Entrepreneurs create new path for backcountry skiing education
Co-founders Jeff Woodward and Erik Lambert were finalists for Entrepreneur of 2020
Jeff Woodward and Erik Lambert | Co-founders of Bluebird Backcountry | Kremmling
Three years ago, Jeff Woodward took his brother backcountry skiing near Crested Butte. “By the end of the day, he was just like, ‘Should I buy these skis instead of normal skis?'” Woodward says. “That got me thinking: There’s no good way to learn how to backcountry ski.”
Woodward and Erik Lambert, who bonded over rock climbing and the outdoors after meeting in college, subsequently devised a model for a ski area without chairlifts. At Bluebird Backcountry, it’s self-propelled uphill travel only, with backcountry ski lessons and rentals.
In 2018, the duo developed a website with an online survey about the idea, and were overwhelmed by “massively positive” responses. Then they tested the concept in 2018-19 with three weekends at Mosquito Pass and Winter Park.
For the 2019-20 ski season, they lined up 1,500 acres on a privately owned mountain near Kremmling, raised more than $100,000 via Kickstarter and sold more than 1,100 tickets for 15 days in February and March.
“Skier visits were generally quite good,” says Woodward, 36. “Guest satisfaction numbers are insanely good. People are really having a great time out there.”
For that reason, the duo hopes to open more Bluebird Backcountry mountains in future years. “We’d like to build a small network, like five of them, not 50 of them,” Woodward says.
“We have proven there is a new path for finding a way for people to access and to get education about backcountry skiing,” says Lambert, 37. “People are ready for that. People are sick of traffic and parking lots and gondola to gondola to gondola. There hasn’t been much new in the ski industry in 30 years.”