Envision a prototypical Western ski resort–big mountains, loads of family-friendly on-mountain amenities, plenty of ski-in/ski-out lodging, a sprawling pedestrian village, runs that cater to all skill levels and terrain parks with an Olympic-sized superpipe–and you already know what Copper offers. Yet this resort, nestled in Colorado’s Summit County 75 miles west of Denver, excels at more than just meeting expectations. The geographical composition of Copper’s 2,490 acres has allowed the resort to segregate skiers and snowboarders of different levels. Beginners are funneled to the west, intermediates to the center, and experts to the east and the above-tree line bowls off Copper Peak, Tucker Mountain and Union Peak. This means beginners never have to contend with hard-charging double-black daredevils, while expert skiers can play with their like-minded counterparts without worrying about the unpredictable turns of a novice.
Whatever your desired terrain, Copper provides, from rolling, corduroy-smooth groomers like the Jacque’s Pique boulevard to glade skiing, serious mogul runs and wide-open, higher-elevation bowls. First-timers can choose from a host of different ski school classes, including group adult lessons and a variety of small-group youth classes and season-long training programs. Intermediates, meanwhile, get 25% of Copper’s 159 runs to explore, most branching off the American Eagle and Super Bee lifts. Groms and freeskiers congregate at one of four terrain parks, including one that’s kids-only. And families can opt to take advantage of the on-mountain day care, or hook up with their kids at Critterland, a snow-covered playground with tunnels, a tubing carousel and a mini tubing hill.
Experts naturally get their pick of runs as well, from leg-burners off the Alpine lift to short, biting runs off Excelerator. The ambitious can also easily taste the Rocky Mountain’s famed backcountry by hopping on the free cat shuttle service that runs up to the ridge of 12,313-foot Tucker Mountain, where a 20-minute boot trek offers access to snow-choked bowl skiing that funnels into wide-open glades. Just get there early as the shuttles stop running at 1:30 p.m.
This season Copper will introduce a new lodge at the top of the new high-speed quad Kokomo Express lift, with a massive deck, seating for 200 and loads of panoramic views. The beginner’s section at the base of Kokomo will also get three new magic carpet surface lifts as well as one at the top.
But so much of Copper’s charm unfolds when you’re done riding the lifts. The village is logically divided into the east, central and western sections, proffering a wide variety of dining, shopping and on-mountain lodging–and it’s a good idea to stay put once you get there since I-70, the central conduit from Denver to the Summit County ski resorts, becomes a veritable parking lot each weekend. The 2017-18 season will see a flood of new après developments, including a $1.5 million transformation of an old locale into the new Ten Mile Tavern, all the more reason to bed down for a few nights.
Copper also has a dedicated tubing hill, dinner sleigh rides, snowmobiling, fly-fishing, paragliding, mountaineering, cross-country ski trails, an athletic club, top-notch day spas, a zip line, the Rocky Mountain Coaster and an ice skating rink. Thankfully, Copper makes it easy to access that ADD-level list of options with free shuttle services between village centers, free mountain tours and a cool “Secret! Pass” $30 lift ticket upgrade that gives you a dedicated (read: short) line to most of the mountain lifts, as well as access to American Eagle lift 15 minutes before the masses.
The resort also offers a Woodward camp experience on-mountain, a dedicated action sports training ground. The program is staffed with some of the best ski and snowboarding athletes, focused on radical training ideas focused to making you better at your desired activity. Special season pass tickets give you access to the camp throughout the season, as well as access to the entire mountain and the Woodward Barn, a year-round indoor active sport playground.
The only possible downside to Copper’s embarrassment of riches? Its appeal to a rollicking 20something crowd, who flock to this resort from the area colleges. If you’re looking for a more mellow or refined scene, consider bedding down in the East Village, which is removed from the more lively environs of the main village.
DINE: JJ’s Rocky Mountain Tavern sits at the base of Super Bee Lift in the East Village. The traditional chophouse serves slow-cooked barb-b-cue, stone-oven pizzas and tavern standbys with live music and a slice of kitschy Colorado mining décor.
STAY: Think of Copper as a destination resort. You get there, and you stay there. To facilitate this Copper Mountain Properties hosts a wide array of on-mountain lodging options that have been divided into neighborhoods scattered throughout the three village areas–and most are within 150 yards of a ski lift. It’s easy to choose a spot to fit your needs, from one-bedrooms to multi-room condos with full kitchens. Families and those looking for some mountain quiet should consider spots in the self-contained East Village, while those wanting to be in the middle of it all congregate to the more animated Center Village.