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Adam Christopher of Denver drops into the West Bowl Sunday, March 28, 2021, at the Bluebird Backcountry Ski Area. Christopher and friends skinned a little more than a mile and gained about 600 of elevation to the West bowl from the base camp to drop into the fresh powder below. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

As a one-of-a-kind ski area in Colorado closes on its first full season, operators continue to sound optimistic about the years ahead.

Bluebird Backcountry has announced "a longer-term lease" on sloping property in the northwest part of the state, where reportedly "thousands" of skiers and riders visited this winter and spring. The grassroots team of managers and guides plans to make this 1,200-acre mosaic home "for the foreseeable future," according to the announcement.

Ski area co-founder Erik Lambert called the land between Kremmling and Steamboat Springs "close enough to be convenient, but far enough to feel lightyears away from the I-70 corridor."

Bluebird Backcountry is a far cry from those busy resorts along the interstate. The chairlift-less, patrolled ski area's stated aim is to "improve education and create a soulful gathering place for the backcountry skiing community." As the self-powered interest grows, Bluebird invites enthusiasts to learn in a safe environment and to test gear and build skills.

Fundraising and volunteer recruiting that started in 2017 led to a concept test in spring of 2020 — a two-week pilot that the founders marked as a success. It "proved that the world is ready for a ski area without chairlifts," they wrote in a report.

For the '20-'21 season, operations moved up to the road to Bear Mountain, the 9,845-foot centerpiece of the 1,200 acres with gentle meadows, angling aspen glades and steeper couloirs, plus another 1,000 acres available for exploration alongside a guide. Season passes started at $299. Camping was allowed in the parking lot.

Bluebird's announcement of staying put came with mention of "investments to the property that will improve both access and skiing." Details are expected later this summer.

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