Leadville, Cooper and Copper

06 March 2020 by 1der Girl

  1. If you ever go to Cooper (or "Coop" as the locals call it), look for Kath, who works the register at the cafeteria, and Shrekkie (Jim) who sometimes works at the rental shop. These are their retirement jobs, so they may or not be there. Tell them we said hi!
It sure is pretty at Cooper. And cold!!!

February 24 - March 5

It was a warm, sunny day when we traveled / drove from Aspen to Leadville. The drive was gorgeous, and the big stress of the day was fighting to stay awake to take in the bucolic scenery while the warm sun streamed through the window, lulling me to sleep.

During the summer, the route to Leadville is 58 miles and takes just under two hours to drive. But because the Independence Pass is closed during winter, the route is circuitous, having to "backtrack" out of Aspen and pass through Glenwood Springs and Avon / Beaver Creek. It's more than double the miles (129) and at least an extra hour of drive time.

This was our second trip to Leadville, and we really like this town. It has a very interesting history, and the main street is quite charming. For a more detailed write-up of Leadville, check out this post from a couple years ago. Leadville is special for us because Shrekkie and Kath live there.

The weather changed as we approached Leadville. It was cold and snowy, and just as we passed Ski Cooper, the road was icy. A few miles down the road, we passed a pickup truck that had spun out just moments before we arrived, and it was now stuck on the side of the road in a deep snow bank, pointing in the wrong direction. When we drove by and asked if they needed assistance, they said they were okay and help was on their way. Someone upstairs was looking out for them...

Spending a chunk of time with Shrekie and Kath was a wonderful. They are really cool, great peeps. Our days were spent hanging out, cooking together, and occasionally skiing together at either Cooper (where they work "for fun") or Copper Mountain.

Cooper is a fun little mountain that's a true throwback in time. The are only three lifts, one T-bar and a magic carpet. The lifts are old-fashioned (translation: slow, as in really slow), and when it's cold like it was on the first of our two days there, the lifts (especially the long ones) are fah-ree-zing. It was about 5°F (the forecasted high was 8°F), and that did not include the windchill factor, which made it likely another 10 - 15 degrees colder since it was blowing.

When was the last time you saw a lift like this? Let alone working?
It takes about 10-15 minutes to get to the top. Better bundle up big time if it's cold, because you'll freeze your tushy off on the slow lift. But once up top, the other lifts are okay (translation: a retro, non-detachable lift).

How cold was it? So cold that 1der and I both got "ice cream headaches" when we skied. And this was after being super layered-up and wearing head warmies under our helmets.

Even though it snowed the two prior days and we had about 10" of freshies, the snow was not the light, dry powder I would have expected at those temperatures. The snow was oddly sticky, which sort of flipped me out with my knee. Any run that had been already tracked was challenging as my skis would get caught up in the chunkiness and either catch my edges or prevent me from turning. It was sort of like skiing in crud, but I've never experienced crud at 5°F.

After a couple runs, 1der wanted to escape the cold and get some yummies at the "lodge" at the top. The lodge is actually really cool, large yurt, and we liked it so much, it got us thinking about living in yurts vs. building a traditional house when it's time to permanently move away from San Francisco. And no, I don't have any images of the yurt, inside or out. As if I would take my gloves off to take a picture outside when it's that cold. I'm not that hardy (or dumb 😆).

We skied Cooper twice, and here's the deal: this is a sweet little mountain. It's great for families as the terrain is super gentle and everything's reasonably priced. What impressed me was the laid-back vibe, where there were no egos on the mountain, and all the staff are super chill and nice[1]. We had a lot of fun at this authentic, down-to-earth place, where the management / ownership deserves a pat on the back for providing a wonderful outlet, with reasonable prices, to cultivate the next generation of skiers and boarders. Families love it here.

Let's be serious: who the heck can afford to take their family skiing these days? Well, come to Cooper. Where can beginners feel comfortable without some jerk "hot dogger" barrelling down on them? Cooper! Where does an all-day adult lift ticket cost only $62? Cooper! Where can you get two-fer Tuesdays? Cooper! And if you want some more challenging terrain, check out the double blacks off of the t-bar. Super fun stuff. But I highly recommend boarders stay away from the t-bar — there was a boarder in front of us, and the poor girl fell en-route so many times. We finally saw her at the top about 40 minutes later. That's how long it took her to get back up, and she was NOT a happy camper / boarder.

Copper Mountain (sorry, no photos)

We skied five days (four for 1der) at Copper Mountain, which is an easy, 35-minute drive from Leadville. This was our first time there, and it took a couple days to find our favorite runs. Shrekkie was able to ski with us the first day 👏🏼, so it was great to get the lay of the land from him.

Getting from the parking lot to the mountain seemed a bit convoluted at first, but now that we've been here, it makes sense, considering there are three distinct areas of the mountain, all segregated by level but fully inter-connected by the lifts / terrain.

Except for one day, we always parked at the Alpine lot and took the black bus route. The black bus drops you off near the Super Bee lift. It's not a bad walk to the lift, and at the end of the day, if there's good coverage, you can get enough speed to ski right to the bus stop. All mountain-side bus stops take you back to the Alpine or other lots and drop you where you picked it up.

On the day 1der sat it out, I decided to take the blue bus thinking I could get to the Three Bears and Sierra lifts faster. That was a mistake, as the walk to the American Flyer lift / chondula was a huffer, and there were so many more people. In retrospect, I should have just taken the black bus and skied over to those chairs. More snow time, less people.

But... this enabled me to meet Bob and Todd, two ski buddies from Upstate New York who flew out for a long weekend. They were great skiers and really nice, and they let me tag along with them for the afternoon. I told them I wanted to ski the runs off of Sierra and Three Bears, and since they knew the way, they were my tour guides.

The Three Bears chair is a brand new lift that debuted just this last December. In the past, in order to ski this terrain / Tucker Mountain, one had to either do a 40-minute hike up a rocky ridgeline while sucking air big time (peaks out at 12,412 ft / 3,785 m), or break a ski bummer's bank account and catch a snowcat ride to the top. Now, you can simply park your butt on a chair and enjoy the ride. I loved it, but not everyone's a fan.

Even though the coverage off of Three Bears was not that great, the snow was decent and there was still lots of super fun, steep terrain. The only drawback was having to push / skate up the hill if exiting left of the chair. That was a huffer; at 12,412 ft, everything is a lot harder to do.

It was unfortunate that my last day at Copper was this day, as I really wanted to come back and ski Three Bears with 1der. Oh well, next year.

Our time at Leadville was so relaxing and comfortable, even though it was COLD. We took up Shrekkie and Kath's offer to sleep in their beautiful home during our entire stay, which meant we were really comfy at night when the temperatures dipped dangerously low.

This is what the temperature was (-9 °F) just before going to bed one night.

I suspect it probably got down to -12°F or -13°F since typically, the lowest temps are at 6 or 7am. And since you're asking, yes, Beastie needs to be heated the entire time so the water tanks won't freeze.

We took care of that by running a space heater inside Beastie while we stayed in the house. If your hosts offer that, make sure you give them money for their power bill!

Shrekkie is so nice; he took us all the way to Gypsum so we could restock at Costco. On the way, he showed us the little town of Red Cliff. What a funky place, with a cool bridge.

This bridge is really interesting. Definitely check it out and the town of Red Cliff.
Be careful as you approach the turn-off for the town. Once you see the signs, slow down. The turn-off is a hard right or left, depending on which direction you're heading. If you miss the turn-off, it will be awhile before you can turn around.

Many thanks again, Shrekkie and Kath for everything; look forward to hang'n with you guys again soon!

The Shrekkie and Kath family in pompom bears. Aren't they cute!
I first made pompoms with the colors wrapped a certain way. They I gave the pompoms a massive haircut to shape their heads.
Of course Shrekkie's bear is the biggest. It's huge — nearly four inches in diameter! It took a LOT of yarn to make him.

1der Girl
1der Girl


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