The US Ski Team trains at Copper, but suffice it to say I enjoy a substantially lower caliber of skiing there. It’s a great mountain for beginners and is where I learned to ski. I’ve kept coming back thanks to their affordable four-pack (a great quantity for beginner skiers), but not without some trials and tribulations.
My initial lesson had me feeling so confident that I decided it would be a good idea to go down a giant run afterward (to the chagrin of my instructor), which immediately resulted in me crying and walking my way down the last third of the mountain.
This taught me that not all green runs are equal. I’ve learned from my mistakes, worked my way through the green runs at Copper, and finally took on my first blue last winter (tear-free!). I hope this guide helps you do the same.
- What do all these colors mean?!
Green is the easiest level of ski runs, with blue being the next step. Blues aren’t always significantly steeper, but are usually significantly longer, so if you’re going to try a blue for the first time make sure you have plenty of gas in the tank to get all the way down.
- What should I expect for a ski lesson?
That’s another blog post – that I’ve already written. Find it here. Also, here’s what to wear your first time skiing. This blog covers your next step – heading out on your own after your first lesson.
- Can I go skiing right away on all these beginner runs?
Unfortunately, a lot of Copper’s beginner stuff opens up later on. Typically, all of the lifts and runs described in this blog aren’t open until January. I wrote this December 27, and everything but the Lumberjack lift is open, but that’s one of my favorite beginner lifts. Find out what’s open right now here.
Okay, let’s get into it!
Where to start
Copper has three sections – West Village, Center Village, and East Village. As a beginner, you’ll want to head over to East Village, which is made up of predominately green runs and also has some easy blues for when you’re ready to step up.
Remember what I said about not all greens being equal? I cry-walked my way down a green that was terrifying to me as a beginner, so that’s why I recommend starting in East Village and not even messing with American Flyer.
I start at the Kokomo Express lift, which drops you off at the bottom half of the run called Roundabout. This section of the run at times barely qualifies as downhill and is the run that all of the tiny children learn to ski on. So it’s perfect. Swallow your pride and take a few runs down that to ease into things and get comfortable.
I only ski a few times a year, so the first time I get out in the winter I’m always unsure whether I actually remember how to ski, so a quick run down Roundabout can be very reassuring.
You will have to drag yourself a few feet uphill to the Kokomo Express lift from where the shuttle bus drops you off initially. Worst case scenario you end up nice and toasty to sit on the lift.
Your next step up is getting back on Kokomo and taking the next lift up, the Lumberjack. I will warn you that as of January 2017 this lift’s seats were still super old and uncomfortable, but it’s worth the dead legs to get a slightly longer, but not steep run in.
From the top of Lumberjack, you’ll want to take the run to the right (when you’re still on the lift) called West Ten Mile. This run is longer than Kokomo and is still one of my favorite sections. It’s got a very gentle slope, the run is super wide, and usually, there are few other skiers on it.
Next, take Kokomo up again but turn left and go down Prospector. This will give you a taste of a steeper hill at the end of the run without getting you in over your head. From there, you can take Kokomo to Lumberjack again but turn left and go down Roundabout to Fairway and end on Prospector.
Repeat these options until you’re feeling good. For me, this was all I did my first day outside of a lesson. You may want to do this routine for multiple days. Or all season. Or years in a row. That’s totally fine!
Building confidence gradually helped me actually enjoy myself. Skiing is supposed to be fun – remember, that’s why you’re paying all this money and waking up at the crack of dawn to beat traffic and willingly spending time outside in below-freezing temperatures! You don’t have to be Linsday Vonn-ing your way down the mountain to have a good time or be a “real skier.”
Okay. Let’s say you’re ready for the next step. You’re ready for the Union Creek lift! This lift is fancy in that it holds four people at a time and also moves a lot faster, so basically the opposite experience of Lumberjack in both comfort and speed.
From the top of Union Creek, you have several options. My go-to is taking Woodwinds to Minor Matter. The beginning looks very steep (at least to me), but don’t worry it will level out and you can do this!
Minor Matter is a great confidence builder – I felt like a huge badass for making it down such a big, steep hill (I know, many experienced skiers are rolling their eyes at me right now, but this blog ain’t for you!).
The best part about taking this route is you end up at the T-Rex Grill, a restaurant in the middle of the mountain. This is a great place to take a break, eat some delicious french fries, and watch people who are much better than you at skiing come down some blue runs.
Once properly satiated, you can take Woodwinds Traverse to Easy Feelin’ to get back down to the lift in a beginner-friendly manner.
Once you’re comfortable there, instead of heading right back down from the T-Rex area, you can take the Timberline Express lift one level higher. From the top of Timberline, head down Soliloquy to hook back up with Roundabout, which you’ve already skied and should be familiar with from before. This entire run is really fun and one of my favorites. You get a taste of a steeper start and a longer distance but are still on totally beginner-friendly runs.
From here, you have a bunch of options. You can connect back to the T-Rex area from Soliloquy, you can take different routes off Union Creek, anything you’d like. Pretty much anything green on Union Creek, Kokomo, Lumberjack, or Timberline will be in your comfort zone at this point.
I’d like to interrupt this happy, gradual progression to say if you’re not even remotely in your comfort zone, that’s completely okay. I had done all of these runs but on our second or third time out, I was feeling borderline out of control, like I didn’t have the control over my speed that I wanted, which was making me feel really scared and nervous. Sking wasn’t fun anymore.
At this point, I asked my husband for help. I do not take instructions well from my lovely spouse and have been known to be a bit stubborn. But something wasn’t working.
If you find yourself in this position, ask a friend, family member, or spouse for help if they have expertise. Otherwise, invest in another lesson. Don’t risk shaking your confidence long-term just because you’re stubborn like me!
Billy’s advice got me back on track, and eventually, I was ready for my first blue.
(Reminder that it’s okay if you never want to ski a blue in your life)
The shortest blues are off Timberline Express so you can see them from the T-Rex Grill. This was really helpful to me to feel like I had a good idea of what I was getting myself into. Billy had skied The Moz and said it would be a good one for me to try, so we decided to start there.
Because American Flyer was the lift I went on my first time skiing and ultimately cry-walked my way down, I decided I wanted to take that lift to conquer my fears once and for all. Instead of taking Timberline, I skied down to American Flyer from the T-Rex Grill by way of Woodwinds Traverse.
Remember what I said about blues being harder because they’re longer and steeper? I definitely felt that on The Moz. It wasn’t anything too crazy steep, but I found myself having to sit down and take a break halfway down because my legs were screaming. This alarmed the ski patrol since I think they were worried I had fallen and couldn’t get up. The latter half of that was certainly the case!
You can take another break when you get back down T-Rex. Perhaps a celebratory beer for making it this far! Or celebratory french fries. Whatever floats your boat.
Winter 2018 may be the year I try out more of the greens and maybe another blue on American Flyer, but until then, I’ll be sticking to this tried-and-true plan. Let me know if any of my recommendations are totally off, and ask any other questions you may have in the comments!