by Tracy Greenhalgh
I remember the first time I set eyes on newly opened Copper Mountain in the 70’s. We had just moved to Colorado and I was 12 years old, the first year my dad showed me how to buckle into stiff ski boots and dig into tight bindings with that satisfying c-l-i-c-k. I had a Copper Mountain lapel pin stuck into my snowball hat (no helmet then) and I still remember my giddy feeling as I stared up that beautiful mountain, loading onto the chairlift as the crisp, intoxicating scent of pine floated on the frigid air that stole my breath. That seems like another lifetime now, but whenever I head to Copper to catch some turns, that dizzy, childlike anticipation awaiting a full day of alpine adventure has never left me.
I grew up, got my driver’s license, went off to college, and had countless escapades up the hill with friends and family who also loved my favorite mountain. Snowball fights, sunny picnic lunches at Solitude Station, lost ski poles, endless tree-trail exploration, olympic-style races down Collage, and windblown-end-of-day-tales on the way home when we sometimes took refuge from traffic at Beau Jo’s pizza in Idaho Springs still dance in my head.
When my husband and I started a family, our times on the mountain became pretty sparse for a few years until we learned we could teach our little ones to pretend their tiny skis could create the shapes of pizza and french fries, then they were sold. I remember when we discovered the harness we could strap them into so we could hold the reigns and guide them down the hill, forever leaving behind the days of sore, hunched backs and skiing with kiddos between our legs. Eventually we graduated them to lessons with Copper Choppers for a couple of seasons and we re-explored the mountain again on our own.
We all kept growing up - now our kids were snowboarding and I had to chase to keep up with them. My boys would fly over rock precipices in Spaulding Bowl and let me tag along as they wended their way through the trees in Upper Enchanted Forest. I loved the trek on what was once the poma lift up to Spaulding, the wind and snow blowing a swirling blizzard around me, and me imagining myself as an intrepid back country trekker who would not be stopped by the elements.
Even though we love our families and our Denver life, sometimes my girlfriends and I just yearn for the undomesticated outdoors; hungry for a getaway and a little bit of wild adventure, lots of powder and the perfect blue bird day. At this point, Tucker Mountain, the snow cat and the pitches of Taco and Nacho are just what the doctor ordered. We play and ski to our hearts content and look forward to taking our burning quads over to Jack’s deck to relax in the sun and sip some wine at the end of a long, fun day. Ahhh.
And just when I think I know everything about Copper, it continues to surprise me.
The snowshoe and cross country ski trip I took for a blog post I wrote a few years ago was a pristine gem, and this beautiful 3-hour 1.5 mile trek on the way to Janet’s Cabin and the 10th Mountain Division Hut System was guided--and free. I thought I knew Copper inside and out, but this breathtaking trail was nothing I’d ever seen here before. I experienced another dimension to my favorite mountain and look forward to taking the trail further in.
A couple of years ago our family experienced Christmas Eve at Copper, and it was magical. We sang Christmas carols and drank hot chocolate as we watched colorful fireworks explode in the starry sky. The stream of yellow-orange glow washing down Main Vein as the Ski and Ride School carried out their annual Torchlight Parade was breathtaking.
One season, we brought my 75-year-old dad up to stay with us on the mountain for a week. If I squinted, I could see the same dad who taught me to ski so many years ago, his mantra of “plant, sink, lift” still running around my head. He even joined us on the tubing hill still craving the speed and the wind in his face. This was to be our last ski adventure with him before he passed away. We all laughed until we cried that day and I marveled at the amazing backdrop this mountain has been to my life over the years.
Copper Mountain, thank you for being my mountain, the place where I’ve grown up and the place I still long to come to find my happy place. I can’t wait to discover what new adventures await this season!