Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug. I was the bug at Copper. Some cosmic confluence of forces turned me and my skis into rock magnets when I skied Copper Saturday. I hit more rocks and fell more times than I have in years. All morning I was skiing like I had my boots on the wrong feet. To add insult to injury, I was skiing with a friend, Maja Russer, I’d met several years ago when she won a heliski week with CMH and I tagged along to write the story. Maja’s a very accomplished skier and Copper’s Events Coordinator. To her credit, she never laughed and never hesitated to take me places that would’ve challenged me on a good day.
Good thing too. Copper is my kind of mountain. That’s probably because it reminds me more of Whistler than anywhere else I’ve ever skied. Aside from the obvious Intrawest influence at its base — which is predictably beautiful if a bit familiar — the comforting appeal of Copper lies in its four alpine bowls. Copper Bowl, Union Bowl, Spaulding Bowl and Resolution Bowl made me feel right at home on the mountain. They dish up sharp ridges, steep to easy entry points, heart-pounding pitches and oodles of soft, powdery turns on their expansive faces. And each has its own unique character and personality and each, in turn, leads skiers and boarders deeper into new territory far away from the more crowded and less challenging front side.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the front side of Copper. But like most ski resorts and every national park, the further you get from the parking, the fewer people you encounter and the more interesting things you find. There are lots of interesting things on Copper.
Snuggled tight against I-70, Copper has three access points: East Village, The Village at Copper, and Union Creek. If black’s not your favourite colour, stay away from the East Village. You can access a network of blue runs from the top of the Super Bee six-pack that leaves from there but virtually all the runs that come back down to East Village are high-spirited blacks including a claustrophobic double black romp through the trees in Free Fall Glade. Beginners beware.
If you’re just learning the delicate interplay of gravity, balance and speed — if skiing’s a trek to the edges of the unknown — stick to the Village or Union Creek. It’s easy to be green when you ride out of either of these bases, with gentle, meandering runs plentiful from the top of every chair.
Ditto true-blue intermediates. There’s a vigourous swath of blue runs that all take advantage of the fall line and rolling terrain features off the Timberline Express, American Eagle and Super Bee.
But Saturday was a black day, a bowl day, a day abundant with lightly-tracked fluff left over from the storms of midweek and Maja wasn’t about to let me squander it snoozing my way through cruisers. Making a beeline for the Storm King poma lift, we skated along the ridge toward Copper Bowl. I breached rule #1 — never get ahead of your guide. Because of that I missed out on Enchanted Forest until day’s end and most likely squirreled away any good karma I had, reducing me to the aforementioned rock magnet.
A few runs off the West Ridge, a few more rocks and we changed tactics, dropping into Union Bowl and carving the open snowfield on a run called Kaboom… which is what avey bombs were doing somewhere nearby. Little Trees offered, well, little trees on a steep face where the snow was being warmed by bright sunshine.
Determined to bowl me over, we chalked up a couple of energetic bump runs back in Resolution Bowl before breaking for a light lunch at the railroad-themed Union Creek Food Court, a massive, by-the-numbers Intrawest eatery.
That left only Spaulding Bowl and Enchanted Forest unskied and we were on a mission. Spaulding Bowl offers access ranging from simple to vertical. In her single-minded quest to dish up the best Copper had to offer, Maja chose vertical and we slid straight down into an amphitheatre of soft, boot-high snow that settled into a pitch that encouraged rhythmic short turns and rewarded even the most star-crossed bug with absolutely no rocks.
We finally got to ski Enchanted Forest the last run of the day. An open field skier’s left off the poma quickly morphed into trees. These weren’t hero glades; these were forest trees with stealth trails, requiring quick turns, nerves of steel and just about the last ounce of muscle my quads could conjure after a take-no-prisoners kind of day. I’ve rarely been so happy to be spit out of a forest onto a ski run.
Copper was a treat. Never having been there, I enjoyed fine snow, great coverage — I think I must have brought the rocks courtesy of karma — Copper is most definitely a skier’s mountain.. Add sunshine, a good guide and a free — yes, free — cat ride up Tucker Mountain and there’s plenty of reasons to give Copper a look.
Check it out
Stay : At a friend’s house. Don’t got a friend, try coppercolorado.com/lodging/index.htm for lots of good mountain base suggestions
Eat : The T-Rex Grill at the base of Timberline Express, great deck on a sunny day or the Union Creek Food Court.
Après : Jack’s Slopeside Grill & Bar, another great deck, this one at The Village at Copper base… where the end-of-day action is
Dine : Sushi at the Storm King Lounge right in the village, ummm, protein
Skating at west lake.