Variety – that’s what skiers get at Summit County ski area Copper Mountain. Located right along Interstate 70, the lower slopes offer a mix of mild and steep wide-open runs, ending at three different base villages. There are enough green and blue runs for the beginner or intermediate skier to stay occupied for days. But it’s the upper reaches where Copper truly shines: massive back bowls and high peaks make the expert skier feel on top of the world. From the top of 12,300-foot Union Peak, you can bomb down the face and feel like a superhero on skis. The back bowls offer a chance to put the Interstate – and everything else not related to shredding – out of your mind as you hunt fresh tracks in the shadow of the mighty Tenmile Range. The snowcat to Tucker Mountain opens up the kind of terrain usually reserved for backcountry skiers. With 2,465 acres, there’s enough variety to keep a skier or snowboarder occupied for a week – or a lifetime.
I’ve had many, many memorable powder days at Copper, but one day in particular stands out. On a big powder day, it usually takes a while for the steeper runs to be cleared of avalanche risk. Usually, I hit some tree runs on the lower slopes while this happens. On this day in 2015, though, I hit Union Bowl just as the ropes were dropped. Two runs later, I was right there when ski patrol opened Union Peak. And so it went, watching ski patrol from the lifts and being right there as each new area opened. I don’t always time my skiing so well, but on this day, the plan really came together.
- Don’t pay to park. Follow signs for the free parking lots, which offer shuttle buses to all three base areas. Beginners and families will do fine going to Center Village or West Village.
- Avoid the Timberline Express Chair on a busy day. Copper is known for short lift lines, but this area can stack up.
- Expert skiers looking for easiest access to the top of the mountain should take the Super Bee Lift from the East Village and then traverse over to the Storm King lift. From Storm King, it’s another traverse over to the back bowls, but it’s still the quickest way up there and a way to avoid the long morning lines for the lifts at the other two base areas.
Recommended season(s): November to April.
—R. Scott Rappold