If you’ve ever wanted to ski the backcountry, but didn’t know where to start, Bluebird Backcountry is the perfect place. Offering safety courses, rental equipment, and access to 1,200 acres of terrain, Bluebird Backcountry has created the first, controlled environment for a backcountry experience unlike any other.
Not only is their operation just 30 minutes east of Steamboat Springs and Big Agnes headquarters, it’s located at Bear Mountain, right along our favorite 75 miles of the Continental Divide Trail. As you might already know, Big Agnes adopted those 75 miles in 2018, so for us, this area feels just like home.
Aligned with our mission to get all people outside, we knew we had to get involved with Bluebird Backcountry and their new venture. We’re proud to announce that we’ve partnered to provide “the mother of comfort” Big Agnes insulated jackets to all Bluebird Backcountry staff members. The partnership helps us gain insight and feedback from extreme users like the Bluebird staff who brave the elements at nearly 10,000 feet, five days of the week, through the season, in all conditions.
“I’ve used mine around the base area and it stands up to pretty rough treatment! Its on-mountain performance is top notch,” says Bluebird Base Area Director Soraya McMayon.
“I love that my Barrows jacket is light and breathable enough that I can forget I’m wearing it when I’m moving around,” adds Morgan Ash, who manages Bluebird’s rental shop. “It stops the wind and keeps me just as warm as my bulkier synthetic puffy jackets.”
So what is a backcountry-only ski area? We chatted with Corey Buhay, Lead Storyteller from the Bluebird Backcountry team for answers to all of your questions.
“For starters, it means no lifts—all uphill travel takes place 100% by human power. Just like any other backcountry ski zone, guests use touring skis or splitboards to ascend slopes before transitioning and gliding downhill. However, unlike in the “true” backcountry, Bluebird is provides more resources for mitigating risk and learning how to backcountry ski in a controlled environment.”
How safe is the area, and what safety knowledge is required?
“A team of seasoned ski patrollers constantly evaluates the avalanche conditions around Bear Mountain, utilizes basic mitigation techniques, and closes sections of terrain if it’s evaluated to have high avalanche danger.
It’s important to have some foundation of backcountry safety, and Bluebird is big on welcoming, beginner-friendly backcountry education. The mountain plays host to avalanche safety courses, a beacon training park, backcountry-specific ski and split board lessons, and guided tours.”
What equipment is needed for backcountry skiing? Get specific for us beginners please!
- AT boots, skis with AT bindings, poles, and skins (all available for rent at Bluebird)
- Working beacon with fresh batteries, avalanche probe, and avalanche shovel (all available for rent at Bluebird)
- A 30 to 40-liter pack
- Water or hot tea (at least a liter)
- Freeze-proof snacks
- Ski socks
- Neck gaiter
- Wool or synthetic base layers
- Shell pants
- A shell jacket
- A puffy jacket
- An insulated midlayer
- A ball cap
- Ski straps
- Basic first-aid kit
- Basic ski repair kit
- A headlamp
- Navigation (paper or downloaded maps)
- Touring gloves
- Bigger insulated gloves
- Mask & hand sanitizer
Other safety equipment. These are less critical in a patrolled area like Bluebird, but always a good habit to bring:
- Basic first-aid kit
- Basic ski repair kit
- Extra ski straps
- Satellite communication device
- Emergency shelter or safety blanket
“As mentioned, Bluebird rents almost everything you need to try backcountry for the first time, including skis, splitboards, skins, boots, poles, beacons, probes, and avalanche shovels. We also offer some pretty stellar on-mountain food options – think giant s’mores and hot-off-the-grill bacon at warming huts along the skin track.”
What precautions are you taking for guests at Bluebird Backcountry during the pandemic?
“We provide spaced-out bathrooms, zero lift lines, mask mandates, a reservation system limiting the mountain to 200 guests, and other rigorous COVID-19 policies, Bluebird Backcountry sits right at that adventure-safety sweet spot—giving guests enough peace of mind to focus on dialing in their gear, learning avalanche safety, and earning those turns. Plus, with over 1,200 acres of varied terrain, it’s got enough to keep the experts busy, too.”
If you just got more stoked about exploring the backcountry, make a reservation now before the limited daily spots are taken. On opening weekend, we went to check out Morningside String Band featuring Big Agnes’ own Paul Geppert, and now we can’t wait to get after it on the trails up there. Find more information at bluebirdbackcountry.com and we’ll see you in the backcountry!