by Tracy Greenhalgh
Whether you’re new to Copper or you’ve skied here for years, here are the essentials on where to ski if you crave expert trails.
I caught up with Todd Casey, a 27-year veteran Copper ski instructor, and Kevin Johnson, a Denver-area physician and ski aficionado who’s skied Copper’s expert terrain for over 25 years, to dig into their expertise and reveal their invaluable tips on our favorite mountain.
“Copper has lots of choices for the expert skier, including everything from big, wide open back bowls, to tree steeps, to long bump runs,” says Casey.
The east side’s steep, groomed terrain
If you like steep, long, black diamond mogul trails, you’ve found your place.
Here you’ll ski off the Super Bee Chair from East Village. You can even ski down through the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center, the world’s only full-length downhill course where athletes from around the world congregate to train each fall. To get there, head down Andy’s Encore to Oh No, then to Rosi’s Run and down through the Speed Center.
From there you can head to the Alpine or A-lift, Copper’s furthest east terrain, where you’ll find 1,500 vertical feet of moguls.
“Not many people know this, but they occasionally groom Formidable, one of our steeper runs,” says Casey.
If there has been a recent storm, Johnson’s goal is to take advantage of whatever soft snow might be left on any given day. He says that when you hit the top of Formidable “there’s a little traverse that goes into the trees that few know about. You have no idea where it’s going and then it just opens up into a 30-40 foot small glade area called Black Bear Glade, then drops down back onto A lift.”
“Once I get to the top of Super Bee I love going into Resolution Bowl and taking Triple Zero down into Hodson’s Cut,” says Johnson. And both experts point out that Hodson’s gets groomed weekly, which is a bonus.
“Once I hit this there’s always Triple Treat and Rosi’s Run, off Super Bee and A lifts. And Overlode – it gets groomed once a week as well,” says Johnson.
Steep tree skiing in 17 Glade
If getting into the pine forest and deep snow is your thing, Casey recommends 17 Glade off the front side of the resort in between Super Bee and American Eagle lifts. You can access it from Super Bee or Excelerator lifts and ski down Collage keeping an eye out for the sign. There’s no gate and you can drop in wherever you want. You’ll exit onto Bouncer which takes you to either Center or East Village.
Wide-open Spaulding Bowl
If you’re looking for a fantastic bowl skiing experience you can ski off Storm King T-Bar which leads you to Spaulding Bowl. The panoramic mountain views at the Top of Storm King are breathtaking.
“If you ride Storm King up and start the Lillie G traverse but take a right and drop down and follow the rope line to the right into Upper Enchanted Forest, stay as high as you can, then you’ll run into a rock outcropping. You’ll pick your way around those rocks and you’ll find a 50-yard patch of open snow that the rocks and trees protect and few people know about,” says Johnson.
Johnson says there are similar finds in the Upper Enchanted Forest area, adding “I think it’s a good idea to look at it from Sierra first so you can see where you’re headed.”
From the top of the T-bar you can take a more southerly path across the traverse and into Lillie G. trail which takes you all the way down into the Copper Bowl to Blackjack and Mountain Chief chairs for another great alpine experience.
“It’s wide-open skiing back there, not a lot of glades or trees. This open-bowl experience is great on a sunny day, which gives you great visibility,” says Casey.
Tucker Mountain Snow Cat Adventure
If you want an expert backcountry experience unlike one you’ll experience at any other resort, you’ll want to head up to Tucker Mountain and catch a ride on the free Tucker Mountain Snow Cat. From steep chutes to pristine tree-less runs the challenging terrain will delight you. The Tucker Snow Cat runs on Fridays – Sundays from 10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Once you’re at the top of Mountain Chief lift in Copper Bowl (accessible by American Flyer to Rendezvous Chairlifts), you’ll catch the cat for a 15-minute ride up toward the saddle along the ridgeline. Here you’ll be able to immediately slip into powder, or make the trek to the 12,337 foot summit of Tucker Mountain for access to more advanced terrain.
“Basically the cat takes you out to the western end of Copper Bowl, then you hike from there up Tucker Mountain. It’s quite a long hike if you don’t take the cat!” says Casey. Johnson just likes to put his skins onto his skis and head up that way; it all depends on how motivated you are to get up the mountain.
Advanced Runs off Sierra Chairlift
Hop on the new American Flyer high-speed six-person chair with bubble enclosures from Center Village up to Sierra Lift for some of Copper’s most popular advanced terrain. Here you’ll find steep moguls and steep tree skiing.
Johnson says that on his way to Sierra Chairlift he heads up Timberline Chairlift where he likes to warm-up on groomers Copperfield and Tempo if it’s his first run of the day. Once he runs the groomers over he heads up to Timber Ridge off Sierra to catch the new snowfall.
After that he’ll hit Kaboom a couple of times where the bumps aren’t as big and steep as on Revenge. If he’s by himself and not skiing with intermediate skiers he grabs some powder in the glade area around Little Trees or Indian Ridge below where American Flyer unloads (you can see it from Sierra).
“While I’m riding up American Flyer I look across the valley to view Upper and Lower Enchanted Forest and I’m able to see what the tracks look like there. Sometimes you can tell how deep it is, and how chunky and flat; usually it’s pretty good,” says Johnson.
Johnson’s other major goal is to stay away from any crowds at Center Village as he heads east after starting the day at Sierra. “I like to avoid the base area between 10 a.m. and noon,” he says. After he’s done on Sierra he takes Coppertone and Skid Road straight East over to Super Bee.
Follow these expert tips and you could just make your next day at Copper your most adventurous one yet.
Tracy Greenhalgh is a freelance writer and web content creator. She specializes in writing about all things outdoors, health, and wellness-related, but she loves to tell any stories that inspire and help make us all better humans. Find out more about Tracy and her projects at tracygreenhalgh.com.