Colorado is popular for ski lovers all over the world for its kickass slopes, absorbing legends of tree skiing and oodles of high-altitude, powder snow. With their close proximity, Copper Mountain and Breckenridge are perfectly placed for a two-centre Colorado ski spree. A cute, family-style resort, Copper is just 1.5 hours from Denver and under half an hour from its bigger neighbour, Breckenridge.
But it’s not so ho hum in these towns – there’s a lot going on. For instance, did know that you can legally purchase marijuana in Breckenridge (what the what!)? Here are a few other things that we bet you didn’t know about the ski scene in Colorado’s Copper Mountain and Breckenridge:
Where to Ski:
With its high altitude, substantial annual snowfall and extensive snowmaking, Copper Mountain opens in November, hosting the U.S. Alpine Ski Team for early season training for the FIS Alpine World Championships. This relationship is celebrated annually with a First Tracks Alpine Team Naming ceremony with a season starter autograph and live music party.
Overlooking the Rocky Mountain’s Ten Mile Range, Copper’s huge terrain is dramatic and diverse – think lots of families concentrating on expansive learning and intermediate areas leaving plentiful powder, bumps and glades wide open for the smaller percentage of more expert skiers. The Enchanted Forest off the Storm King T-Bar is particularly seductive for black diamond and powder fans. After a slight climb to the right, skiers dip into a wide bowl followed by tremendous tree skiing. The Gold Digger area is recommended for more adventurous skiers and Spaulding Bowl features steeper black diamond runs off a ridge into trees.
But Copper is not all about steep and deep. Luring newbies to skiing and snowboarding, Copper launched an adult Ski and Ride University this season for just $199. Instruction is facilitated by terrain-based learning programs, using entry-level manmade features, such as banked turns and a mild mini-pipe. Graduates who complete the three-class course are awarded a free pass for the rest of the season.
And for intermediates who need to get a feel for the layout between the 23 lifts, there are free Copper Mountain Ambassador tours twice daily for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Sherpa, Copper’s ski app, is another useful tool for orientation with its celebrity tips and insider info about the 140 marked trails. The on-mountain audio intelligence app was awarded the 2013/2014 Best Use of Mobile Technology by the National Ski Areas Association.
Onhill lunch is laid-back at the T Rex Grill with its yellow Tiki umbrellas, deck chairs, mood music and outdoor grill. For a wider menu, there’s Solitude Grill at the top of the American Eagle chairlift with its affordable ‘Lift and Lunch’ deal and Cajun, burrito, pizza, burger and noodle themed food stations. All the village restaurants are easily accessible for ski stops, too, and there are great happy hours at Endo’s, Jack’s and Jill’s, right at the foot of the slopes – plus panoramic patios at Endo’s and Incline overlooking the half-pipe.
The pedestrianized village is set up for minimum effort. With flat pathways and plazas, and handy escalators, it’s easy to get around whether in ski boots or après footwear. It’s a one-stop shop at the retail and rental facility which is right next to the slopes and also encompasses the lift pass and guest services desks. Camp Hale is right there, too, for designer coffees and brief breakfasts.
The easily walkable village is set around a frozen lake used for skating, ice hockey and ziplining. Dotted around the shore are restaurants, pubs, waffle shops and accommodation. Nearby Tucker Mountain Lodge has comfortable and cheerful apartments with communal hot tubs for animated après-ski story swapping.
As well as great skiing, Copper Mountain has a unique indoor training facility with Skatelite jumps into foam pits, skate bowls, mini ramps, foam pits, spring floor, tumble trak, spotting belts, Olympic fly-bed trampolines, and a Super Tramp. Woodward Copper Barn, which is open year round for multi sport progression, is also the hub for teen ski programs.
One of the highest ski resorts in the world, the Breckenridge ski area is humungous. With 34 lifts and 187 runs, the linked peaks are numbered rather than named and each has its own distinct character with diverse restaurants and lodgings at every base. This panorama of peaks spreads the skiers out and, even during peak times, pristine pockets of perfect snow can always be found at the outlying areas of 10 and 7. The Burn glades are usually tranquil as well as the hike-accessed double diamonds off the Mercury and Imperial lifts.
For the kids – and more reckless adults – Breckenridge has an array of massive terrain parks and a 22 ft superpipe covering 25 acres/10 hectares, with every kind of jump, rail, pipe and up-to-date park architecture. Its 11 bowls beckon all abilities with 1061 acres/429 hectares of wide-open skiing and there’s even a new high alpine intermediate bowl, aptly called Bliss, at Peak 6. With trees lining many runs, the glade skiing is sensational especially where there are branch-free aspens which open up the narrowest of corridors through the forests. Handy hosts are stationed to help disoriented skiers, but the resort is well signposted and takes only a day or two to navigate.
Where to Eat:
Breckenridge is great for onhill dining with eateries up high as well as at base, luring weary skiers to linger over lunch and liquor while enjoying scenery. Peak 9 has a self-serve salad bar with made-to-measure wrap station at Coppertop base; Peak 7 is famous for fine-dining at Sevens right by the Independence Superchair; and Tenmile Station between 9 and 10 is a casual mountain bar with lots of Adirondacks for leisurely lazing under heated lamps. The new Peak 8 eatery, The Living Room serves Colorado cuisine all day in an intimate restaurant and lounge atmosphere with comfy sofas and piano music.
The essence of Breckenridge town is hip Western – and not just Western-themed, it’s the real thing: restored and colourfully-painted 100-year-old store fronts masking modern, upscale restaurants, boutiques, shops and, more recently, Marijuana purveyors inside. One the most popular après ski hangouts is Mi Casa, known for free, home made chips and salsa served with drinks. And upscale Modis serves affordable happy hour mussels.
For those interested in the Western heritage of the historic gold mining town, there are trips to the Country Boy Mine, several museums, a historic walking tour, a speakeasy movie theater and an arts district workshop.
Where to Stay:
It’s hard to choose where to stay in Breckenridge with so many choices, but One Ski Hill Place at Peak 8 is a great position for instant access to the slopes, with gondola and shuttles linking to town. Extra touches such as chocolates and inspirational messages at turn down give it more of a hotel feel than a condominium, although the ski in/out apartments have full self-catering facilities. Other de luxe appurtenances include the Rejuvenation Center with massage, facials and foot treatments, a 300-person heated deck with fireplaces, grand lobby, après ski bar, games room, movie lounges and bowling alley.