First-ever backcountry ski area opens next month outside Kremmling
The country’s first human-powered ski area opens next month near Kremmling.
Erik Lambert and Jeff Woodward and their Bluebird Backcountry project are developing a lift-free backcountry ski area on 1,500 acres of private land flanking Whitley Peak, the prominent volcanic plug on the southern end of the Rabbit Ears range. The pair of entrepreneurs have spent 18 months hosting test events and searching the state for slopes to anchor their dream of building a ski area with all the trimmings of a traditional hill — ski patrollers, instructors, guides, a base hut, gear rentals, a mountain warming hut, trails and avalanche hazard reduction — minus the chairlift.
As uphill skiing and backcountry touring explode, “we are seeing a confluence of factors that make this the perfect time” for a human-powered ski area, Lambert said.
“People are ready to get away from the crowded resort experience. They are maybe a little bored with traditional resorts,” Lambert said. “Part of going outside in the winter is this special experience you get communing with nature and it’s hard to do that at a crowded resort. That’s a big part of what people are seeking in the backcountry: more solace. They are looking for the soul of skiing.”
But journeying into snowy avalanche terrain is fraught with risk. Travelers need specific skills to identify hazards in addition to specialized — and pricey — equipment to help them more safely navigate those risks.
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