by Steph Sweeney

As we slowly made our way up the road full of dirt and rocks, the mountain felt different. It took me a few minutes to recognize some of my favorite trails and I thought ‘huh, who knew all this green grass was here?’ and ‘whoa, that looks way steeper without snow.’ While the winter is tranquil in its own way, there’s something even more peaceful now. I chalk it up to the people - or lack thereof - and all the wildlife we saw along the way.

Once we reached the bottom of the Rendezvous and Sierra lifts, the road took a more rugged shape and continued to wind its way up to the Rendezvous deck. As someone who has been skiing at Copper for several years now, the view here has always been my favorite. I’ve seen it a hundred times in nearly all types of weather: bright sun, cloudy mist, lots of snow. But when I stepped out of that van and took one look at that same view, I was breathless. It looked all different yet the same. There was the Tenmile with small traces of snow lit with subtle hues of purple and pink as the sun neared its exit for the day. As if it couldn’t get any better, a small pond located right next to the deck provided a beautiful reflection. I stood there in awe until I heard Matt’s voice: “ok, let’s get started.”

View of the Tenmile Range from the top of Copper at the Rendezvous Deck

As we all convened, the REI Adventure Station at Copper’s Program Manager Matt Hickethier began walking us through how to read a star map using a compass. He also explained how to use your fingers and knuckles to determine distances between objects in the sky. Lots of great knowledge lies at the core of all REI programs. From wilderness survival to new cocktail recipes, you’re guaranteed to learn something new and exciting.

A group of participants raise their hands to the sky to measure distances between stars in REI's Ales & Astronomy course at Copper Mountain

Once we learned the basics and were all ready to gaze, we waited for the skies to darken over beers and snacks. We walked around the immediate area, took in more of the 360 degree view and even watched a thunderhead far in the distance. Matt went on to explain some history of astronomy and how the science dates back to the time of Ancient Greece.

Around 9pm, the stars and planets started to show themselves and we went back to our tools with Matt quizzing us along the way. We were also able to see the stars in real time through various smartphone and iPad apps. Some wisps of clouds draping through the sky created a haunting yet stunning ambiance with the sparkle of Jupiter and Saturn shining through.

A group of participants measure distances between stars in REI's Ales & Astronomy course at Copper MountainA pair look to the sky with an iPad to check out the stars in REI's Ales and Astronomy class at Copper Mountain

As it was time to pack up and head back down to Center Village, I found myself full of new knowledge and inspired to learn more. Stars + beers + mountains = a winning combination.

 

Registration is now open for future Ale & Astronomy outings as well as other REI programming. Click here for more information.

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