Bluebird Backcountry shuts down—after a delayed opening–due to COVID-19 exposure, but the no-lifts resort plans to reopen on Thursday, January 14, after all protocols and testing have been completed.
Bluebird Backcountry, Colorado’s newest “ski area” and one of the first ever uphill-only ski areas in the world, decided to suspend guest operations from January 7 through 11, after a person who was on-site last weekend later tested positive for COVID-19. Managers quickly dispatched an email explaining the situation.
Mountain access, lessons, rentals, and all services are expected to reopen to the public again tomorrow, Thursday, January 14, and pass holders will have their reservations extended.
“The health and safety of our guests and staff is our top priority both on and off the mountain,” said Co-founder Jeff Woodward, explaining Bluebird Backcountry’s decision to cease normal operations over the weekend. He added that staff who may have been exposed are quarantining and getting tested for COVID at key intervals. Guests who attended Bluebird between January 2 and January 4 have been informed of their overlap.
Bluebird Backcountry is a human-powered backcountry ski area located outside of Kremmling, Colorado. It’s operated by dedicated backcountry skiers and snowboarders with the aim to reduce barriers to entry and improve gaps in backcountry education.
Bluebird Backcountry has been working on the backcountry-lite ski area concept since 2017. After raising more than $100,000 through Kickstarter—430% of its goal—in January 2020, Bluebird’s in-bounds backcountry concept became a reality, opening for a 14-day test season in February and March 2020. By expanding its terrain, education, and service offerings this year, Bluebird Backcountry aims to build on its leadership role in the backcountry space.
“Safety is a fundamental value at Bluebird Backcountry,” said spokesperson Eric Henderson. “As a resort built on trust and community, Bluebird Backcountry was prepared with response protocol and State approved response policy.”
Most guides this winter view COVID-19 as simply one more risk they have to manage for in the backcountry, and are doing so appropriately. Bluebird Backcountry staff has worked tirelessly throughout the offseason and the onset of the ski season to minimize COVID exposure risks. Among the human-powered ski area’s precautions are contactless check-in, small lesson group sizes, physical distancing protocols, reduced building capacities, health screenings for staff, face covering requirements while indoors (and when six feet of distance cannot me maintained), rigorous cleaning procedures, and maximum guest counts of 200 per day across the area’s 1,200 acres of in-bounds terrain. Bluebird said in a statement that its COVID Plan has been approved by all local and state governmental agencies.
“This virus is particularly nefarious and can strike anywhere. We have taken every reasonable precaution against this common enemy and urge our community to do the same.”—Jeff Woodward, Bluebird Backcountry co-founder
“Backcountry skiing is naturally socially distanced,” Woodward added. “This virus is particularly nefarious and can strike anywhere. We have taken every reasonable precaution against this common enemy and urge our community to do the same.”
The area’s COVID policies state that in the event of a closure initiated by Bluebird, guests may reschedule for another date later in the season (depending on availability), receive a 100 percent credit for any future Bluebird product (valid for one year from the date of cancellation), or receive a 100 percent refund.
Guests with reservations between January 7 and 11 may reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to reschedule or claim their credits or refunds. To learn more about Bluebird’s COVID procedures, visit bluebirdbackcountry.com/covid/
Far from being shut down by this incident, Bluebird is also hiring a part-time Guest Services Specialist to round out its team for the rest of the 20/21 season.
Photo courtesy Doug McLennan/Bluebird Backcountry