This family-friendly resort was built with purpose in the 1970s. The founder, Chuck Lewis, famously said in 1971: “I’m gonna build a killer ski resort” and that’s exactly what he did — within a two-hour drive of Denver. Now Copper has more than 140 different trails spread over its three mountains, and a reputation for its world-class freestyle ski and snowboard facilities.
The resort is spread across three walkable villages — East, Center and West — with Center village offering the most rental, dining and accommodation options. On the mountain, the skiing offers something for everyone. Yes, most resorts make the same claim, but thanks to Chuck Lewis’s vision, and major investment over the years — most recently a $100 million boost by owners POWDR Adventure Lifestyle Co. — along with natural topography of its peaks, Copper and Union, this mountain really does boast some of the best runs for all levels. The slopes are almost equally divided into quarters, with 25% each for beginners and intermediates, 36% for advanced and 18% of trails for expert skiers — with some terrain parks thrown in the mix, too.
With the latest investments, a number of lifts have been improved or replaced, making for speedy access to the mountain — along with the brand new Three Bears chairlift which offers access to expert terrain previously only accessible by snowcat and perfect for the more adventurous skiers wanting to take advantage of Copper’s excellent dry, plentiful snow (the resort averages 300 inches a year, along with Colorado’s famous 300 days of sunshine).
The terrain gradually progresses from easy to difficult from west to east across Copper’s mountains, naturally keeping beginners and experts in separate areas. This means that beginners and little ones can feel confident exploring an area without the worry of taking the wrong turn and coming across a sudden black diamond run, or being subjected to better skiers speeding past.
There are two nursery areas, one at Union Creek — where the ski school meets — has a superb beginner area, with a free surface lift called Easy Rider. An additional beginner area, Green Acres, accesses a bigger beginner slope that's just a little steeper, ideal for skiers to progress to after Easy Rider. The lift at Green Acres — called Pitchfork — costs between $20-25 per person, per day. Once you’re feeling happy on these areas, Copper has lots of easy green runs for children (and adult beginners!) to progress to.
Copper has long been garnering a reputation as one of the best ski resorts in the world for freestyle skiing and snowboarding. It has no less than six terrain parks across the mountain that are suitable for every level from absolute beginner through to world champion — including a huge, Olympic-sized superpipe used in many competitions.
The resort is home to the superb Woodward Copper Barn, a 19, 400 square-foot indoor facility with trampolines, foam pits, ramps and a spring floor, teaching and developing skills on skateboards, BMX and mountain bikes as well as skis and snowboards. It’s a family-friendly facility, designed for everyone to use and will be an easy favorite among the teenagers.
Copper’s newest off-mountain attraction is the Rocky Mountain Coaster, an alpine coaster with zigs, zags, dips and 360-degree turns along its 5,800 ft track and 430 ft vertical drop into Copper’s Center Village. Copper also offers a tubing hill, with five lanes of snow tubing in its East Village, along with free guided snowshoe tours out of West Village, and ice skating in Center Village with free family rentals when spending $40 in the resort, plus there’s a good sports club with a large indoor swimming pool.
There are no hotels in Copper Mountain, instead opt to stay in one of the many spacious condos found close to the slopes within walking distance of most restaurants and activities. If little legs get tired walking from the slopes to your condo, however, there’s also a free shuttle system running continuously through the resort from 6am to 11pm.
Après ski is quiet during the week but a little busier during the weekends — along with the slopes — as skiers and snowboarders come in from Denver. As part of its family-friendly ethos, Copper Mountain offers a free kids’ night out from 5:30-10pm every Wednesday to Sunday evening, where children ages 3-12 years old can be dropped off at the Belly Button Babies and Bakery Childcare in Mountain Plaza to enjoy a night of fun and games. The childcare is free as long as parents spend $30 per child at any location in Copper’s Village areas.
There’s a range of dining options in all three villages, from grills and BBQs — try elk at CB Grille — along with Mexican, pizza, sushi and burgers — plus a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Sugar Lips Mini Donuts, both in Center Village, for after-ski sugar lows! Along with major investment in new lifts, there are brand new eateries in town and on the mountain, including Koko’s Hut, a new lodge at the top of the Kokomo Express, seating 200 people and offering grab-and-go comfort food.
Copper Mountain is just off the main I-70 from Denver, close to Arapahoe Basin and Winter Park, and makes an ideal base for two-destination family ski vacations. Adventurous families could take advantage of the Ikon Pass, valid for unlimited skiing across many different resorts within Colorado Ski Country including Arapahoe Basin, Aspen-Snowmass and Copper. The pass also includes seven days in Zermatt, Switzerland, as well as the likes of Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Niseko on Japan.
Children aged 5 and under ski for free at Copper Mountain — and if you book accommodations directly with the Copper Mountain Resort, you will receive a free $30-per-day “SECRET! Pass” which offers a separate (and smaller) line at several different lifts along with a 15-minute start on other skiers up the main American Eagle every morning.
Resort height: 9,711 ft
Driving time from Denver: 1hr 40min (101 miles)
Deals: One, Two, Free! Package, if three nights of lodging are booked, the fourth is free. The deal also includes a kids ski free option if an accompanying adult buys a three-day pass, as well as 33% off Woodward freestyle lessons, 33% off rental equipment, discounts on tubing and more. Free lift in the beginner area, special pass for one other lift.
Extended childcare: Free kids night out from Wednesday to Sunday evenings, 5-10pm, when families spend $35 or more at any location in Copper’s Village areas.