Spot Check: Copper Mountain

After an incident in the early 90s that allegedly involved a pro rider waving a gun around during a halfpipe event, thereby ending both the event and the halfpipe itself for the next few years, many of us thought Copper would never have a halfpipe again. Uh, I guess I should say that the resort's official line always maintained there really wasn't enough interest to keep the halfpipe around that year, or for the next couple, either. Whatever the case, several years and an Intrawest ownership takeover later, Copper now offers two halfpipes, promises a superpipe for the '00/01 season, and has added a small terrain park on Main Vein run and a larger park on Bouncer, both accessed by the American Eagle lift. The halfpipes are cut with well-shaped trannys and a good degree of steepness.

Last year Copper was the first resort in Colorado to open a halfpipe, and if they can get their superpipe up and running before December, they'll be a resort to be reckoned with this season. Unfortunately, if you're looking to hit jumps, this may not be the resort for you.

More good news is if and when it snows in Summit County, the freeriding at Copper is sick. To hit a large jump outside the park check out the onion roll, a natural formation located in Union Bowl. For steep tree-riding, head to the Enchanted Forest or Seventeen Glades for trees–both are so tight they'll scare, or in some cases, rip the pants off ya. Take a hike to Tucker Mountain off of Copper Bowl for pretty much guaranteed hippie turns, or ride Spaulding Bowl for a good cornice drop. All of these spots are easily located on the map. Oh, and be forewarned, if you suck, or even think you might, don't go to these places–they are advanced terrain. Good beginner and intermediate terrain is well marked on the aforementioned map in blue and green.

Another bonus for weekend-warrior types–Copper's only an hour-and-a-half drive from Denver. It can also be less expensive than surrounding resorts, because Copper offers super-deal season-pass programs for students, and midweek passes for around 250 bucks. In addition, a combination Copper-Winter Park Superpass can be purchased for around 400 dollars. If you aren't buying the pass deal, you can check out King Soopers in Denver for slightly lower-priced day tickets.

Even better, if you're thinking of moving to the area and want to work at the mountain, the resort always needs people for everything from snowboard instructors and lift-ops, to hamburger flippers and ticket schleppers. In exchange for your daily toil you will receive a pass not only to Copper, but also to Winter Park, Snowmass, A-Basin, Steamboat, Whistler, Mammoth, and a whole slew of others too long to list. Plus, you get paid, too.

Last year Copper installed a mid-mountain six-foot mini ramp with a spine, but if you plan to skate, call first–this ramp was not so popular with the older, money-spending clientele, and its relocation to an indoor Leadville facility is pending. Leadville, incidentally, can't be considered within close proximity to Copper, so you may not be able to skateboard unless you're willing to drive.

One cool remaining weekend activity is Copper's local Snowboard Series. It's reportedly one of the oldest series in North America, and also USASA sanctioned. Halfpipe, slopestyle, boardercross, GS, and slalom events are all offered. Jibbers beware, the slopestyle courses aren't always the biggest out there, but good halfpipe and race events can always be counted on.

The nightlife at Copper is still nonexistent because Intrawest, the resort's owner, is in the process of constructing a “Whistler-like” village there. The town of Frisco and a few bars are a short drive away. Check out 25-cent pool at the Moosejaw for a Harley-biker-type vibe, or Barkley's to dance. Youngsters looking for an alternative to Scrabble in the hotel room wiith mom should check out Barkley's, where they save one night a week for the all-ages crowd. In any event, you will probably be too tired from shreddin' the gnar to hang out with the toothless locals, anyway.

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