America’s first human-powered ski area to open on Whiteley’s Peak

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photo courtesy Bluebird Backcountry-Justin Wilhelm
photo courtesy Bluebird Backcountry-Justin Wilhelm

On Monday, January 27, Bluebird Backcountry announced that it will open the first human-powered ski area in the United States next month, unlocking 1,500 acres of Rocky Mountain backcountry ski terrain without a single chairlift in sight.

Bluebird Backcountry at Peak Ranch will open to the public on Feb. 15 for a test season, offering a backcountry-lite, human-powered ski area designed for learning and adventure. The area will offer traditional ski-area comforts within its boundary, including ski patrol for medical response and avalanche evaluation, backcountry rentals and lessons, warming huts, and a selection of snacks and essentials. It also will offer backcountry-specific amenities such as designated skin tracks, backcountry clinics, and a beacon training park.

To ensure a more remote and serene skiing experience, however, Bluebird Backcountry will limit the number of passes sold to the public to 300 per day, giving a small number of skiers the chance to explore the property, spot wildlife and take in expansive Rocky Mountain views. Guests may ski on roughly 300 acres of avalanche-evaluated terrain unguided; another roughly 1,200 acres may be accessed with a guide hired through Bluebird Backcountry.

Bluebird Backcountry at Peak Ranch is a one-hour drive north of Silverthorne, Co., between the towns of Kremmling and Steamboat Springs. Located on private land, Bluebird Backcountry is opening Whiteley Peak (elev. 10,115’) to the public for skiing for the first time. The unimproved property offers skiing conditions that are more variable and adventurous than groomed or manicured. Guests will be able to enjoy skiing in open meadows among old-growth aspens and also will find more challenging areas and thick brush.

All backcountry experience levels will be welcome, including those who have never tried backcountry skiing or splitboarding (backcountry snowboarding). Bluebird Backcountry is committed to creating a gathering place for the backcountry community and will offer lessons for first-timers and help more experienced travelers become familiar with the equipment, touring basic mountain safety, and etiquette that includes Leave No Trace principles. “If you’re excited about the challenge of earning your turns, you’re welcome here at Bluebird Backcountry,” said co-founder and CEO Jeff Woodward. “It’s unnecessarily difficult to learn how to backcountry ski, and right now the options are either expensive or dangerous or both. Our goal is to change that.”

Bluebird Backcountry will be open to registered guests for 15 days this season between Feb. 15 and March 15.

Bluebird Backcountry has been working on the backcountry-lite ski area concept for three years. During that time it has run a variety of tests in Colorado while partnering with Winter Park Resort, the United States Forest Service and North London Mill Preservation, and the success of those events inspired the team to secure
a more formal location on Whiteley Peak at Peak Ranch to test for the 2020 season. Bluebird Backcountry has leased the land for a trial season this winter with hopes of establishing a permanent location at the ranch or elsewhere in years to come.

“Offering the full suite of in-bounds safeguards and educational options for backcountry skiers is an entirely new approach,” said Nick Sargent, President of Snowsports Industries America (SIA). “It acknowledges that backcountry touring is the fastest-growing segment of the industry and opens an opportunity for millions
of skiers to learn a sport that they might have found too dangerous or intimidating otherwise. Bluebird Backcountry has a chance not only to revolutionize how people learn to backcountry ski but also to reshape the skiing industry as a whole.”

Passes are extremely limited, and only 100 season passes will be sold. Presale tickets are available on Kickstarter while supplies last.

To learn more about Bluebird Backcountry or to reserve a spot, visit https://bluebirdbackcountry.com.

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