Funding and remote location force shutdown of Bluebird Backcountry Resort
You could say it’s been an uphill climb for Bluebird Backcountry, the world’s first human-powered, alpine ski area sans chairlifts. After three winters of operations near Rabbit Ears Pass in Colorado, the company announced it is closing, due to lack of funding and its remote location.
“There’s no question that countless people had life-changing experiences here,” says co-founder Jeff Woodward. “Our team helped inspire and educate the next generation of backcountry travelers, and we introduced a much-needed antidote to the overcrowded and overbuilt ski industry status quo.”
The company’s promise of avalanche-free backcountry skiing started in January 2020 when Bluebird debuted the model, aiming to make “a dangerous and exclusive sport more welcoming and accessible.” Following a Kickstarter campaign and pilot season outside Kremmling, it moved 15 miles north to 1,200 gladed acres on a private ranch on Bear Mountain. Selling passes, renting equipment, teaching lessons, and holding avi courses, it saw nearly 20,000 skiers and riders pony up to skin up and schuss back down.
Woodward says its team and customers are as passionate as ever, but that the business can’t go on without a capital partner or central location. “Land is the biggest barrier to entry in the ski industry,” he says. “Bear Mountain has good snow and terrain, but we’re not located near our core customer, which lives on the Front Range.” Bluebird encouraged camping and experimented with rustic lodging, with its 41 beds sold out every weekend, but that wasn’t enough to keep it going.
“While it’s heartbreaking to close, I’m proud of the experience that we built,” says Woodward, adding he believes the backcountry-lite model can be successful and encourages other entrepreneurs to carry the idea forward. “It was a project created by people who want to shift the paradigm in a monolithic industry. Thank you to everyone who believes in it.”