12″ of fresh Colorado powder snow at Copper Mountain Ski Resort on Leap Year Day, 29 Feb. Why am I sitting in the sunny outdoors at the Belgian Bean Coffee and Waffle shop on this fine morning?
It started with a foot of snow in the previous 24 hours. That is a lot for this near-drought winter and even the risk averse seasoned skier such as I became excited about making a few slow turns in the soft stuff.
(RE: risk averse, see my previous posts about my “ski-related” fractured ankle at the end of last season.
Skiing any semblance of untracked or less-tracked powder on resort runs in this modern powder-fever era means being on the chair lifts when they open at 9am. Thus I am out the door of my Silverthorne condo in time to be in the Copper parking lot about 8:40am. I can see from there that the Super Bee Chair Lift is not running yet though it is usually warming up by that time and transporting employees and early pass skiers. No big deal I presume, so I boot up and catch the bus to the lift base.
When I arrive a LOT of people are heading away from the slopes and towards the various buses to other parts of the resort. (Copper has a East (Super Bee), Center, and West Village.) Someone tells me the lift is down for maintenance and will be at least a half an hour before opening. No first tracks HERE this morning so I head for the bus to Center Village where the American Eagle and American Flyer lifts will get you well up the mountain.
When I arrive the American Flyer lift is broken and will be at least 15 minutes. I sit down at an outdoor table to buckle my boots. Meanwhile the sole operating lift of the 3 I’ve visited so far has a couple of HUNDRED people in line! Nooo wayyyy is this going to work. I continue to buckle and chat with a gentleman from New York who talks about the recession and how these folks can afford $100 lift tickets, to which I heartily agree. (A lot of people have cheaper season passes or discount tickets, but many are paying $100+.)
A resort host suggests I walk through the village and get the bus to West Village and the Union Creek Chair Lift. I take her advice and head across the covered bridge toward the bus stop, passing the aforementioned Belgian Bean. Heck, it’s 9:45am and any fresh powder in places where this aging, laid-back skier will be skiing is mostly gone by now. I smell coffee! A friend later notes that this is not a Starbucks, who I consider myself the sole corporate support of, but any coffee port in a powder storm.
It’s sunny and I have a view of the Ten Mile Range, the other side of which reside Frisco, Breckenridge, and Breckenridge Ski Resort:
FINALLY, around 10am, I catch an uncrowded bus to uncrowded Union Creek and hit the slopes. No powder here but the packed snow is soft, soft, soft. Three green-near-blue difficulty runs down Union Creek and I head over to the Timberline Chair. Great blue difficulty cruisers over here. Soft, soft, soft. American Flyer run, Windsong run. Lift is getting crowded (no surprise) so I head to the Rendezvous Chair. Slowww 3-person chair ride to an elevation of about 11,700′:
It’s COLD up here! The wind is blowing fairly well and my fingers are FROSTY as I take a picture of myself. I go over the hill and make a couple of strenuous runs off the Blackjack Chair. Puffin’ like the proverbial freight train. Back over the hill to Rendezvous and a lonnnng run back to Union Creek/West Village. It’s been a couple of hours and I don’t want to overdo it (hah) so I call it a day. The powder mostly eluded me but it was still great skiing. Had a great day! You have one too.
(In fairness to Copper Mountain and their chair lift problems, I find this highly unusual and I’ve found them to have one of the best maintained and best groomed mountains I’ve ever skied. This was a huge fluke. That’s show biz!)