Copper Mountain actively promotes its naturally divided terrain as one of its selling points – you can even see it mentioned and depicted on the trail map! Fans of Copper believe it makes for a great experience for everyone from newbies to seasoned powderhounds. Beginners can explore safely, without having to worry about taking a wrong turn and ending up in terrain beyond their abilities, and experts can really get after it without worrying about newbies still working on their snowplow!
A great way to get to know the terrain is through a free mountain tour, hosted by the resort’s ambassadors from mid-December to the beginning of April. They’ll show you what the mountain has to offer, help you learn how to get around, and give you tips on the locals’ favorite runs! Along the way, you’ll learn about the area’s history, nature, and fun facts to amaze your friends when you get home. The morning tour runs from 10:00am-12:30pm, and the afternoon one goes from 1:00pm-3:30pm, both starting off at the ambassador hut at the top of the American Eagle lift. You can sign up in advance at any of the Guest Services locations, or you can drop by the ambassador hut and see if they have space available. The tour is open to anyone 15 or older who can ski or ride blue runs comfortably, though guests under 18 need to be accompanied by an adult. The tours stick to blue and green runs, but you can be sure that your ambassadors can suggest some zestier terrain if that’s what you’re looking for!
When to Go
The best times to go are anywhere from January through early April. While December can be good for snow, the resort can be a little slow to open all of its terrain. During the early part of the season around November, the resort is home to race camps, which can make for a slightly crowded environment. Historically, March tends to be the snowiest month of the year at Copper, so your odds of catching a powder day are good. On the other hand, it also tends to be one of the resort’s busiest times for lodging, second only to Christmas.
If you do brave the crowds to come at Christmas time, though, be sure to enjoy the lights and decorations in the village, the kids will love the visit from Santa himself, and everyone will get a kick out of the ski school instructors’ torchlight parade and fireworks!
The last couple weeks of April can be fun for that spring skiing experience, but be aware that the resort will usually start closing parts of the terrain early in the month. The back bowls are usually the first to close due to their southern-facing exposures, which makes them the first to start melting come the spring.
Copper Mountain has a total of 23 chairs: one high-speed six-person chair, five high-speed quads, five triples, five doubles, and seven surface lifts.
The lifts open at 9:00am during the week and 8:30am on the weekends. Resolution, Blackjack, and Mountain Chief close at 3:00pm; Excelerator, Storm King, Timberline Express, Sierra, Rendezvous, and Celebrity Ridge close at 3:30pm; and the base area lifts (Alpine, Super Bee, Pitchfork, Gem, Easy Rider, Rugrat, Slingshot, The Glide, American Eagle, American Flyer, Union Creek Quad, Kokomo Express, and Lumberjack) all close at 4:00pm. There’s no night skiing at Copper (there is a way around that; see Moonlight Dine and Ski), but after a full day of everything it has to offer, who’s going to have any gas left in the tank?
The base area lifts can get relatively busy on weekends and the runs under American Eagle, like Main Vein, can get a little crowded, especially in the early season when race camps are in session and the mountain isn’t fully open. But, in general, Copper Mountain does a good job of spreading the crowds out. Lift lines here are shorter than they are at other nearby resorts and wait times are generally only about 5-10 minutes, even on lifts that tend to be popular with families such as the Timberline Express (also known as “T-Rex”). More experienced skiers and riders can escape the crowds by starting out with Super Bee, especially on weekends, then heading to lifts like Resolution and Alpine, which are older double chairs on the east edge of the resort that serve advanced terrain with long mogul runs.
Most of the resort faces north and is relatively sheltered, but when storms do roll in, you’ll find that Resolution Bowl makes for some nice storm skiing if you’re up for the advanced terrain. It’s served by the Resolution lift, so you can lap here to your heart’s content.
Crossing between Areas
The runs at Copper are so well laid out that it’s not too hard to get from one side to another. From the top of Resolution, Super Bee, and Excelerator, you can hop onto Ptarmigan – an intermediate run – and follow it to Solitude Station at the top of American Eagle. From here, you have your choice of blue cruisers in the resort’s central area, or you can keep working your way left on blue and green runs to get all the way to the West Village without having to take a series of lifts. To head the other way, you can take Carefree from the top of Union Creek Chair to get to the Center Village base area, where you can get over to American Flyer or American Eagle. From the top of American Flyer, it’s even easier: you can turn left off the chair onto Coppertone, then cut right onto Upper Skid Road and Skid Road all the way to the East Village and the bottom of Super Bee.
Where to Ski - Best for Beginners
For true beginners venturing out for their first time, you can find a surface lift (or “magic carpet”) and very benign pitches in the Green Acres area between the East and Center Villages. The nearby Pitchfork chair is the perfect place to try out getting on a chairlift for the first time. Once they’ve got the hang of it over there, they can head west.
The west side of Copper Mountain, in the Union Creek area, is absolutely perfect for beginners with loads of terrain (more than a fifth of the resort!) relatively secluded from where more experienced skiers and riders are likely to play. There are also more surface lifts here, next to American Eagle and Kokomo, to help that transition to getting on the chair. The runs off the Kokomo and Lumberjack lifts are long, with wide and gentle slopes where newbies can have all the ‘pizza’ and ‘French fries’ they like!
A nice treat for new skiers and riders is that some of the beginner terrain winds through the trees, giving them an in-the-woods experience. The Alliroo Alley terrain park, in particular, is a place where young ones (and other beginners) can get themselves into nature and onto some introductory terrain features long before they (or their parents!) are ready to tackle black diamonds.
Best for Intermediates
Intermediate terrain, which comprises a quarter of Copper Mountain’s skiable terrain, can be found across the resort, but most of it is right in the center. Many of these runs are off express lifts, so you can rack up plenty of laps in a short amount of time!
The American Flyer lift marks an approximate boundary between the central and western parts of the resort, and the runs off it are slightly more challenging greens to easier blues. American Eagle and Timberline lifts both serve varied intermediate terrain. There are lengthy, impeccably groomed runs off American Eagle like Bittersweet, Bouncer, and Main View. You could also choose to cruise over to Excelerator from the top of American Eagle and head even higher, where Andy’s Encore and Collage offer more long blue pitches. There’s also intermediate terrain off the Super Bee lift on the east side of the resort, where the more ambitious adventurers will get a chance to scope out advanced runs which are relatively tame to see if they’re worth a shot. While most of the skiing in the back bowls is rated for expert skiers, Otto Bahn is a solid blue that lets mid-range powderhounds sample the sweeping vista out across the valley to the Ten Mile Range, as well as an up-close view of Tucker Mountain.
Copper also features something called the “Noon Groomer,” a perfectly groomed cruiser that they keep closed until lunchtime so you can get fresh corduroy turns at midday. Have a look at the daily grooming report when you get started in the morning to see where it will be!
Best for Advanced/Experts
Copper mountain is a paradise for advanced and expert powderhounds with the majority of runs being black or double black diamonds. Advanced and expert shredders will want to stick to the east side, the high terrain, and the back bowls.
The Super Bee lift, starting from the East Village, is your gateway to black diamond adventures at Copper, and gets you started with some long steeps. From the top of Super Bee, hang a left and bear right to head down either Far East or Too Much. You can use the Alpine Chair to either lap those or sample the narrow tree-lined Black Bear Glade and Freefall Glade, nestled between Alpine and Super Bee.
Super Bee also takes you to gloriously long runs that parallel the Resolution lift down into Spaulding Bowl. This collection of runs faces almost due east, so if it’s a nice day - and Copper gets plenty of those - you’ll enjoy the morning sunlight dancing through the trees! If you hop over to Storm King, you can make some truly grand entrances into the bowl through a series of chutes. Most of them are double black for the truly ambitious, but there are a couple single black diamond options for the more conservative experts. Storm King also lets you sample some fun high-alpine frontside terrain.
If you happen to be starting out near the Center Village, American Eagle drops you off right next to the base of Excelerator, which tops out near the top of Super Bee and Resolution. The runs that parallel Excelerator are shorter, but Brennan’s Grin will serve up plenty of bumps to have you ready for a break and CDL’s Trail #20 is right under the lift so you’ll have an audience to impress!
The other backside bowl is Copper Bowl. You can get there from Storm King by taking the Lillie G Traverse, or you can use either Rendezvous or Sierra chairs. You can get to these either by diving down through the Enchanted Forest from Storm King on the front side, or by taking short runs that lead to the east from the top of American Flyer. Once you get into the bowl, there’s plenty of options and two chairs - Blackjack and Mountain Chief - to keep you making laps.
Opposite Copper Bowl is the slope leading up to Tucker Mountain. It’s all in bounds, but it’s not lift served: it’s served by a free snowcat! Skiers and riders with beacons have priority, but this is a great way to see what it’s like to have a real backcountry adventure while still being in bounds.
Our favorite run is just off Sierra: Start off under the Sierra lift, then cut into the trees at the bottom of Kaboom, where the aspect helps keep the snow fresh!
With the diversity of terrain, and the way it’s divided, Copper is great for families with skiers and riders of differing abilities. Youngsters and other beginners have plenty of terrain where it’s safe for them to explore to their heart's’ content, mom and dad can get their fill of blue groomers, and the gnarly teenagers (or crazy uncle) can get all the bumps, chutes and trees they can handle.
If you’d like to have some quality family time together on the snow, check out the terrain around Timberline Express. The lift itself serves all sorts of intermediate terrain and a couple gloriously long greens (Soliloquy and High Point, along with its parallel Aliroo Alley intro terrain park), with shorter and gentler beginner terrain below.
The more advanced rippers can play above Timberline by turning left and traversing past Flyer’s Grill (where you can all reconvene for a bite!) to drop down to Sierra where they can tear up Union Bowl and Union Meadows. Once they’ve had their fun there, they can easily get back down into Timberline’s territory to rejoin everyone else via Timber Ridge.
Copper Mountain’s terrain parks are run by Woodward, which also runs an indoor facility called Woodward Barn. The barn was designed as a year-round snowboard, freeskiing, and skateboard training facility with trampolines, foam pits, and snowflex jumps.
Out on the snow, Copper offers everything from introductory-level extra small sculpted terrain to a superpipe. The easiest features are right next to the magic carpets near the Center and West Villages (may as well hook ‘em while they’re young, right?). Moving up, Alliroo Alley has introductory features in a wooded setting alongside High Point beneath American Flyer. Progressively larger features are situated between the center and west side of the resort. Central Park, between American Flyer and Union creek, is where you’ll find the majority of medium and large features. There’s also a superpipe near the bottom of American Eagle!
Off-piste and Backcountry
Most of the off-piste terrain is on the east side of the mountain, in the high alpine terrain up top, and in the backside bowls. The majority of it is lift-served, which is certainly nice, though there are some hike-to and cat accessed territory in Copper Bowl. Freshies tend to get tracked out within a few hours, but if you’re willing to hike a bit you can find some longer-lasting pow. Not surprisingly, the best fresh stuff is waiting for you and the snowcats on Tucker Mountain.
There’s limited backcountry access at Copper Mountain, as most of the ski area’s boundary is closed off by the Forest Supervisor to protect critical wildlife habitat. But not to worry, there is one designated backcountry gate on the western boundary of the ski area, near the top of Lumberjack Lift. If you head out this way, make sure you’re properly trained and are equipped with a shovel, beacon, and probe.