A Colorado ski area billed as a one-of-a-kind worldwide has plans to expand for its first full season.
"After an amazing test season this past spring, we've been working on the next big thing," read a recent newsletter from Bluebird Backcountry, "and it is BIG."
This winter, operators expect to unveil 1,200 acres of inbound terrain for what is considered an untapped clientele: those wanting to learn backcountry basics and others preferring their chairlift-less adventure to be in a less extreme, avalanche-controlled environment.
The expansion revolves around Bear Mountain, just up the road from where Bluebird debuted at a 400-acre tract between Kremmling and Steamboat Springs. The move will grant more snow and "tons of variety," operators promise. While at a lower altitude with lesser vertical — Bear Mountain caps at 9,845 feet — the skiable acreage compares with Arapahoe Basin (1,428 acres) and outsizes Monarch Mountain (800 acres).
The 14-day trial last spring "proved that the world is ready for a ski area without chairlifts," Bluebird co-founders Erik Lambert and Jeff Woodward wrote in an annual report.
They counted more than 1,000 skier visits in that two-week span, including 280 guests who took a backcountry lesson. The co-founders thanked supporters of a Kickstarter campaign that exceeded $107,000 in pledges and 200-plus volunteers who made possible the opening.
All within 100 days, Lambert and Woodward wrote, land and insurance was secured, patrollers and instructors hired, a mid-mountain base built and deconstructed and rental gear amassed.
"We've been pinching ourselves a bit lately," the co-founders wrote. "Did that all really happen?"
They recognized the new reality of COVID-19 approaching this winter. While still said to be finalizing plans, Bluebird has offered a limited number of season passes for $299 with no restrictions or reservations required.
The ski area is slated to open five days a week starting Christmas weekend through March.