The breathtaking view from the Copper Mountain summit.
Take advantage of Spring Skiing Deals through April 14 closing
by Andrew Kessel, Eric Leiberman & Dave E. Leiberman
We are three buddies who met at summer camp years ago and have kept up our friendship even after going to different colleges, careers and starting work in different cities and decided to meet up for a long weekend skiing.
With air connections and fares to Denver being reasonable for all of us – coming from New York, Boston and Austin – the Rocky Mountains of Colorado was particularly alluring.
We looked for a mountain with a wide variety of trails, great ski-and-stay packages, a plethora of activities off the mountain, and a little something “extra.” The ideal spot: Copper Mountain – a couple of hours drive from Denver International Airport, right off Highway 70, so we wouldn’t waste a moment we could otherwise spend on the slopes.
The Colorado Rockies are of course famous for its champagne snow – we would describe it as talc. To supplement this supple natural stuff if Mother Nature is stingy at the beginning of the season, Copper has some of the most advanced snow making technology, a bonus for hosting the US Ski team. They stop making snow in December and let nature do its course. If you are coming from out East, the snow will feel so much softer and gentler on your knees
What we notice almost immediately when we arrive is that Copper exudes a youthfulness, a spirit, an energy.
That energy is everywhere at Copper – from the color scheme and typeface that evoke the Go-Go ’80s, to the music that is piped into the plaza, to the on-mountain lodges and terrain parks, and on the shuttle buses that take you among the three base villages. And it’s infectious.
It’s not just the atmosphere, it’s also the programming on and off the slopes, most notably Woodward-at-Copper, which is a unique indoor/outdoor skiing/snowboarding training facility and program, as we discovered.
Copper Mountain was one of the first purpose-built ski resorts, with three linked base villages nestled in the valley, against the three different mountain areas.
Eric gazes out at Tenmile Range in the Colorado Rockies from the summit of Copper Mountain.
Copper’s layout takes advantage of the mountain’s naturally divided terrain, from most difficult trails in the east to the easier trails in the west. There’s significant trail variety across the mountain and skiing (or riding) from one side of the mountain to the other is surprisingly easy.
Nevertheless, if you are skiing in a group of people with mixed skill levels you can still find something for everyone on each part of the mountain. You won’t find yourself pushing across level grounds to get one from chair lift to another. You always feel you’re at home, never lost, with plenty of interesting trails to explore.
Copper Mountain ski terrain is contained entirely within National Forest Service land (hence the April 14 hard season end-date which is federally imposed, but there is still plenty of spring skiing).
The views are spectacular – and we get that sense of invigoration and renewal that comes from being 14,000 feet up in the crisp air and sparkling snow, the endorphins pumping.
At the summit, we look out to The Tenmile Range, with more than a dozen peaks. The back side of this view is Breckenridge Mountain.
At the American Eagle, lift you can take a break and meet many of Copper’s patrol staff, while enjoying pleasant conversation and sipping free hot cocoa. You may also wish to snap a few photos of the incredible panorama found out back behind the cabin. If we had arrived one week later for Safety Week (the last week of January), we could have stayed until the end of the day to join patrollers for the last sweep of the day!
The Super Bee chair lift carries as many as six skiers/riders and gets you from bottom to top of the mountain quickly. The Union Creek lift is less than one year old.
The lift system is such that we never have much of a wait, even on a busy Saturday.
In another example of guest-centered focus at Copper, there are conveniently located trail maps built into the chairlifts helping us map out our ski routes through the day.
At mid-day we take advantage of the noon-groomer, a trail that’s closed until noon so that even afternoon skiers can enjoy some fresh conditions.
There’s a nice lunch on the patio at Jill’s restaurant if you want to take a break but . Flyer’s is a hip option right at the top of the American Flyer chair lift.
After lunch we take a very pleasant run under the American Flyer chair lift on Alliroo Alley, which connects to Liberty and took us all the way down the mountain.
On our second day on the mountain we opt to ski some of the more difficult trails on the east side of the mountain, like Too Much, a trail chock full of moguls off of the Alpine lift which pounds our knees – and is a great excuse to take a break at JJ’s BBQ restaurant in East Village.
At JJ’s we enjoy slow-roast and smoked brisket and pulled pork sandwiches inside a decadent and beautiful old saloon style building. We highly recommend the waffle fries and special green chili with pork. We hear the truffle chips at Incline are outrageous. Live music begins at JJ’s around 3 pm, making it a great place to hang after skiing.
Everywhere you go on the mountain you find close connections, friendly staff and an overall aura of positive energy that pervades Copper’s culture. While getting ski rentals at the main sport’s center, Ash Lanter, who’s worked at the shop since July, actually had us singing “Lean on Me” while trying on ski boots.
Eric practices a jump into a pit of foam at the Woodward-at-Copper indoor training facility.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws outside of the ski mountain to Copper is Woodward-at-Copper, in its the newly built (opened in 2009) Red Barn training facility.
Woodward is one of two unique facilities (the original is in eastern Pennsylvania) that allow adventurous thrill seekers to practice jumps, tricks, and other stunts in a safe, yet playful indoor park. We are curious and excited about hitting the “big” jump in facility but we need more time to build up to it. But we are still able to take advantage of the “drop-in” program where you can spend hours or a day at the facility.
The key here is the focus on progression (Woodward’s mantra is “dedicated to progression”) from beginner to expert with a well-thought strategy for transitioning to the mountain. We were surprised and impressed to hear that Phoebe Mills who manages Woodward was a former Olympian and current Olympic judge.
Inside the Red Barn is a multi-functional playground of sorts for skateboarders, skiers, snowboards, and even gymnasts. They have different trampolines for different levels and different purposes. These trampolines are stationed next to foam pits you can gently fall or flip into or soft objects that are meant to bounce into, off of, or onto. Some people get lessons in groups and others have purchase annual passes and can come whenever they choose.
Besides the skate park, there are rails and half-pipes you can practice on, and several jumps of different sizes. There’s also a great audience viewing deck in front of the two biggest jumps. The large jumps empty into larger foam pits, are always supervised, and have cords that you can use after going off of a jump to help pull yourself out of the pit. The instructors help trainees build up to the bigger jumps and the increasingly difficult tricks (usually combination of flips, spins, and directions you can hit the jump).
The half-pipe at Copper Mountain.
After doing Woodward indoors, we check out the incredible Woodward Park on the west side of the ski mountain. This is where you get to apply outdoors what you have practiced in the indoor facility.
The jumps and man-made obstacles are clearly marked by skill level and allow the most advanced skiers opportunities to try some dare-devil type moves on some of the most monstrous jumps in the country. There’s also an amazing half pipe (we wish we had the opportunity to see the Zawgg, the machine that builds the pipe, in action). Advanced reservations are highly encouraged, visit www.woodwardatcopper.com.
One other great benefit of skiing at Copper is the already-included-with-your-lift ticket cat skiing. Just about everywhere else, you pay dearly for a cat skiing experience, but Copper offers this on a first-come, first-served basis. The cat machines allow skiers and riders to access otherwise hard-to-reach places on the mountain with amazing “free-riding” opportunities. Cat skiing leaves from the West Village and while intended mostly for experts, also offers a few mellower terrain options.
The panoramic view from cat skiing the back country at Copper Mountain.
In this backcountry, you can’t help but think about avalanches. Copper has three methods of avalanche control for periods of increased snow fall and bowl skiing including: directed skiing, where you ski the paths created by patrollers; Boot packing, where patrollers use their ski boots to create paths and Pit Digging, in which patrollers take intricate samples of snow from the pits they’ve dug to determine safety levels. Interesting fact; if you cause an avalanche that causes property damage in Colorado, you have to pay for it.
High Energy, High Altitude
Copper has a lot of high-energy activities that really enhanced our experience off the mountain.
Dave takes a ride on Copper’s new Alpine Rush Zipline.
The new Alpine Rush Zipline, which opened in 2012 and operates year round, is a family-friendly ride features with a dueling-design that allows two guests to fly side-by-side as they soar 30 feet above Copper’s bustling West Lake ice skating rink. The flight travels 300 feet across the lake, reaching speeds of up to 30 mph.
One of the best qualities of Copper is its vibe – it is an atmosphere, it’s energy. The atmosphere is less glitz and more friendly, accessible, and simultaneously unpretentious and hip.
In Center Village visitors are greeted by several beautiful pillars at burning stones. It seems like it would be a really fantastic performance space, which we heard they utilize for their “music on the mountain” concerts, over the last few years.
Each December Copper hosts a “Grand Prix” where over 400 professional and aspiring amateur athletes come to compete in various sports. It’s one of the longest running tours in sports history now in its 16th season, and fourth year at Copper. The Grand Prix was recently elevated to a World Cup event and athletes can now qualify for the Olympics.
But any time you come you can enjoy the village of Copper which organizes periodic en fuegos, bonfires in one or more of the pit locations around the villages.
Per capita, Copper Mountain probably offers more eating and entertainment options than many of the bigger nearby ski mountains. Copper Village features a number of great bar, café, and restaurant choices a short distance from the accommodations and lifts, so that we had a hard time choosing. There’s also some great deals and options for more affordable dining like the $5.99 lunch entrée special upstairs at Copper Station in the East Village.
CB Grille is Copper’s most upscale restaurant, yet is comfortable. The features exquisite American cuisine with local music entertaining guests while dining. The beef tenderloin is phenomenal and the lamb t-bone steaks were also fantastic. If you are looking for seafood, the linguini seafood dish is excellent and the Ahi Tuna appetizer is another great option. C & B feels like your hip uncle’s artsy and hip apartment, decorated with modern art.
We also highly recommend visiting Pizza Carlo’s after a day on the slopes and suggest trying their amazing buffalo chicken pizza with a Mediterranean side salad. If you are looking for a great après ski drink deal Pizza Carlo offers $3 beers.
Many of Cooper’s restaurants are located in the Center Village and clustered around the ski slopes, but if you are willing to venture a little further out, you can find some real gem’s like Tucker’s Tavern. The owner and chef, who comes out to greet us while we eat, is a German aficionado and offers guests a unique experience with his selection of great German beers and cuisine such as the wiener schnitzel.
If you are looking to go out for some drinks after eating and looking for something a little more playful, nearby Mulligans features beer pong, billiards, corn hole, and other games which tend to cater to a younger and sometimes more local crowd.
For those not inclined to the winter sports, Copper offers a year around experience of fun-filled activities. The Wanderlust Festival, where visitors can practice yoga and listen to great live music, takes places July 4-7. During the summertime, guests can also take advantage of an extensive network of mountain biking trails. For families with kids, the pond at Copper Village fills up with bumper boats. Parents may choose to play golf at the mountain while their kids can play mini-golf.
The accommodations at Copper are excellent with several condominiums right in Copper village, just steps away from the ski mountain.
We stay at Passage Point, one of the condo units located in Center Village. Built in 2000, Passage Point offers 133 units comprised of studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms, three bedrooms and a four-bedroom unit. Our unit has comfortable bedrooms and plenty of amenities. Our favorite part of Passage Point are the three spacious and mesmerizing light changing outdoor hot tubs. It is also great having easy access to a gym when we want a break from the ski mountain.
Three amigos: Copper Mountain is an ideal destination for three friends from three different cities to meet up for a weekend getaway.
We find the ease of getting around extended well beyond the mountain. There are free buses to get to nearby Frisco (a town with some grocery stores and access to other proximate locations like the historic town of Breckenridge) as well as local free shuttles to get around Copper.
We have a blast at Copper Mountain. It is definitely a place we look forward to returning. The service is great, the air fares to get there are reasonable from almost anywhere, and the friendly atmosphere combined with the exciting ski trails make Copper a great choice.
Copper Mountain is ideal for spring skiing. Check out the spring break deals at the website, www.coppercolorado.com
Copper Mountain Resort is located just 75 miles west of Denver and 20 miles east of Vail off Interstate I-70 at exit 195, easily accessible from both the Denver International Airport and Eagle County Airport.
Copper Mountain Resort, 209 Ten Mile Circle, Copper Mountain, CO 80443, 888.219.2441; general info, 866.841.2481, coppercolorado.com.
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