Editors Note: This post was originally written before the COVID-19 pandemic. Please make sure to follow Summit County’s public health orders if you are visiting Copper Mountain.
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 where I learned to ski. I’ve kept coming back thanks to their affordable (for skiing, not for life) four-pack, 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 an entire run afterward (to the chagrin of my instructor), which 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 easiest green runs at Copper, and finally took on my first beginner-friendly blue (tear-free!). I hope this guide helps you do the same.
What do all of these colors mean??
Green is the easiest level of ski runs. Blue is considered intermediate. They 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.
What is the difference between a lift and a run?
A lift is the thing you ride up the mountain. A run is the route you take down it.
What should I expect for my first ski lesson?
That’s a different post. Find that here. And 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 any time of year on the runs described here?
Unfortunately, a lot of Copper’s beginner stuff doesn’t open immediately. Typically, everything described in this blog is open by January. Find out what runs are open right now.
Okay, let’s get into it!
What part of the mountain to start on
Copper has three sections – West Village, Center Village, and East Village. As a beginner, you want West Village, which is made up of beginner-friendly green runs and some easy blues for when you’re ready to do more.
Remember what I said about not all greens being equal? The end of American Flyer’s main green run (Coppertone) is incredibly steep and crowded with a lot of runs converging together. It was honestly terrifying to me as a beginner, so just don’t even mess with Center Village until you’re confident going down everything in West.
Start at the Kokomo Express lift, which drops you off at the bottom half of a 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.
Your next step up is getting back on Kokomo to take another lift further up the mountain: Lumberjack. I will warn you that as of January 2019 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, take the run to your right called West Ten Mile. This run is longer than Roundabout 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. This time, 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 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 level. 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, take 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!
Woodwinds 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 soak up the sun (just make sure you’ve put on sunscreen!).
Once properly satiated, you can take Woodwinds Traverse to Easy Feelin’ to get back down to the lift in a beginner-friendly manner.
When 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.
There is one very steep hill on Soliloquy (in my beginner’s eyes) that you kind of bomb down to make it back up the next hill that takes you down the rest of the run. It is a little scary at first but ultimately also a good confidence builder.
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. I liked Scooter and Vein Glory a lot since they were both lower traffic, not super steep, and very pretty. At this point, you’ll probably be comfortable on anything green on Union Creek, Kokomo, Lumberjack, or Timberline.
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. Skiing 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. (Whichever one you choose, make sure to check if it’s groomed before going down it – that will make things much easier!)
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. Just try to get off to the side of the run before you sit down – that way you won’t be in everyone else’s way!
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.