Last year, we closed out our ski season at Copper Mountain. Situated high atop the mountains of Summit County, Colorado, Copper Mountain is often blessed with great snow well into April. Copper also knows how to throw a season-end party: Sunsation.
This year, Sunsation features free concerts, the Collegiate Alt Games, the Red Bull 1976 Games and Colorado’s largest Easter Egg hunt over two weekends (April 16-17 and 23-24). Music headliners include Quiet Riot, the Gin Blossoms, The Samples and Reel Big Fish. And these events are all free.
But Back to the Skiing
When we lived in Denver many years ago, Copper was our preferred mountain. The drive wasn’t bad, the parking was easy and the terrain was a blast. Two springs ago, we went back to Copper with our kids. As we pulled into the free parking lot, we were agog. The cars went on for what seemed like miles and we weren’t really sure we were up for this sort of crowd. Luckily, we didn’t have to be.
Naturally Divided Terrain
Here’s the great thing about Copper Mountain: While the parking lot may look crazy-full, the mountain is almost never crowded. When we left our car and made our way to the shuttle buses, we noticed signs dividing skiers by ability. Advanced skiers take the bus to the East Village. Intermediates take the bus to the Center Village. Beginners, you’re going to Union Creek.
This division works because the terrain at Copper Mountain is naturally divided. The toughest stuff is on the east end, and as you move west, the mountain gets progressively easier. By having three bases, crowds are mostly dispersed, and even better, there aren’t too many places on the mountain where beginners are mixing it up with advanced and expert skiers.
The East Village
From the East Village, skiers take the 6-person Super Bee chair to the top of the mountain. There is no beginner terrain up here nor is there an easy way down. From the top of Super Bee however, you’ve got Copper at its best. Long blue and black groomers will take you back to the base, while a quick turn to skiers’ right will drop you onto the steeps and bumps of Resolution Bowl.
If you want to avoid nearly everyone, take one of the long black bump runs, Triple Treat or Too Much, down to the Alpine Lift. This area sees so few skiers that the powder shots last for a few days (rather than a couple of hours). The terrain is steep and the moguls are deep. The chair is a super-slow double, but it doesn’t matter because I, for one, enjoyed resting my legs on the way back up.
Other options from the top of Super Bee include dropping down under the Excelerator Chair to the mid-mountain Solitude Station. Excelerator keeps you at the top of the mountain and provides access to some fun intermediate and advanced bumps, as well as the NASTAR course. Adjacent to Solitude Station is the Eagle Jib Park with rails, boxes and a couple of mid-sized kickers.
Expert skiers can hop onto the Storm King Poma lift which provides access to Spaulding Bowl and Copper Bowl. Copper Bowl provides access to the Tucker Mountain cat skiing. The cat ride up is free, but we’ve never managed to be in line at the right time. Two days in a row, we showed up just as the last cat left. On the third day, we were first in line, only to find out that the cat runs only on weekends and Monday doesn’t count as a weekend, even if it is Spring Break. Tucker is definitely on my list for next season.
Finally, when you leave Copper Bowl on the Mountain Chief chair, a short hike will take you to one of my favorite pitches, the steep face of Union Bowl. Drop off the cornice and ski nonstop. For a couple of moments you can pretend you’re in Alaska.
For Intermediate Skiers
While there is some fun blue terrain off of Super Bee and Excelerator, the bulk of Intermediate skiing at Copper Mountain is found under the American Eagle and Timberline Express chairs. Leaving from the Center Village, adjacent to the Superpipe, American Eagle takes skiers just above the Eagle Jib Park at its top and provides easy access to the Excelerator runs. Bittersweet is a nice groomer going back to the bottom, or skiers can follow signs for the catwalk leading to Timberline.
Timberline is a mostly self-contained part of the mountain, with the Kidz Park at the top and the T-Rex Grill at the bottom. On a sunny day, you can’t beat hanging out in one of the T-Rex lounge chairs, soaking up the sun and feeling less like a dinosaur and more like a lizard. Let the kids take a few runs on their own while you relax.
The other great option for intermediate skiers, especially in mid-winter before the sun has taken its toll on the snow, is Copper Bowl. Accessible from either the Rendezvous chair or the Storm King Poma, Copper Bowl gives skiers a taste of bowl skiing on a less steep pitch than Spaulding Bowl. Conditions are natural and highly variable in Copper Bowl. You can have wind-blown drifts at the top and end up in crusty crud at the bottom, but it is a fun challenge, and when the conditions are fine, you’ll love it!
Beginning Skiers Have Their Own Mountain
The bulk of the beginner runs are found off of the three lifts in Union Creek (Lumberjack, Kokomo and Union Creek). Isolated on the west side of Copper Mountain, these lifts provide beginners with enough terrain to keep them busy without ever leaving this area.
For beginners wanting to get to the top of the mountain, the American Flyer lift in the Center Village provides access to mountain top green runs. The Flyer will give you access to the Rendezvous Chair which terminates in a saddle at the top. From here you’ve got a nice choice of mellow runs all the way down to the base, plus you can see stunning views of the Summit County mountains. Back at Union Creek, High Point also provides access to the Catalyst Terrain Park, with the big features. It is a great place to check out the action and get inspired.
Woodward At Copper
No matter what your ability, Woodward at Copper is the place to go to improve your park skills. With an indoor facility and expert coaching at The Barn, drop in for a “One-Hit Wonder” session, a winter day camp, or come back in the summer for a weeklong camp.
My boys have both been to summer camp and done drop-in sessions and they love it. The coaching has helped them to improve in ability, knowledge and safety. Much better to learn from pros than ascribe to the “huck and hope” school of (literally) hard knocks.
When You Go….
This season, Copper’s closing day is Easter Sunday, April 24. Sunsation takes place on April 16-17 and April 23-24. A complete list of Sunsation activities and events is on the Copper website.
Each of the three Copper bases has many lodging options. We have only stayed in the East Village, which is much smaller and quieter than the Center Village. Buses connect the villages and it is only a few minutes from one village to the next. We’ve had really good experiences renting through Copper Mountain, although you could also check VRBO for Copper Mountain and Frisco.
I don’t know much about dining at Copper, because we usually rent a condo and cook for ourselves. The nearest grocery store is the Safeway in Frisco, about a 10 minute drive. There is also a small market in the Center Village. There are restaurants in each village, with the highest concentration in Center Village. Please let me know if you find something wonderful!
Finally for all other Copper information, check out the Copper Mountain Resort website. Save money by buying your tickets online, or buy a 4 pack of tickets before the season starts. If you are driving in, you can also fill up with gas at a Shell station and receive a coupon for a buy-one/get-one ticket. Copper offers plenty of deals and makes it easy to save money — which makes it easy to come back, year after year. Seems pretty smart to me.
© 2011, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.