Tag Archive for: Camping

12 Ski Bum-Worthy Setups for Winter Camping

As the first human-powered ski area in the US, Bluebird Backcountry is all about making skiing and splitboarding feel accessible, fun, and adventurous. One of our favorite initiatives to fulfill that mission this year: Providing access to affordable camping close to the ski area. 

But, as you probably realize, it gets pretty darn cold in the mountains in winter. Fortunately, a ton of intrepid skiers and riders have braved the temperatures this season to show us all how it’s done.

Whether you’re suspicious about the idea of winter camping for fun, or just trying to fine tune your own setup, look to these folks for inspiration. Here are some of the coolest rigs we’ve seen this season. 

A Ford van setup for winter skiing.

Photo: Justin Wilhelm 

1. This oldster with character.

Meet Kandy, a 1977 Ford Quadravan. She’s got character, she’s got a few mechanical quirks, and she’s been a regular at Bluebird all season. 

A dog lounges in a heated van built out for winter camping

Photo: Justin Wilhelm

2. This photographer’s paradise.

I recently installed a solar power system and a diesel heater that I really enjoy having during these cold winter months. Being able to stay heated, charged and connected is essential to what I do here at Bluebird,” says Bluebird’s resident ski photographer Justin Wilhelm

Skis lean against a ford van used for winter camping

Photo: Menno Sennesael

3. This ski-instructor home base.

Menno Sennesael, a Bluebird backcountry education instructor, has been based out of his Ford for the last year and a half. “Nothing like having my ski stuff with me at all times—and getting ski clothes and boots on from the indoor comfort of my van while it’s storming or super frigid outside,” he says. 

4. This slopeside patio.

This guy went all in on the Titus rental ski package—and it looks to us like the mobile fire pit definitely clinched the deal. Even his pup is getting in on some butt-warming action.

A winter tent beside a snowy truck at sunrise

Photos: Isabel Gary Harper

5. This storm-ready mansion.

Talk about living large. Sophie and Isabel brought some burly winter tents (and a wood stove!) when they came to Bluebird in February. 

A ram dodge promaster setup for winter camping with colorful quilts

Photo: Corey Buhay

6. This cozy number.

Bluebird storytelling lead Corey Buhay says this RAM Promaster kept her warm in -12°F temps the last time she visited Bluebird. “I usually put foam sleeping pads over the windows, and the rest is double-insulated,” she explains.

7. This immaculate gear closet.

It’s hard to keep a van clean, but these folks are putting the rest of us to shame. Bonus points for the sweet ski rack and sleek cabinetry, something we’ve seen in a lot of Adventure Lodge’s winter rental vans

River rocks warming on a propane stove

Photo: Nichol Wolverton

8. This minivan heating hack.

Nichol Wolverton didn’t want to install a propane heater in his minivan, but he did want to find a way to stay warmer in Kremmling’s below-zero temps. So, he installed a carbon-monoxide detector and tried this: “I found a cast-iron skillet and some nice river rocks. I placed the rocks in the cast iron and turned the burner on low, “ he says. “The rocks heat up and radiate some heat, even once I turn off the stove. This setup has kept me cozy and warm even in the windiest and coldest weather!

9. This rental with the swanky kitchen.

Who doesn’t love a good backsplash? Plus, this Native Campervans RAM Promaster has a built-in heater and snow tires—ideal for winter adventure.

Skiing skins dry in a warm winter van setup

Photo: Tanya Thomas

10. This mobile bar.

Chad and Tanya Thomas camped at Bluebird during one of our first big storms. Their drink of choice: a maple cinnamon old-fashioned. (And are those oatmeal raisin cookies we spot in the background?)

11. This family vacation done right: The queen-size bed in this Escape Camper Vans rental is big enough for you and the kids. And the twinkle lights are a nice touch, too.

A pyramid tent with a propane heaterA pyramid tent setup for winter camping

12. This example of next-level badassery. Billy Hughston, now our personal hero, decided to brave the elements to test out this pyramid shelter-propane heater combo. The verdict: “The wind was gusting to 40 mph that weekend so it was quite the experiment, but I thought it worked out okay,” he says.

a snowy camp site at bluebird backcountry

The Bluebird Backcountry camp spot is quiet, roomy, and perfectly situated for amazing sunsets. Photo: Justin Wilhelm


Want to get a taste of the ski bum life for yourself?
 

This season, Bluebird Backcountry offers camping just 2 miles from our base area. With the below-zero nighttime temps around here, we do recommend a four-season setup. Learn how to winterize your own vehicle, or camp in luxury by renting from one of these guys. (Be sure to mention Bluebird for a discount!):

Native Camper Vans  •  Denver, CO  •  10% off rentals with code Bluebird

A-Lodge Vans  • Denver, CO •  15% off with code bluebird2021 (2-day minimum)

Titus Adventure Co.  • Denver, CO •  15% off with code BLUEBIRD

Escape Camper Vans  •  Denver, CO  •  Discounted rates and complimentary bedding + kitchen supplies with code BLUEBIRD

 

How to Camp in Your Car in Winter

Learn to camp in your car in winter, and you’ll be putting in first tracks all season long.

This year at Bluebird Backcountry, we’re excited to announce that we’re allowing slopeside camping in our parking lot for just $25 per night. (Season passes come with five nights free.)

Camping in your car in winter can be a great way to save money and eliminate your mountain commute. However, you’ll need a vehicle outfitted for four-season camping to do it. Here are our tips for ensuring a safe and cozy night.

 

All you need to camp in your car in winter is the right setup and a little fourth-season savvy.

Safety Considerations for Sleeping in Your Car

At Bluebird Backcountry, we’re all about safety. We can’t spend all day raving about beacon checks and helmets and then leave you out in the cold without a little risk-management talk.

So, before you camp in your car in winter, ask yourself these questions.

How Cold is Too Cold to Sleep in My Car?

This depends on your gear and your setup, but here’s some conventional wisdom to prevent sleepless nights (and hypothermia).

Trucks and SUVs

Think of your car like you would a tent. If you have a 15°F sleeping bag, your lower limit for sleeping in a car in winter should be around 15°F.

Cargo Vans

A well-insulated van without a heater is generally comfortable down to around 0°F with a good mattress, a large down comforter, and one person. With two people (twice the body heat) it’s usually comfortable to around -10°F.

Campers and RVs

Vans and campers with propane or electric heaters can be comfortable in any weather. (If you don’t have your own four-season camper, you can rent one from Native Campervans or Escape Campervans in Denver, or A-Lodge in Boulder.)

Do I Have a Backup Plan?

Even die-hard ski bums have to call in a favor when the nights get really cold. If you’re new to camping in your car in winter, have a backup plan. We recommend keeping in mind a nearby hotel you know is open late. It’s also smart to have a space blanket, extra warm layers, and a full gas tank—that way you can run the car heater for a few minutes if you wake up cold.

Of course, the best way to ensure a cozy evening is to prepare your car the right way.

 

A camper trailer parked in the snow demonstrates how effective a propane heating system can be.
An RV or camper trailer with built-in heating is a great way to ensure four-season comfort.

Outfit Your Car for Winter Camping

Everyone has a different setup, but these basics will get you cozy in no time.

1. Fold down your back seats.

Make sure your seats fold down fully and lay flat enough to sleep on.

2. Add insulation.

Cars lose most of their heat through their windows. Trap warmth by putting a thick reflective sun shield in your front windshield, and cutting insets out of Reflectix wrap (available at most hardware stores) for your other windows. Push the insets into the windows before getting ready for bed.

 

A couple eats dinner by their car, which is insulated with silver Reflectix window insets.
Window insulation is a must to camp in your car in winter. (Twinkle lights are a close second.)

 

3. Throw in a mattress.

Car seats aren’t great insulators. For camping in your car, we recommend a 6- to 8-inch-thick memory foam mattress, which you can cut down to size with a bread knife. They’re also easy to fold up for storage. A sleeping pad rated for winter camping will also work. (Pro tip: Stack a foam sleeping pad on top of an inflatable to up the insulation value.)

4. Build your bedding.

Grab your pillows and choose the right blankets. We recommend using a sleeping bag rated to at least 0°F, or colder if you want to brave below-zero temps. A few thick down comforters can also work for temperatures around 0°F.

 

A sleeping bag and sleeping pad provide warmth in the back of an SUV.
A warm sleeping bag and a little pop-up organization go a long way. Photo: Miki Yoshihito

 

5. Pick the right pajamas.

Your skiing baselayers make great winter PJs. Most of us who frequently sleep in a car also wear a hat and thick, loose socks. (Snug-fitting ski socks can reduce your circulation while you sleep, leaving you with cold toes.)

6. Heat it up.

Before bed, blast the car’s heater so you can crawl into warm blankets. While you wait, we recommend eating a bedtime snack and brushing your teeth. Maybe even floss. (We’re all about that dental hygiene.) Be sure to turn off the car before sleep.

7. Crack your windows.

Cars can get stuffy, even in winter. We recommend cracking your front windows just an inch or so to promote air flow.

8. Dream of fresh pow.

And in the morning, shred.

 

A woman smiles in the doorway of a van amid several inches of snowfall.
Car-camping gives you front-row seats to classic Colorado powder days.