As I continue my survey of independent Colorado ski areas this season, an expat upstate NY skier from Horseheads (screen name EMSC -- I made turns with him last at Loveland five years ago) mentioned that he was going to be at Ski Cooper on Sunday with his son's racing team so I figured that it'd be nice to catch up with him and break up my habit of usually skiing solo over the last few years.
You may recall that Ski Cooper is one of the Colorado Gems group, not affiliated with Epic Pass or Ikon. While it's not one of the I-70 resorts, the only access from Denver is by taking I-70 past Copper Mountain, then driving a further half hour or so near historic mining town Leadville (see pix from the visit there with my wife in March 2017). I'm really starting to feel like a Denver Front Range skier, having to join other weekend warriors on the way up I-70, including the occasional dreaded "red-snake" effect at certain points.
Exiting at Copper...
... I got there in a little over two hours:
Similar to Sunlight and Powderhorn from last weekend, its audience is almost exclusively local families and retirees. The terrain is mostly green and blue (I'd classify the black trails as double-blue) along with a well known cat-skiing operation on Chicago Ridge, which overlooks the in-bounds area.
A large group from the Eldora Mountain Ski Club, ergo EMSC's moniker) was there to run gates:
Little did I know that exactly a month ago Cooper had opened its first new terrain sector in many moons, along with a brand new t-bar (didn't realize they were still being manufactured), the Tennessee Creek Basin off the backside where the first-aid cross is in the map above. As we headed up the frontside lift, EMSC mentioned that he was looking forward to checking it out and that a recent press release really played up that intermediates should not attempt it -- a Ski Cooper version of the "Expert Skier? You better be!" sign in front of Hunter West.
Given the comparatively mellow pitch of the rest of the mountain, EMSC figured that the warnings about difficulty were likely exaggerated; however, after they dropped the rope around 10 am and we headed in, he agreed that the single-black pitch combined with very tight trees combined to create a legit expert sector and that they should consider glading it a bit in future years .
While he's a very strong skier, I'm not quite at his level, so I wasn't able to link turns or do much beyond picking my way gingerly through the pines. Hitting the bumps alongside the t-bar was a slightly better option for me:
The rest of the terrain, which had received a foot of snow over the past week, was skiing beautifully: velvety groomers with soft chop along the sides and on ungroomed trails. The weather prediction was 36 and sunny the entire day; however, high clouds hung on until the early afternoon, so my pix from the morning aren't very clear (I seem to be saying that a lot recently). Still, we enjoyed high-speed runs through the cut-up leftovers, with Chicago Ridge in the first pic:
By the time the sun came out, I was getting tired of taking pix so I only have a few, but it was pretty ideal with ski-on lifts, albeit with a fair amount of stops and starts from all the young kids:
In short: an enjoyable day and conditions about as good as it gets without anything fresh or untracked. Good thing that I left in such a pleasant mood as the drive back on I-70 was absolutely hideous, far worse than anything I've encountered while living in Brooklyn and having to enter Manhattan through the GWB after skiing in the Catskills. Apparently, that's standard operating procedure as weekend crowds head back to the Front Range, so for the rest of the season, I'm likely not going to ski anything west of the Eisenhower Tunnel (i.e. sticking with Loveland or Winter Park if I can score a discounted ticket) on Sundays.
Wow, that looks awesome (sans the I-70 traffic)! I'm already planning a trip there next season (Cooper-Sunlight-Purgatory) via the Freedom Pass, provided they all return to it for 2020-2021. Your trip reports will be a valuable part of my guide.
Was steep in parts; however, I'm a t-bar veteran from all my visits to obscure ski areas in the Alps.
I'm already planning a trip there next season (Cooper-Sunlight-Purgatory) via the Freedom Pass, provided they all return to it for 2020-2021.
What I'd really love is if the Indy Pass could absorb a number of the Colorado Gems ski areas: Sunlight, Powderhorn, Monarch, Cooper, Loveland, etc. Those are what I'm skiing this season and two tickets to each of those next year would be great.
When I decide to do a longer trip to Colorado, will definitely plan to avoid driving during the busy times for I-70! Looks as bad as the traffic on I-95 around DC.
Yeah, it's all in the timing. I was planning to ski on MLK Day and would've gotten killed driving back that evening; however, I was called into the office unexpectedly and drove the whole way from Glenwood Springs early MLK morning at top speed.
Years ago I skied in Summit Co hut-to-hut. I gave my guide an insane tip and in response he offered his place at 12000 ft (I think) for a month, with ski in, ski out access to Ski Cooper. I never took him up on it, but his description of it really appealed to me.
Looks like it's everything I imagined.
I forwarded the link to Doug Fish, he's at Ski Cooper at this moment.
"You just need to go at that shit wide open, hang on, and own it." —Camp