Ski Cooper Ski Getaways

ski getaways

Only 35 miles down the road from Vail but a world away is an often-overlooked gem of a ski area. It's homey, has terrific snow and no crowds, and has a real ace in the hole - 2400 acres of high-elevation snowcat skiing along the Continental Divide.

The lift-served terrain, 400 acres of it, rises 1,200 vertical feet from an already-high 10,500 foot base. A triple, a double, and two platters provide more than enough uphill capacity. It's not quite a true-blue layout - there are a handful of black diamonds that are fun - but intermediate cruisers will love the place.

Ski Cooper's down home family feel stems in large part from the influence of Leadville, ten miles away. Leadville's compact, shop-lined downtown and fine Victorian neighborhoods combine with spectacular scenery to produce a memorable ambience. Seventy square blocks of Leadville are listed as a National Historic Landmark District and the region's colorful past is preserved in part through its architecture.

Up on the mountain the small-town atmosphere is evident. There's a nice multi-generational mix of families, friends, young racers, students from Colorado Mountain College, and hip freestylers. There's also a nice mix of well-groomed trails and powder, depending on when it last snowed. Ski Cooper gets about 20 feet a year of snow so the chances are good there will be freshies available.

For almost-guaranteed freshies a day or three spent with Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours provides access to open bowls, tree runs, and 2400 acres of powder playground. Elevations extend to 12,600 feet with vertical drops of up to 1,400 feet. Check-in couldn't be more convenient: it's right at Ski Cooper's day lodge. Indeed, Chicago Ridge looms above the lift-served slopes and forms a dramatic backdrop to them. The company begins to accept reservations early to mid-November each year (exact dates vary) and transport is by comfortable enclosed coaches.

Ski Cooper has a large base lodge which houses all skier services including a nursery, a rental shop, restaurant, and retail shop. The base is also the starting point of the Piney Creek Nordic Center, with 24 km of groomed trails for all abilities and a full rental, repair, and retail center