by Tracy Block
One of the best advantages of living in a city like Denver is the fact that a breezy drive to Copper Mountain is less than two hours each way! If I’ve had a long week, sometimes I treat myself to a Friday visit to the mountain, which is especially beneficial in avoiding weekend crowds.
A few weeks ago, work and life were both taking their tolls, so I decided to hop in my Subaru to get some runs in at Copper. Although I wasn’t able to get on the road in time to catch first chair, I assumed the sun shining meant the roads would be free and clear of any traffic-related issues, which typically plague I-70 – during sizable storms. As I sipped my bulletproof coffee, infusing my body with optimum fuel, there I sat in an extra hour of unexpected bumper-to-bumper. I had to remind myself to be patient as the caffeine surged through my veins.
Three hours later, I finally found myself approaching the Alpine Lot, where I grabbed a shuttle to Center Village. The driver was friendly, and the bus was warm and cozy. As we hit our final stop, the doors opened, and Center Village was pumping uppity mood music from the base of the mountain. I spotted a smattering of skiers of various ages dressed in matching neon pink-and-yellow ski suits that read “The Big Ski Family,” and bookmarked to revisit this squad later.
Due to my delayed arrival, my plan was to conquer one area of the mountain on this day, instead of navigating freely from lift to lift. Luckily, I was stationed right in front of the double-dose of newly renovate lifts: American Eagle and American Flyer. First, I took to the tempting high-speed, six-person enclosed American Flyer chair for a new adventure. I was unsure of what to expect as the elderly skier on the chair in front of me missed his entry, and fell smack onto the snow. Once he was back in commission, my chairmates and I loaded up. As soon as Flyer took off, we were enclosed in a blue-hued bubble. Although the shield would be ideal in a snowstorm, the blocker was extremely effective in minimizing the beating Bluebird Day sun.
On our lift ride, I connected with a few, new short-term skiers. We shared the ultimate bonding experience when the lift paused, mid-ride, and we bounced on the cable, evoking an amusement park ride-like stint. Once at the top, we said our farewells, and took our separate paths further up – or down – the mountain.
At this point, I decided to visit the Rendezvous chair, which I knew provided long runs to the bottom and breathtaking views of my favorite part of the mountain. As I exited the chair, I took a moment to catch my breath, staring deeply into the vastness of Tucker Mountain and the Copper Bowl before me. The Copper Bowl was territory I had not yet explored. I decided to take the plunge into what seemed like plenty of fresh-powder territory. Along my first run down, I got stuck in a bout of steep moguls – which some snowboarders “claim” to enjoy. I took my time, even encouraging breaks, to yet again, digest the incredible views in the short distance. A handful of rides up the Blackjack chair were hardly enough. At this point, I cursed myself for not hitting the road from Denver sooner. But, even just a few hours riding Copper beat the behind-the-computer blues.
Atop my final ride up the Blackjack lift, I planned my dissent down the front of the mountain via Wheeler Creek into Coppertone. With an hour until the close of the mountain, the runs were clearing out, and I had plenty of stretches all to myself – the ultimate therapy. As I cruised down to the base, I figured a few more laps from American Eagle couldn’t hurt, so I hopped into an eight-person gondola cabin, instead of a chair, to get the full experience on this second new lift offering. The ride was quiet and relaxing, and it was great to kick back without being clipped in to my board for a few minutes.
Racing against the clock, I made moves down to Super Bee, with the intention of my final run landing back at Center Village. On my last lift, I met a visitor from Minnesota, and we chatted about the weather in the U.S., as an unexpected end-of-day snowstorm pelted us along the way. As we neared the top of the lift, my new buddy confessed he had no clue how to get back to Center Village, so I took him under my wing, and over to Copperopolis we rode. With my new friend in tow, we spanned the merging runs, owning the mountain, just the two of us. It’s funny how in just one day, you can cross paths and connect with a dozen different people you might never come into contact with again – in your entire life. But, for me, the open communication is a positive aspect of my comfortability on solo field trips like this one.
After a mitten-clad attempt at waving goodbye to my mountain mate, I decided to make my rounds, on foot, around Center Village. As the scents wafted and enticed from City Pop, I took a few minutes to watch the ice skaters along West Lake. A short walk away, I found the fire globe, where I caught a Golden Retriever getting toasty, and a couple cozied up on a bench.
Although an apres treat was tempting, I thought better of the indulgence, so I could get back to Denver before nightfall, safely and soundly. As I sauntered back to the bus stop, once again, I spotted members of the neon-clad Big Ski Family, and snapped a quick pic of a portion of the clan. My ride back to the Alpine Lot was packed, and filled with euphoric faces sporting red cheeks and hearty smiles, thanks to another great day out on Copper.
As I exited the shuttle, I reminded myself to schedule in more solo, self-care field trips – just like this one – this season. Not everyone is as lucky as I am to escape reality on a weekday for a snowboarding getaway. Thanks to destinations like Copper Mountain, I truly hold gratitude for my current Colorado residency, and wouldn’t have it any other way.