Bluebird co-founder on opening a human-powered ski area
If you’ve been following ski touring news in the slightest over the past week, you probably caught wind of a human-powered ski area in the works in northern Colorado. Bluebird Backcountry at Peak Ranch is the first of its kind in the U.S. — a lift-less ski hill where beginners and proficients alike can learn and hone skills to ski and travel successfully in the backcountry. On the latest Totally Deep Podcast, Doug catches up with Bluebird co-founder Erik Lambert amidst the flurry of Outdoor Retailer.
The idea of a human-powered ski area may sound like a misnomer but for Lambert and fellow founder and Bluebird CEO Jeff Woodward, such a ski area could be elemental in growing the sport of ski touring. The goal is to offer a ‘backcountry light’ experience that welcomes anyone interested in ski touring (splitboarders included).
Bluebird’s inaugural season is set to launch on February 15 at a Peak Ranch between Steamboat Springs and Kremmling at the base of 10,115 foot Whiteley Peak. The unimproved property promises plenty of true backcountry excitement. No glading, pruning or grooming has been done to prepare extensive aspen groves and meadows for skiers. The area will, however, offer the typical amenities of a ski hill — warming hut, bathrooms, hot cocoa, bacon — along with features specific to backcountry skiing including an avy gear check, beacon park and lessons oriented specifically around using touring gear and developing backcountry best practices. Rental gear is available for those who need and all participants are required to carry a beacon, shovel and probe.
On the episode, Doug and Erik dig into the intricacies and challenges of starting a human-powered ski area — ideal locale being the biggest — and Bluebird’s plans for cultivating a safe, educational and welcoming backcountry skiing experience. A portion of the area will be available for unguided ski touring, while a larger swath will be guided only. Think Silverton, but without the steeps and with a bigger focus on education. Tune into the episode for more, or check out Bluebird’s Kickstarter page, which runs through February 5th.
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Manasseh Franklin is a writer, editor and big fan of walking uphill. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction and environment and natural resources from the University of Wyoming and especially enjoys writing about glaciers. Find her other work in Alpinist, Adventure Journal, Rock and Ice, Aspen Sojourner, AFAR, Trail Runner and Western Confluence.