Once upon a time—in the days before kids and full calendars husband and I took an annual ski trip out West. Breckenridge, Big Sky, Park City, Lake Tahoe—each destination was different, and we delighted in discovering the unique merits of each.
Fast-forward 10 years and two kids, and we realized another pilgrimage to those powder-capped mountains was long overdue. We considered returning to one of our old favorites, but as we sought the advice of well-traveled friends (and polled our social media networks), a less familiar destination kept coming to our attention.
Located about 2 hours from Denver, Copper Mountain ski resort in Frisco, Colorado, is smaller with less hype than some of the state’s more popular ski towns, but it is not without its own merits—in fact, this might just be its greatest perk. With fewer crowds and less distractions, the resort proves the perfect place for travelers who want to make the most of their time on the slopes.
As we traveled west along I-70 from Denver, we sailed past the gridlocked traffic on the exit for Breckenridge and knew we had made the right decision. Just 8 miles further down the road, we were delighted once
again when we reached Copper Mountain—a winter wonderland ready and waiting for our once-in-a-decade trip.
READY, SET, SKI
With 2,500 skiable acres, 140 trails and 23 lifts, Copper Mountain is certainly not “small” by a Southern skier’s standards. But compared to the 2,900 acres, 187 trails and 35 lifts at nearby Breckenridge, this is a more intimate mountain experience, relatively speaking, while still satisfying thrill-seekers in search of epic downhill adventures.
Our trip was perfectly timed on a clear, mid-February weekend right after a fresh snow. An excited energy hummed across the mountain as skiers and boarders reveled in the favorable conditions, yet the lift lines stayed short and the runs remained uncrowded.
Built around three different villagesEast, West and Center, with base lifts at each—the resort provides easy access to everything you need, including ski and board rentals at three slope-side locations of Copper Sports.
The terrain at Copper is naturally divided, making it easy to stick to the trails that match your comfort level. As intermediate skiers and boarders, we found our sweet spot at the mid-mountain Timberline Lift, which accesses several good blue runs,
allowing us to hit them over and over without making our way back to the base lifts. This is also the location of our preferred lunch spot, T Rex Grill, an open-air, on-mountain eatery where you can fuel up on excellent burgers and perfectly crispy fries. (Seriously—don’t skip the fries!)
Beginners will benefit from spending time in West Village, where the Lumberjack Lift grants access to plenty of gently sloping green runs. If you’re interested in ski school, Copper has you covered with a variety of options, from adult or youth group lessons to private instruction and even personalized adventures with Copper Guides, who will help you navigate the mountains within your ability level to areas you may not discover on your own.
For more advanced visitors, Copper’s Woodward program is designed to help intermediate skiers and riders enhance their terrain park skills. Personalized lessons may include on-slope action as well instruction in the Woodward Barn, a 19,000-square-foot indoor training facility with skateparks, trampolines, foam pits and more.
When you’re not on the slopes, there are plenty of alternate and après-ski opportunities at Copper, with Center Village serving as the hub of all your off-mountain activities. Here, you can fuel up for the day with breakfast at Toast & Co., shop for sundries at McCoy Market, purchase ski wear at Camp Hale Outfitters, and end your day at one of several restaurants.
With a patio overlooking the slopes, Downhill Duke’s is the place to be for a casual bite or a beverage before the lifts close, while full-service options like Sawmill Pizza and Ten Mile Tavern dish out delicious meals alongside local beer and craft cocktails long after the sun goes down. Head to the top floor of Mulligan’s Irish Pub for a round of pool or High Rockies Wine & Whiskey for a stiff drink. There’s also a roaring fire globe, the perfect spot to thaw out with a warm libation, and plenty of smaller fire pits that just beg for someone to roast a S’more (grab your ingredients back at McCoy’s). Trade your skis for skates at the Center Village ice rink, then head to West Village to wander through the snow maze or play with the kids at the Green Acres Snow and Sled Zone. Or snag a ticket to the Rocky Mountain Coaster, which offers unfiltered views of the Tenmile Range as you
When you’re ready to book your accommodations, Center Village is also our recommendation for walkability to the slopes and off-mountain attractions, though a free shuttle runs through the resort, offering access to any section. Book a room at Element 29 Hotel or find a condo—you can book select units directly through Copper’s website, or expand your search on Airbnb or VRBO. We found a cozy, if a bit dated, condo in Center Village’s Passage Point building, but the convenience far outweighed any minor complaints! Families or large parties may want to consider the more upscale accommodations through River Ridge Rentals, which offers several luxurious lodge-like units in West Village.
Though you could easily spend your entire trip on the slopes and streets of Copper, the nearby town of Frisco offers more sightseeing and exploration just 10 minutes away. Here you’ll find a laid-back Main Street with an array of shops and restaurants, plus a tubing hill and the picturesque Frisco Bay Marina on the Dillon Reservoir.
For one more high-speed adventure, consider a Snowmobile Prospector Tour with White Mountain Tours, which takes you through the Lake Turquoise Recreation area in the San Isabel National Forest. The trip is worth the 45-minute drive from Copper if only for the views, including a memorable spot at the Turquoise Reservoir with Mount Everest, the highest peak of Colorado, winking from a distance.
To plan your snow-capped Copper Mountain adventure, please visit coppercolorado.com.