Sleep In The Dirt

Partner Spotlight: Bluebird Backcountry

Sponsorship and Non-Profit

What’s the behind the scenes story of an education-focused backcountry ski area?

Bluebird Backcountry @ Justin Wilhelm
Bear Mountain, home of Bluebird Backcountry, in Northern Colorado. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

In the northern mountains of Colorado, a human-powered ski area was created to foster a safer environment for backcountry enthusiasts to ski, board, and learn all things touring. Avalanche-managed terrain, marked skin tracks, free bacon, and the perfect runs for all levels — from open mellow glades to steep trees and technical couloirs — comprise Bluebird Backcountry. As an off-grid backcountry ski area, Bluebird is all about education, stoking the soul of backcountry touring, and building a place for winter-lovers to connect and inspire.

Educational Roots

Beacon Practice @ justin wilhelm
Student’s learn how to use their avalanche beacons in a Backcountry 1 Lesson. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

Founded by two passionate backcountry enthusiasts and their friends, family, and dogs, Bluebird offers an inclusive setting for people interested in trying the sport of backcountry touring without the barriers of overpriced gear or unmarked and unfamiliar terrain. You can take an Introduction to Touring lesson or go farther with an AIARE course, ride solo on high-danger avalanche days, or explore the mountain with friends and your dogs. There’s something for everyone at Bluebird.

Starting with the basics, Bluebird offers a Backcountry Lesson Progression – Backcountry 1: Basics of Touring, Backcountry 2: Movement, and Backcountry 3: Navigation and Avy Prep. These lessons form the basis of knowledge of gear, skinning, and navigation techniques to prepare students for their first avalanche education course. Advanced offerings expand the educational journey into more experienced terrain with full-day, in-person courses focused on topics such as reading terrain, equipment maintenance and repairs, and finding backcountry partners. If you need to rent gear, Bluebird has a large rental fleet (including backpacks, beacons, shovels and probes) on site.

Winter Emergency Skills is one of these advanced courses, and Big Agnes has teamed up with Bluebird to provide all the necessary gear to make this lesson well worth any backcountry enthusiast’s time! The course reviews essential winter equipment to carry, how to build emergency shelters, and what to do in the case of an unexpected overnight stay in the backcountry. By signing up for this course, you’ll get to test out top-notch Big Agnes gear while learning survival skills in the ideal classroom — Bluebird Backcountry’s 1,500 acres of incredible terrain.

Winter Emergency Skills Course @ Justin Wilhelm
Students in Bluebird’s Winter Emergency Skills course learn how to keep an injured friend warm in an emergency situation. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

The Soul of Backcountry Touring 

Upon pulling up to the parking lot, it’s a 2 minute walk to the welcoming Base Area. Guests circled around the fire; employees taking lunch laps on the mountain; dogs at the mountain portal and on the slopes; and everyone from newbies to long-time backcountry enthusiasts enjoying the gladed aspen runs, steep tree skiing, and open bowls of Bear Mountain. Reviving the soul of backcountry touring — there’s live music at the Base Area on weekends, camping in the parking lot (this means a 1 minute commute to the skin track in the morning) and special events — both in-person and virtual — to connect those interested in finding new friends to explore the backcountry with.

Base area @ Justin Wilhelm
Sit by the fire and enjoy an apres drink or snack with friends after exploring Bluebird’s terrain. Photo: Justin Wilhelm

At the heart of this company is the flock of employees. Ready to take on any adventure, Bluebird’s team works hard and plays hard no matter what the weather delivers. You’ll often find them outside on blustery sub-zero days — clad in blue, smiling and ready to greet guests at the mountain portal. This is made possible by their partnership with Big Agnes, who provides Bluebird employees with the warmest jackets around.

One can’t fully explain the vibe of Bluebird in words – you’ll have to experience it for yourself.

Trudy Jacket Bluebird Backcountry
Bluebird’s Guest Service Manager, Kat Ciamaichello rocks a Big Agnes Trudy Jacket while greeting guests at the Mountain Portal. Photo: Morgan Ash

Connecting and Inspiring Winter-lovers

Bluebird Backcountry started in 2018 with a few trial weekends at one of Colorado’s more popular backcountry trailheads. In 2019 they expanded to Whiteley Peak — their current location’s next door neighbor — for a month of lessons, guiding, and exploration of what this revolutionary concept could be. In 2020, they officially opened for a full season at Bear Mountain and are in full swing again at the same location for the 21/22 season.

Since 2018, Bluebird has expanded to more than in-person lessons and set skin tracks for solo skiers and groups of riders. New this season, Bluebird Backcountry Community is a virtual space for winter enthusiasts to find partners, exchange gear, nerd out on all things backcountry, take online courses, and so much more. There’s a free version for anyone interested in dipping their ski/snowboard boots in this community — including forums, groups, and free education-focused courses. If you’re wanting more, check out their premium membership, or better yet, get a Bluebird+ or Advanced+ Educational Membership with Bluebird. This provides access to all parts of Bluebird Backcountry Community, along with discounts on rentals, lessons and AIARE courses, special members-only events, and more.

Bluebird Backcountry touring
A special sunset tour enjoyed every last bit of light on West Bowl. Photo: Aidan Giroso

The backcountry community has deep roots and it can be intimidating to enter this sport. Bluebird believes in providing mentorship and ease of access — Ski with a Mentor for half a day, find new partners in their online partner finder forum, take an Avalanche Refresher Course early in the season to sharpen your skills, or hit the skin tracks of Bluebird on your own and meet like-minded people who are stoked on all things snow and backcountry. There is something unique for everyone at Bluebird.

 

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