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COLORADO'S SKIING SECRET - Jane Peel, Copper Mountain
Tuesday March 6, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

It's just 75 miles from Denver and not far from Vail but as PlanetSKI discovers, there are good reasons to visit the less well-known Copper Mountain.




Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge - the big beasts of Colorado.

Copper Mountain?

I'd heard of it but knew very little about it before arriving for a short stay.

Copper MountainCopper Mountain, Colorado














Sometimes I think that's the best way to approach a new ski experience.

Copper is quite literally just off the main east-west motorway, the I-70.

Copper Mountain resortLooking down on Copper Mountain resort and the I-70
















It's a purpose-built ski town, not one of those charming former mining settlements or cowboy haunts you find littered around Colorado.

There are no hotels, just lots of apartments - or condos as they call them here - that can accommodate around 3,500 people.

Copper Mountain Center VillageCopper Mountain resort
















Sound dull and uninspiring?

Don't be fooled.

Clip into your bindings and head up the hill and you'll find out why Copper Mountain is a firm favourite of many Americans.

The skiing is good. Really good.

Skiing on Copper MountainSkiing on Copper Mountain
















Copper Mountain resort sits at 2,960 metres and all the skiing takes place above this altitude.

It has three peaks that soar above 3,700 metres, so even in a winter like this one where there's been rather less snow than they'd like, conditions are good.

The mountain has three separate zones with runs leading down to West Village, Center Village or East Village.

Copper Mountain trail mapZoned skiing



















Each zone is geared to different standards of skier or snowboarder.

You know how resorts always say there's something for everyone?  And how that's rarely the case?

Well, Copper genuinely has it all.

Everything for the complete beginner to pro racers and freestylers - it has a massive halfpipe right at the base of Center Village.

Halfpipe Copper MountainHalfpipe
















Copper Mountain looking towards the Mosquito rangeOn Copper Mountain
















The PR blurb states that 18 per cent of Copper's runs are expert trails and 36 per cent are advanced.

Judging by my first day on the mountain, I can well believe it.

Not that I'm sure it was such a great idea to test the claim 20 hours after touching down at Denver from London.

Yep, we're talking serious jet lag (waking up every two hours), the inevitable exhaustion, the altitude headache, etc etc.

Heading up to the highest point on day one having had no time to acclimatise is not something I'd recommend, but needs must when you're in town for just a couple of days.

Copper Mountain snowcatCopper Mountain snowcat
















Plus, the free snowcat operates on only three days a week.

This is my one and only chance to reach the famous advanced and expert runs in Copper Bowl and Tucker Mountain that the snowcat serves.

I am with two fellow hacks, Tom and Andrew, and our guide for the day, ski instructor Jeff Smith.

Tom, Jane, AndrewWith Tom & Andrew waiting for ride up


















It's "just a small hike" from the snowcat drop-off point to get to the skiing, Jeff assures me.

Oh, OK, go on then.

"Are you sure you wanna go up, it's real windy up there?" ski patroller Wayne asks us.

Hell, yeah - how bad can it be?

Wayne, ski patrolWayne's snowcat briefing
















On the way up Wayne continues to put the fear of God in us with his safety briefing.

Stay together... watch out for the holes where they've blasted explosives to control avalanches.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is a good idea.

As the snowcat drops us off it's clear that "it's real windy up there" means hurricane-force gusts.

At the top of the snowcat runBracing myself against the wind at the top
















Sign at the top of the snowcat routeThis way to Copper Bowl & Tucker Mountain
















I am twice blown off my feet and onto the ground while hiking the rocky ridge towards Tucker Mountain.

I want to take out my camera but daren't since, if I do, it'll probably be the last I see of it.

"I thought it was going to be windy but I didn't think it was going to be like trying to scale Everest," Jeff says when we finally reach our chosen spot.

"At one stage I thought my skis were going to blow out of my hand!"


But it's worth it.

We take the Nacho and Taco routes down. (Nope, no idea why they're named after Mexican food).

Nacho run, Copper BowlHeading down Nacho in Copper Bowl
















The snow is wind-blown - surprise, surprise -  but there's plenty of it and it becomes softer and more forgiving once we get into the trees.

In the trees, Copper BowlInto the trees
















In the trees, Copper BowlIn the trees

















The whole day is a revelation.

Tree runs, steeps, moguls, fast cruisy, wide groomers.

Copper MountainLoving Copper Mountain!

















Just about the the only thing Jeff doesn't give us is a turn in the park, for which I am truly thankful.

With Jeff SmithThanks, Jeff















Despite a long, exhausting day, there's so much more we haven't yet seen.

And so to day two.

It turns out to be a bitterly cold one with a biting wind, but there's been a little snow overnight.

We reckon it could be good up top.

We head high to a point where we can see all three of the 12,000-footers - the peaks above 3,700 metres.


We find some stashes of fresh powder ...

Fresh snow, Copper MountainFresh snow
















....and the views are even better today with a sprinkling of snow on the trees, even if the sun makes only fleeting appearances.

Copper MountainSnow on the trees
















The Denver weekenders have left.

It's quiet on the slopes and the lift queues - which can be long at the two busiest four-person chairlifts out of Center Village -  have gone.

The resort has just announced that it's to replace both of these lifts in time for next winter, which should be a big improvement at peak times.

The American Eagle will become a combination six-person chair and eight-person gondola and the American Flyer will be a covered six-person chair.

American Eagle chairlift, Copper MountainAmerican Eagle chairlift
















A covered chairlift.  That would have been nice today.

We make a quick pit-stop in East Village for lunch and a much needed hot chocolate to help us thaw out.

It's good opportunity for me to find out a little about why the locals think we should choose Copper over the more famous,  more fashionable Colorado resorts.

After two days my time on skis at Copper Mountain is up and there are still masses of runs I've been nowhere near.

What a good excuse to come back!

But the fun's not over yet. 

There are some other high adrenalin activities to get stuck into at Copper -  including a visit to its famous action sports centre, the Woodward Barn.

Check out what we've been getting up to in our latest report:
Woodward BarnWoodward Barn
















PlanetSKI is in Copper as the guest of Colorado Ski Country, the trade body that represents 24 resorts in the state.

Travel from the UK was by Norwegian, which offers low-cost flights year-round direct from London Gatwick to Denver International Airport. Fares start from £180 one way/ £340 return in economy and £500 one way/£1,000 return in Premium, including taxes & charges. Skis/Snowboards £50 each way when booked online.  Go to or call 0330 828 0854

For more information about Copper Mountain, visit

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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