I pulled into the Copper Mountain parking lot at 8:30 a.m. with minus-8 temps on a midweek road trip -- Summit County crackling' cold. Not many others were there that early, likely because of the cold and that there had been two days since new snow fell.
Shuttle buses moved smartly to drop me off at Super Bee high-speed, where a sign warns all that there are no green runs on this part of the mountain. Copper is a true skier’s mountain – always has been – and a personal favorite.
It naturally lays out from easy to most difficult, east to west. I’ll be sticking to the east side, with its 2,000-plus feet of vert, major blue groomers, and gnarly black diamond and double diamonds below 12,441-foot Copper Peak.
The day begins with a couple of warmups on the rollers of Oh No and Copperopolis, a stop to warm my feet, then a ride up to tree line to get a taste of Copper’s famous bowls.
Choosing Storm King
Off the top of Super Bee (aka B Lift), I looked over into Resolution Bowl but chose the Storm King T-bar to the summit of Copper Peak.
From there, the Land of the Cirques rolls out all around you. To the south, the Rooftop of the Continent in Leadville rises forth, topped by 14,439-foot Mt. Elbert. The 10-Mile Range lots to the east and Vail Pass rolls to the west. Northward, the craggy Gore Range heads toward Steamboat.
Head to skier’s left, and the uniform steeps of Spaulding Bowl fall off into Resolution. Instead, I chose to traverse off the top to check out Copper Bowl on the back side. Despite the bright sun, I figured it was still cold enough to keep the snow light. I was right; a couple of runs turn up some major powder stashes, despite facing south into the sun. The ride up retro BlackJack double chair was a treat.
To relax, I took a smooth cruiser to the main base area, and I caught Skid Road for the roly-poly ride back to Super Bee.
Moguls Off Alpine Lift
With my legs still strong, I headed over to the steep-and-long blacks off Alpine Lift (aka A Lift), renowned for moguls. But crews had winch-catted the right side of Triple Threat under the lift; outside of deep pow in the trees, nothing gets my old racing legs going more than a steep, groomed run. Again, the Alpine double-chair is a throwback. You can’t easily return to Super Bee from the base of Alpine.
On the east side of Copper, the sun sets early. Warmth-worshippers have to work their way across the front face to find the light. On any given day, the four bowls on top – Resolution, Spaulding, Copper and Union – can offer up all types of snow, from dry powder to mushy slush.
For me, a final top-to-bottom run down Andy’s Encore put a thigh-burning cap on the a fine Colorado day.
No mountain does more than Copper: It tests all your skills, lays out every imaginable terrain and snow condition, and has the sweetest, smoothest, widest blues and greens in the Rockies for when enjoying the day is your only priority.
Photos: Top -- Copper's bowls have few rivals (Copper Mt. /Facebook); Below -- Copper is a "perfect ski" mountain according to 1970 Forest Service report. (Copper Mt./Facebook)