If you asked me my opinion on Copper Mountain at this time last week I would have said, “Eh it’s not that great.” If you asked me my opinion on Copper Mountain today I would say, “Holy cow it’s an awesome mountain, and I might switch passes next year!” What changed my mind? Well you see I actually got to experience Copper Mountain in all her glory on a powder day. And it was life changing.
Skiing at Copper this past Friday was really just the kickoff to a four-day ski weekend, which included a three-day backcountry hut trip in the Aspen area. My cousin Jen enters the 10th Mountain Division Hut lottery system each year, and, thanks to Jen, I have had President’s Day Weekend 2013 at Margy’s Hut on the calendar since spring 2012. At the last minute Jen suggested making our ski weekend really ridiculous by tacking on a day at Copper on the Friday before President’s Day Weekend. Since my answer to anything involving skiing is always yes, I found myself at Copper ready to give it another chance.
The only other time I had ever skied Copper Mountain was last January on a weekend ski trip with some friends from college. If you’re a snow enthusiast like myself you’ve probably blocked most of the painful memories of last winter. I’ll refresh your memory: there was no snow. My experiences at Copper last season involved underwhelming icy runs on the front side of the mountain. There were no back bowls open. Like McKayla Maroney, Paula was unimpressed with Copper.
This past Friday I started to have a sneaking suspicion that I was maybe going to like Copper Mountain when we woke up to reports of a six inch powder day. Our group was on the mountain by 9:30 and took a few warm-up runs on the frontside of the mountain. It was okay but still nothing to write home about. Then we dropped into a run in the Resolution Bowl, and it was a total game changer.
The fresh snow made Resolution Bowl, an area that had been closed when I was at Copper in January 2012, an absolute blast to ski. The conditions at Copper were honestly some of the best that I had seen all season. We broke for lunch, and I was already pretty satisfied with how the day had gone. After lunch our group planned to head over to Copper Bowl because one of the lifties told us that it had just opened. We took the Storm King lift to make the traverse over to Copper Bowl a little shorter, and when we got to the top of the lift (okay T-Bar) the ski patrol was just opening Spalding Bowl. Since we were right there we decided to take a run down Spalding Bowl.
I was a little sketched out about going down Spalding Bowl because, as the picture above shows, we were basically in windy, whiteout conditions at the top of the ridge on what was unfamiliar terrain for me. The only way to get down was to ski though so I took a few turns and instantly realized we had hit the jackpot. My group was among the first ten people to ski down Spalding Bowl, and we were making fresh turns in deep powder. It was the kind of powder that just makes you instantly smile. I may have been making some woo noises on the way down.
We followed the run down through some powdery trees and shot down to the bottom of Resolution Bowl and then rode the lift back up to do another lap. By the time we got back to Spalding Bowl the run had been pretty tracked out and ski patrol had closed the bottom section through the trees. That first run down Spalding had definitely been something super special that we were not going to duplicate.
After our last run down Spalding it was 3:00 and we decided it might be a good idea to save our legs a little bit for the rest of the weekend. We called it a day, skied down and grabbed a round of beers. I was still smiling from how great the day had been.
Overall I think I learned an important lesson at Copper: you can’t judge a mountain by its frontside in a year with no snow. I owe Copper Mountain a sincere apology. It’s awesome. And it’s so awesome I just might be jumping ship to the Copper pass next year. Bowls just as epic as Vail without the hellacious catwalks and $25 parking? Done and done.