy, right? Photo: Whitney Bradberry

5. You won’t get cold.

Ever stripped down to your T-shirt on a lift? We didn’t think so. While resorts have you sitting still and cooling off between runs, skinning uphill keeps you moving at a steady pace and staying toasty all day long.

6. Backcountry skiing and splitboarding are easy to learn.

The backcountry does have a learning curve, but most of it is getting a feel for ungroomed snow and understanding avalanche safety (which you can learn in beginner-friendly backcountry education programs). The actual motion of skinning? It’s as simple as walking—just way more fun.

7. You’ll save money.

Yes, getting the appropriate backcountry setup and avalanche safety education can be expensive. But the lifetime savings of not having to buy a big resort pass—or overpriced resort food—more than makes up for the initial investment.

 

A group of backcountry skiers and splitboarders take in a snowy mountain view.

Backcountry skiing and splitboarding = finding gorgeous views with your best buds. Photo: Whitney Bradberry

8. It opens up new objectives.

Maybe you’re not sure about backcountry skiing or splitboarding because you’ve already got your winter “thing.” Maybe it’s ice climbing, winter camping, photography, or even alpine ice skating. Learn to backcountry ski, and you’ll be able to reach cooler campsites, more ice, and better views with one of the most efficient modes of winter travel around.

9. You’ll experience the soul of winter.

Resorts can be loud and crowded. At times, they feel artificial. Backcountry touring lets you access the quiet peace of nature under snow—something that can be tougher to find at resorts.

10. The turns are way sweeter.

Learn to backcountry ski or splitboard, and you won’t have to fight for first chair to get first tracks. Plus, when you’ve worked hard to gain a ridge or summit, you appreciate every turn so much more.