This post was brought to Colorado Ski Country by Justin Patrick.
It’s game on at the resort where 9,700 feet is only the base
An early morning crash on I-70 is no way to start the day, but in this case we thought it might have worked to our advantage. The highway blockage would likely deter the regular ski traffic, we surmised, and only die-hards like us waiting out the clock would get a taste of powder. Yet when we pulled into the free parking lot in east Copper around noon it was going on full. We underestimated the determination of fellow enthusiasts of this awesome resort. There is something for everyone at Copper, and I was eager to explore some of the expert-level terrain under six inches of fresh snow.
My friend and I hopped the six-person Super Bee to the top of the Resolution Bowl. Conditions were better than they’d been two weeks prior when I skied Copper for the first time this season. There were hints of dust on crust, but for the most part the main trails had filled in and the snow padded the common descents. The tree skiing was enticing right off the trail, but deep woods was still impassable with partly concealed stumps and rocks; another good storm should flesh that out. We made a few laps here. Res Bowl is a great lower-altitude hangout with minimal wind. The area to skier’s left of Drain Pipe proved to be the least tracked-out, and we discovered numerous powder stashes and fun lines.
Not to be neglected, especially on powder days, are the regular old single diamond trails. The runs off the original two-person Alpine lift were just fine, thank you. In fact, they were all but deserted and made for some great aggressive turns. Far East was closed due to a nearby lynx habitat, but we took full advantage of drawn-out Too Much and Triple Treat. After a couple runs here we decided to pick up and make our way across the hill to the high-altitude Union Bowl and Copper Bowl. The traverse was simple enough, a slap-happy tree run to the American Flyer quad which brought us directly to the three-person Sierra lift.
The trifecta of Union Bowl, Union Meadows, and Copper Bowl, all in the same neighborhood, makes up the bread and butter of Copper’s advanced terrain. The majority of the Copper Bowl is still closed pending Mother Nature’s mercy, but the Union Bowl and Meadows are offering some sweet digs. We started with the classics easily accessed from Sierra: Little Trees, Endeavor, and Revenge. Powder stashes were hard to come by, but the snow was bountiful and the roller-coaster descents made for big smiles. On the other side, the trees in Kaboom were steep and invigorating, definitely worthy of a thrill-seeker’s attention.
After a few laps in Union Bowl, we made the easy transition to Union Meadows, some of Copper’s newest terrain. Eighteen-year Copper skier and employee Craig Arnes described it with the simple, confident elegance of a man who knows his mountain: “It’s a good place to ski.” It’s a vast swath of black diamond playground perfect for executing your own creative adaptations. The upper half is open, inviting fast, aggressive parlays with clear snow fields. The lower half makes for some of the best tree skiing on the mountain.
Next we headed to the terrain off the two-person Mountain Chief lift. We endured the five-minute hike from the top of Sierra to the Copper Bowl with good humor. Those wind-whipped five minutes go by a lot slower at over 12,000 feet. Sweet relief was met after we dipped into the bowl. The wind quit howling as we descended into a peaceful oasis. Only a few other guests were back there, so we felt like the place was ours. Six Shooter to lower Matchless was a palatable mix of soft bumps, exciting lines, and powdery glades. Unfortunately, the majority of the Copper Bowl is roped off for now, but the views here were unbeatable. We were glad we came.
Tired, cold, and hungry after a maxed out half-day, we made a leisurely descent into Center Village and dove into conveniently located Endo’s for some après relief. Part of the ceiling was made from an old climbing wall, and surf boards, kayaks, and mountain bikes dangled decoratively from above. I noticed a pool table, foosball, and several arcade-style video games. The bar was packed with scruffy dudes and tangled-hair ladies still in their snow duds. 80s classics wafted from the speakers. It looked like our kind of place.
Energetic, outgoing bartender Zach broke from his enthusiastic drink-making only to greet regulars and crack jokes. Otherwise he was all about business. He started me off with a signature cocktail, “Life is Good.” Raspberry vodka, cranberry juice, Sprite, Red Bull, and lime. I took one sip and my life was better already. Then he served us a local’s favorite, “Beer and a Bump,” Coors and a shot of Jaeger. He put us in the zone with another signature cocktail, “007,” which Zach insists is a phenomenal substitute to the old-hat mimosa in the morning. Orange vodka, Sprite, and orange juice mixed to the heights of perfection, it’s my new a.m. beverage. Finally, he topped us off with a John Daly, or “an all-grown-up Arnold Palmer.” Sweet tea vodka, tea, and lemonade. Fore!
Although all these beverages came as a welcome distraction, we couldn’t ignore our grumbling stomachs forever. We asked Zach to surprise us with something delicious. He just smiled and asked us “chicken or steak?” Ten minutes later we were graced with a pile of nacho excess almost as big as the mountain outside. As a seasoned nacho connoisseur, I can say that the “Mando Nacho” is the most satisfying product I’ve yet to encounter. The Turkey Melt, Diablo Burger, Cubano Sandwich, and Blackened Fish Tacos are also veritable home runs. With a $5 Sunday Bloody Bar, competitive Happy Hour, fine whiskey selection, good crowd and reasonably priced cuisine from breakfast to dinner, Endo’s is a must-go for the encompassing Copper experience. We would have stayed all night, but we had to get back to Denver and chock one up for our rallying cry: ski another day. We will, and don’t be surprised if it’s at Copper, one of Colorado’s finest off-the-track gems.