Ski with a Ranger to Discover the World Beyond the Slopes

There is a lot more than meets the eye at Copper Mountain, even for those who have been skiing there for a lifetime. As we gathered at the top of the Timberline lift, I met Scott and Tom, rangers who volunteer their time through the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District to offer guided tours that introduce participants to the forest. 

Through the “Ski With A Ranger” program, I discovered more about the mountain that I never thought about even though I’d been cruising along those same slopes for years. The tour covers all kinds of historical, geological, and natural information about the mountain. We talked about everything from the first dwellers in the area to the glaciers that used to reside in place of the mountains millions of years ago to the most ferocious creature in the forest.

Ranger Tour

Scott and Tom, the Rangers for the tour, explaining why we're more winded at higher altitudes

We skied down the mountain, stopping a handful of times to get a closer look at certain trees, view animal tracks, and learn from Scott and Tom about the magic that happens behind the scenes, and sometimes even beneath the surface. They described the members of the animal kingdom who live under the snow, a space called the subnivean environment. Although these animals keep warm under there, they are also the animals that get eaten a lot.  

“The fox is the guy that’s going to come around with extraordinary hearing, ear to the ground, and when they find one of those guys, jump right in,” Tom explained. “You’ll find them temporarily caught in the snow with their head down there.”

We even caught a glimpse of a faint Canadian lynx print, a rare sighting according to Scott. “Copper is blessed because we have a great snowshoe hare population here, which means we have a lot of cats,” he shared. The impressive Canadian lynx is one of those.

Coyote tracks in the snow

Scott pointing out some coyote tracks in the snow

There were a mix of locals and out-of-towners on the tour I went on, and everyone learned something that day. The rangers are a wealth of information and are sure to have some fun facts to share no matter the audience! My favorite part of the tour was learning about the cute but fierce ermines. But for more on those little creatures, you’ll have to go and take the tour for yourself!

Copper Mountain’s Ski With A Ranger tours are free of charge and take place every Friday and Saturday from 11am to noon. Meet at the top of the Timberline Lift just before 11am and look for the guides in their green forest ranger jackets. Intermediate ski ability, a lift ticket, and proper equipment are required.


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Marissa Sutera
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