You Never Have to Wait for a Lift at a Human-Powered Ski Resort

Imagine an entire day skiing and not waiting in a single lift line.

That’s possible when there are no lifts to wait for.

A new kind of ski resort was created in the United States this past season. It has no lifts and no lift lines, just 1,500 acres of untouched snow begging to be skied. Bluebird Backcountry is America’s first human-powered-only ski resort.

Why would I want to spend money to walk up a mountain, you might say?

Only 300 skiers and snowboarders a day are allowed on the hill. And there’s lots of powder.

bluebird backcountry skiing
Bluebird Backcountry/Facebook

Backcountry ski touring is typically a hard sport to get into. With so much gear — backcountry-specific skis and bindings, avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels, not to mention all the required knowledge surrounding safe travel in avalanche terrain — there can be a barrier to beginning.

Bluebird is the perfect place to start backcountry skiing and test it out. Don’t buy $2,000-plus of new backcountry ski gear and find out it’s not for you. For a $50 pass and a rental fee, you can experience backcountry ski touring without having to worry about avalanches or taking any courses.

Of Bluebird’s 1,500 acres, 400 are its “front-country” backcountry and don’t require a guide to access. The area is patrolled by professionals and inspected for avalanche danger. Suspect areas are roped off. The remaining 1,100 acres requires a guide that can be supplied by Bluebird. Everything you could need, from split boards to avalanche gear, is available for rent.

Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Replace “citizens” with “skiers” and you have Bluebird.

The Bluebird resort didn’t pop out of nowhere. Jeff Woodward and Erik Lambert have been working with the idea since 2018 when they launched a survey to gauge interest in the idea. Thousands of responses poured in. In the winter of 2018 and 2019, they took their knowledge, a team of volunteers, and 171 guests to Mosquito Pass out of bounds and Winter Park Resort after the lifts were closed. The idea was gaining traction.

Bluebird Backcountry
Bluebird Backcountry/Facebook

For the 2019-2020 season, they raised $100,000 on Kickstarter. Would people buy a $50 pass and rent gear to ski backcountry in a safe area? They did. About 1,100 people skied at Bluebird this season, many of them brand new to touring. Using an approach usually found in tech startup companies, they’ve built an entire ski hill, albeit a small one at the moment. Now that the 15-day, 2019-2020 season is over, they’re looking toward next season and a permanent location.

Famous anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Replace “citizens” with “skiers” and you have the Bluebird team.

“We’re just a couple of guys and a team of awesome volunteers who think the idea of a human-powered ski area is cool and will improve backcountry access, education, and community,” Jeff and Erik wrote on Kickstarter.

Whiteley Peak, Colorado is two and a half hours south of Denver and 45 minutes from Steamboat Springs. The summit of Whiteley reaches 10,115 feet while the Base Area Hut sits at 7,930 feet. Halfway up (or down, depending on which way you’re headed) is the Perch Warming Hut to grab a hot chocolate and give those leg muscles a rest. Ski touring is some killer cardio to be sure.

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