Snowboarding : Copper Mountain

Copper Mountain is a self-contained resort with a perfectly organized mountain. New base development makes this a convenient and fun mountain for a vacation.

Copper Mountain could be considered the model for the mythical book "Designing Ski Resorts for Dummies." It's easy to get to: just off I-70 from Denver. And it's easy to figure out: Thanks to the area's topography, trails are neatly organized by level of difficulty—left to right, facing the mountain, black diamond to blue square to green circle. Plus there's plenty of terrain to go around for all abilities. In fact, beginners aren't relegated to the lower slopes and, unlike many other areas, have an equal share of Copper's terrain.

Even the base areas are "separate but equal," with East Village serving the adrenaline-dependent, The Village at Copper for the in-betweens and Union Creek for beginners. OK, they don't check your skiing or riding skills before you sidle up to the bar at any of these areas, but be aware that meeting back at the base for a group with differing ability levels will include some planning. Fortunately, an efficient shuttle system connects the base areas, so if you can't find your way via the snow, you can via the bus.

While it doesn't take a lot of brain power to figure out the terrain layout, there is plenty of demanding skiing for those who want it. Experts head to the summit, where chutes, cornices and double-diamond slits are worth studying in Copper's upper bowls. And because the terrain is so evenly distributed among ability levels, those wanting to improve and graduate with honors just have to work their way towards the other side of the mountain.

The area is named after an old copper mine whose remnants remain in the Copper Bowl area (in summer the mine tailings are distinct). But rather than attempt to honor days of old, Copper Mountain is a paean to modern-day master planning. Born in 1972, the base area still has a few remnants of buildings that pay tribute to that decade of architectural aberrance. However, having taken an "if-you-build-it-they-will-come" attitude, resort developer and former owner Intrawest has completed its intensive $500-million village construction. Now Copper's base area includes all the "total resort" amenities that skiers and riders have come to expect from Intrawest-developed properties.

That doesn't quite mean that Copper's base is hopping just yet. Except during the most popular times of the season—holidays and its celebration of spring called Sunsation—skiers and riders tend to jump back on I-70 and head home. But as word gets out, more and more visitors discover that Copper really does have it all and take advantage of the boutiques, restaurants, spas and apres-ski haunts, all within steps of the ski slopes.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."    — Robert A. Heinlein

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