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7 Reasons This is Going to Be the Best Winter Ever

It’s a divisive time in this country, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: The winter of 2020/21 was one emotional roller coaster of a ski season. Closed resorts. Crazy-competitive reservation systems. Trying to maintain six feet of distance in lift-lines and at crowded trailheads. No snow, then too much snow. Our heads are still spinning. 

But despite it all, we at Bluebird Backcountry have to say it’s been one of our favorite seasons yet. It’s been amazing to see the Bluebird community grow over the past year. There’s been a real sense of camaraderie on the mountain, and nothing has gotten us through this year like watching skiers and riders come down the hill with ear-to-ear grins on their faces. 

All that said, we sure are stoked for the 2021/22. If we were betting types, we’d bet a brand new pair of Helio Recons that this upcoming season is going to be the best we’ve ever seen. Here’s why. 

 

Ain’t no party like a post-COVID party. We can’t wait. Photo: Kathryn Ciamaichelo

1. The parties are going to be awesome. 

We love solitude and quiet backcountry tours as much as the next person, but there’s something special about really celebrating when the turns call for it. Post-pandemic, we’re stoked to be able celebrate more—and with everyone we can think of. Aprés beers at the Dean West? Go ahead—invite friends. Disco Friday conga line? Hell yes, you can touch my shoulders. Want to help me shotgun this summit beer? Don’t mind if I do. 

 

We just read your palms: There’s definitely love in your future. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

2. You’ll actually be able to see your date’s face.

This Valentine’s Day, we launched our first ever Lovebirds Ski Dating Event. It was a huge success, but, man, are we looking forward to the end of pandemic dating. You heard it from us: 21/22 is the season to find love. 

 

Make this your year of self-improvement: Save when you bundle AIARE courses with a season pass. Photo: Erik Lambert

3. There will be even better deals on passes.  

This past year saw a boom in backcountry skiing interest. Next season, we’re stoked to keep serving all those amazing, curious new athletes with even better deals on passes, including a Weekday Season Pass and a Next Gen Season Pass for skiers and riders aged 26 or under. (Included: buddy codes, a free guest pass, five nights of free camping, and more.) We’re also offering all-inclusive packages for great deals when you combine passes, lessons, and/or avalanche courses. 

 

Time to pack up the van and crank up the volume. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

4. Carpooling will be officially back in style. 

As a human-powered ski area run on solar energy, we pride ourselves on being a low-impact operation. We’re stoked to boost our personal sustainability cred even further by carpooling to the mountain, which will get way easier post-pandemic. Plus, there’s nothing like jamming out in a packed car to make the drive go by fast. 

 

Do you roll deep? Post-pandemic, you can invite literally everyone you know to come crash at your place. #partyhouse. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

5. You can really pack out the Air BnB.

Let the reunions begin! Save money and revel in the slumber-party vibes by making your place the ski pad of the century. Post-pandemic, inviting your friends to crash with you will be just as easy as asking to try a sip of their beer (oh, the good ol’ days). Pro tip: The quirky Eastin Hotel in Kremmling is one of our favorite spots. 

 

Test-drive some brand-new skis next winter. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

6. You’ll get to shred on brand-new rental skis and boards. 

There’s nothing like making the first turns of winter in a glossy, snappy, playful new set of planks. To start the 2021/22 season off right, we’re bringing in a shiny new set of rental skis and splitboards. (Grab a Season Pass now to lock in discounts on rentals all season long.) 

 

We’re proud to call Bear Mountain our home, sweet, home. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

7. We’ve finally got a mountain that feels like home. 

Maybe you’ve already heard the good news? After a few seasons of trying out different locations, Bluebird Backcountry is officially returning to Bear Mountain next year! (*Cue fireworks.*) With 4,200 acres of gentle glades, steep chutes, and quad-burning ascents to explore, Bear Mountain is the perfect home for Bluebird Backcountry. 

Haven’t been? Come one, come all—we can’t wait to show you around. 

 

One Couple’s Quest to Visit All 33 Colorado Ski Resorts

It started as an antidote to cabin fever. 

This January, after a year of working from home amid COVID-19 restrictions, Jenn Ridder and James Owens of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, decided it was time to get out of town. 

“I don’t know if we started off wanting to ski all the resorts in Colorado,” Owens says. “But we wanted January to be the month where we’d ski every weekend and go to parts of the state we’d never been to before,” says Owens. So they took trips to some of the furthest corners of Colorado, visiting ski areas like Wolf Creek, Monarch, and Purgatory.

“Exploring the mountains is very much a part of who we are.” Photo: Kat Ciamaichelo

Both Ridder and Owens grew up in Colorado. By the time they met (both were working on the senate campaign trail in 2014) they’d each skied a number of mountains along the I-70 corridor. They soon found that a love of skiing wasn’t the only thing they had in common. In 2019, they were married. The ceremony was held on a little hill near their home. 

The first month of the quest to bust cabin fever was a huge success. By the time February arrived, Ridder and Owens felt like they were on a roll. They started to wonder just how many ski resorts they could fit into a season. So, they put their heads together and drafted a plan to tick all 33 of Colorado’s downhill mountains. 

“Every good adventure requires a spreadsheet,” Owens laughs. Theirs included the name and location of each ski area, whether it was on the IKON or GEMS pass, and the closing date. Timing would be the hardest part; both Ridder and Owens work 9-to-5 jobs, which left only weekends to ski. 

“But exploring mountains is very much a part of who we are,” Owens says. “We were just enjoying getting to know all the different ski cultures in different areas of the state.” 

Howelsen Hill, in Steamboat Springs, is the oldest continuously operating ski area in the US. Learning about Colorado ski history has been one of the highlights of the couple’s quest to ski out the state. Photo: By S. Larson, Courtesy of Steamboat Springs Chamber

On March 26, Ridder and Owens made it out to Bluebird for a quick afternoon session—their first time ever backcountry skiing. It was their 25th ski area of the season.

“It’s probably also the coolest mountain we’ve skied in the state,” Owens says. “Showing up, it’s like you’ve arrived at an Antarctic base camp or a moon base. There’s all these tents and a fire going. It was great to meet everyone and swap stories—there was this real sense of camaraderie.” 

Bluebird’s cozy base area gives it a unique, remote feel, says Owens. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

So far, Ridder and Owens are on track to hit all 33 resorts by the end of the season. 

“We’ve got four more weeks of this. There’s laundry that’s been piling up. But we’re looking forward to seeing this through,” Owens says. “So far, we’re on track to finish. Then we’ll just have to think up the next adventure.”

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

Quiz: Which Backcountry Lesson Is Right For You?

At Bluebird Backcountry, our philosophy is that it’s easier to learn about avalanche safety—a crucial component of backcountry education—when you already know the basics. That theory is rooted in a core tenet of experiential education called the hierarchy of needs. This idea was developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow, and posits that our basic needs (food, shelter, water) must be met before humans can move onto more complex endeavors (in this case, snow science). 

That’s why Bluebird introduced the backcountry lesson during our first season in February 2020. After the huge success of that lesson, our education team decided to expand. Now, you can sign up for all kinds of Bluebird educational offerings, all of which are designed to help get you ready for an avalanche course by giving you a strong foundation of both technical skills and backcountry confidence.

Take this quiz to figure out which Bluebird Backcountry lesson is right for you.

First, tell us about yourself.

How many times have you been backcountry skiing or splitboarding? 

A – Zero! This will be my first time.

B – Just once. 

C – A handful of times.

D – I’ve been quite a few times, but never taken an avalanche course.

 

How familiar are you with your touring gear? 

A – Not at all. If something went wrong, I’m not sure I’d know!

B – A little. I can transition without help. 

C – Pretty familiar. I know what everything’s called and what it does, but I couldn’t fix anything if it broke.

D – Very. But I could probably be more efficient at using it. 

 

How long are you comfortable being outside in the winter backcountry? 

A – I have no idea! I’ve been snowshoeing or skiing at a resort, but I know this is different. I’m not sure what to expect. 

B – Most of a day, especially since I know there are warming huts on the mountain.

C – I know how to stay warm and hydrated, so I’m mostly confident for a full day outside.

D – I’m a seasoned winter athlete. I’ll stay out as long as it takes to get in a bunch of laps!

 

Quick: Moguls or groomers? 

A – I’m still working on tackling ungroomed terrain—my comfort zone is that sweet, sweet corduroy.

B – I’m ready for some medium-sized bumps, but I’m not sure about icy spots or obstacles. 

C – I’m comfortable on just about anything at the resort.

D – I’m ready for whatever conditions the backcountry can throw at me. 

 

Are you comfortable using maps to plan a route and follow it? 

A – Maybe, if I’ll be on trails the whole time.

B – I think I can identify avalanche terrain, but I’m not super confident yet.

C – Most of the time. I can even set a decent skin track! 

D – Oh yeah. I’m a pro at using my Gaia GPS app

If you got…

 

Mostly As

Backcountry 1: Intro to Backcountry

Our classic Intro to Backcountry lesson is geared toward brand-new backcountry skiers and riders and folks who have only clicked into their AT bindings a handful of times. You’ll get to know your touring and rescue gear and learn basic skinning techniques, backcountry etiquette, Leave No Trace best practices, and how to transition from uphill to downhill. 

You’ll leave this course acquainted with your gear and ready to hone your backcountry skills. At the end of the three-hour (half-day) lesson, your instructor will make a personalized recommendation for the next step in your backcountry journey. Then you can decide whether to take another lap or head back to the base area for a s’more.

Book Your Backcountry 1 Lesson

 

Mostly Bs

Backcountry 2: Backcountry Skills

This lesson is geared toward skiers and splitboarders who have spent several days on touring gear and are comfortable with their equipment and basic skinning techniques. In Backcountry 2,  you’ll learn best practices for staying comfortable in the remote backcountry (including basic equipment troubleshooting), develop more efficient skinning techniques for varying terrain, and improve your downhill technique in variable conditions, which requires very different movement skills  from typical in-bounds skiing or snowboarding. 

You’ll leave this course knowing how to prepare for a day in the backcountry, and with better uphill and downhill technique. At the end of this lesson, your instructor will make a personalized recommendation for the next step in your backcountry journey.

Book Your Backcountry 2 Lesson

 

Mostly Cs

Backcountry 3: Avalanche Prep

You’re so close! The final installment in our three-lesson Backcountry Progression is the bridge between the skills you’ve already learned and your avalanche education. This lesson is geared towards folks who are familiar with their touring gear, can skin uphill in terrain of varying steepness, and can comfortably ski or splitboard most of the terrain at Bluebird Backcountry. It covers trip planning basics and introduces how to make useful observations about current conditions, as well as more advanced skinning and downhill movement. 

You’ll leave this course feeling prepared to learn about avalanches and how to avoid them. Most importantly, you’ll know enough about backcountry travel that you’ll be able to focus on what matters in your AIARE course.

Book Your Backcountry 3 Lesson

 

Mostly Ds

Continuing Ed

Sounds like you’ve got some backcountry experience under your belt, and you’re ready to sign up for an AIARE avalanche course. If you’ve got some time before your AIARE 1 and want to brush up on any specifics, check out a two-hour Bluebird clinic. Bluebird offers several at our base each week on topics like Skin Like a Pro, Route Planning Basics, Equipment Repair 101, and Winter Emergency Skills. Or sign on for a Ski with a Mentor session, which is basically a short private lesson where you can pick your mentor’s brain on the skills you’re looking to improve. 

 

Use this handy flowchart to help you choose the best backcountry lesson for you.

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 Blue Valley Spirits for local craft vodka, whiskey, and gin. Then there’s Steamboat Whiskey Co., which provides all-day happy hour pricing with your Bluebird day pass or season pass (you can also grab a coin at the Bluebird base area lodge for a free whiskey 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. You can also grab a breakfast at the Bluebird base area—The Drunken Onion will be providing breakfast burritos on-site this season.) 

For Groceries

Looking forward to a night in? Grab groceries from the locally owned general store, the Kremmling Mercantile. The ‘Merc has a lot of character and a great selection. (It’s where we source all our ingredients for Bluebird’s base-area food offerings, too!)

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.