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Indy Pass Adds A Different Type of Ski Area To Its Now-97 Resorts

Colo.’s Bluebird Backcountry has no lifts, only uphill access and 1,200 acres to explore.

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The Indy Pass is growing once again, adding three new ski areas for the 2022-’23 season. Two are small Midwest resorts and one, Bluebird Backcountry, is the pass’ first lift-free ski area, a nice get for the 97-resort pass collective that elevates independently owned destinations across North America and Japan. Indy Pass holders will get two free days of skiing at each of these new destinations.

Bluebird Backcountry
Bluebird Backcountry is the first of its kind in the U.S., and brings a new offering to the Indy Pass for 2022-’23. Photo: Courtesy of Bluebird Backcountry

Bluebird Backcountry debuted for the 2020-’21 season, moving to its current location south of Steamboat Springs in northern Colorado the following year. There are no chairlifts; rather a network of skin tracks of varying difficulty that lets backcountry skiers learn the ropes in a safe, avalanche-mitigated environment. A rental yurt at the base provides all of the necessary equipment, including skis with AT bindings, skins, poles, and a backpack with avalanche transceiver, probe, and shovel. The ski area also offers daily courses for beginners to learn how to use the equipment, avalanche safety basics, and uphill technique as well as more advanced learning for experienced backcountry skiers.

Also Read: Indy Pass Just Added Your Favorite Volcano-Adjacent Ski Area

Bluebird Backcountry might only be a few years old, but this isn’t its first pass partnership. During its second season, the 1,200-acre backcountry-focused ski area joined forces with Arapahoe Basin, offering reciprocal deals for pass holders. That deal is still in place, with A-Basin pass holders getting two free days.

“Bluebird’s mission to revive the soul of skiing aligns perfectly with the goals of the Indy Pass,” Bluebird Backcountry co-founder Jeff Woodward said. “We love the mom-and-pop ski area culture that the Indy Pass continues to support and look forward to making the backcountry more accessible for this season’s Indy Passholders.”

In Michigan, Snowriver is the new moniker for the former Big Snow Resort—not to be confused with the N.J.-based indoor ski slope of the same name—located in the state’s Upper Peninsula. The 400-acres resort is one of the biggest in the region, and its location is known to rake in over 20 feet of snow per winter.

Mississippi River views accompany the turns at Illinois’ Chestnut Mountain Resort, which joins the Indy Pass for this winter. Photo: Courtesy of Chestnut Mountain Resort

Illinois’ Chestnut Mountain Resort is also decent-sized, with 19 runs across 220 acres and a 475-foot vertical drop. It’s also known for its seven-acres terrain park. Chestnut is one of the closest ski areas to Chicago.

With the addition of these two destinations, Indy Pass officially dominates Midwestern skiing with 26 ski areas.As the Indy Pass creeps closer to the 100-resort mark, it remains one of the best values in skiing. It’s currently on sale for $299 for the base Indy Pass, or $399 for the blackout-free Indy Pass+. Pass holders also get 25 percent off a third day at any of the partner ski areas. Rates go up on Sept.12.