Copper Mountain — Winter Sports Paradise

Mother Nature heralded the onset of spring, but I still itched for a few more days of snow play. Most ski resorts had shut down, but I discovered Copper Mountain, 75 miles west of Denver, Colorado, would be open until the end of April. Spring skiing is not my favorite. I’ve often encountered slush and ice on previous late season ski trips, but I decided to give it a try, resulting in some of the best ski conditions I’ve discovered anywhere.

Copper Mountain has transitioned from a great mountain with adequate amenities to a grand full service alpine resort. Modern chalet-style condominiums, shops, restaurants, lounges and redesigned chair lifts are all a part of the new redevelopment. I arrived late afternoon and after checking in to my comfortable condo in the New Village, ambled a few steps across the snowless, heat traced paved walk to the American Eagle lift. Snuggling under a cozy red blanket, I rode to Solitude Station at 11,000 feet, eagerly looking forward to a gourmet, candlelight dinner. As I ascended in the high-speed quad, legions of snow cats, like one eyed monsters, prowled the slopes as night fell. After a scrumptious four-course meal, accompanied by wine and entertainment, I was ready for a good night’s sleep. I made my way over to the lift and nestled under the blankets for a chilly ride down the mountain.

Next morning I headed back to the lift to be one of the few skiers to make first tracks on the freshly groomed corduroy slopes. Skiing at its best! My fears of slush and ice vanished as I cruised down perfect snowy slopes. Each night, and sometimes during the day, snow fell, not a blinding snow, but just enough to create a dreamy powder mountain covering.

I shared the lift on one of my rides up the mountain with Denver residents Cary and Becky Johnson. Cary, a former Angeleno, commented “This is my favorite ski resort because of the way the mountain is divided into greens, blues and blacks and also because the service people here are the most helpful and friendly of all the ski resorts.” I agreed with his point of view. Never before had I visited a mountain divided so clearly into the expert, intermediate and beginners areas.

Beginning with Mitey Mite and Kokomo lifts, Copper features a large area for family skiing and for the novice. No hot doggers screaming down the slopes in this gentle part of the mountain. Midway, the American Eagle and Timberline Express zoom skiers to perfect blue zones to cruise down Bittersweet, Rhapsody and Andy’s Encore. For the super skier, the Super Bee provides a variety of challenging runs. Copper Bowl, Spaulding Bowl and Union Bowl are among the favorite black diamond ski areas on the 12,441 foot mountain.

Designated freestyle terrain, consisting of two half-pipes, a terrain park and a slope-style course, offered an ideal setting for skiers or boarders to showcase their talents or learn new tricks. During one of my runs, I stopped to watch a couple manipulating a peculiar looking combination of a bicycle and snowboard called the Powder Rush which they said was a lot of fun.

Die hard skiers may come to Copper simply to ski, but the area offers adventures of all kinds. One of the most unusual and exciting escapades took me on a ½ hour drive through the rustic town of Frisco past snow-covered meadows to Good Times Dog Sledding. Michelle Juneau, my friendly and competent guide, instructed me and the rest of my group on the art of driving a team of Siberian Huskies. The dogs were yapping and eager to get going on the six mile ride. The other members of my group climbed aboard a six-seater sleigh which would be pulled by Michelle aboard a snowmobile while one member of the group drove the team through forest glades, mountain meadows, up and down hills, and around challenging turns.

The snowmobile zoomed ahead while I excitedly drove the team. Michelle occasionally yelled out commands to the lead dogs, Felika and Elmo. Although handling the team looked fairly simple, I found myself breathless in no time at all and was ready to relinquish my driver’s position to another member of the group until I recovered. We all took turns, sometimes soloing, other times carrying a seated passenger in front of us. We spilled over a couple of times making turns but it was all good fun landing in the soft snow.

Back at Copper, I jumped on an express shuttle, several of which continuously loop through the resort and ended up in the East Village, home to the Super Bee, Molly Bees Rocky Mountain Tavern, tubing and the cross country ski school. I’ve made several rather unsuccessful attempts at Nordic skiing, which looks easy enough, but when I needed to slow down, turn or stop, my efforts didn’t pan out. Determined to master the sport, I headed out on the trail with cross-country ski instructor Ann Giberson, a 29 year resident of Copper Mountain and ex school teacher. I hoped she had taught at the kindergarten level. She proved patient and encouraging and before long, I enjoyed a new found confidence in the cross country game.

For my money, nothing beats a good massage after a day filled with activity, so I meandered over to the Racquet and Athletic Club. The center included state of the art exercise equipment, a large indoor swimming pool filled mostly with families and finally, the peaceful resting room just outside the therapy rooms where I headed. The lighting was low, the lounge chairs comfortable, and the flowery aroma of a large purple candle filled the room. The massage worked out all the kinks and revived me for the rest of the evening program.

My apres ski schedule continued with a visit to Molly Bees where legendary entertainer Moe Dixon had apre skiers rocking in the aisles and on the tables and chairs, snaking around the room conga style while drinking cold beers and chowing down on an assortment of yummy appetizers.

Next on the agenda, I boarded one of Copper Mountain Stables Dinner Sleigh Rides and went dashing through the snow in a two horse open sleigh. I snuggled under warm blankets while the two huge Belgian draft horses took my group down a secluded, snow covered trail to a cozy miners tent, set in a forest of pine trees. Once inside, we dined by candlelight while being serenaded by a singer/guitarist.

The village offered a variety of dining spots including the cavernous Jack’s Slopeside Grill, the mellow Beachside Pizza Pasta, exciting Endo’s Adrenaline Café and the very cool Indian Motorcycle Café and Lounge, part museum, part showroom and part tribute to Americana motorcycle mania. The fun never stops in Copper and those with enough stamina party through the night and are ready for the slopes the next morning.

Copper Mountain resort enjoys its reputation as a winter sports paradise. My arrival in Denver on a warm sunny April day, did not portend well for my intended final skiing fling of the season. Seventy five miles later, I was ensconced in a charming alpine village at the base of one of Colorado’s great ski mountains covered in snow.

For information:

Copper Mountain Resort
Good Times Adventure Tours (Dog Sledding & Snowmobiling)
6061 Tiger Rd.
Breckenridge, CO 80424
United Airlines
Copper Mountain Stables
Dinner Sleigh Rides
Powder Rush