Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

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Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Mar 22, 2017 5:14 am

After our near perfect spring Sunday at Loveland, the forecast for Monday was less promising with sunny skies giving way to mostly overcast by late morning. We were thinking of Copper Mountain, but decided that spending $105 per person to ski scratchy snow for most of the day wasn't a good idea so we drove another 30 minutes to a place I've never seen covered in an online TR.

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Heading toward Dillon


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Driving past Copper Mountain


Figuring that there was no reason to be there in time for opening bell, we stopped at Ski Cooper's sleepy hometown, Leadville, and walked around for a bit.

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Some attractive buildings from the late 1800s


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Lots of mining ephemera


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Nice Backdrop


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The unfortunately-named western gas station chain -- my wife was horrified.


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A mural of the 10th Mountain Division (I wasn't aware of its connection to Cooper)


Ski Cooper is a small locals-only ski area with 1,200 vertical feet and a friendly community feel.
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There are mentions all over the property about how the famed 10th Mountain Division trained at Cooper Hill before being deployed in the Alps during WWII (900 Mountain Division soldiers were killed/4,000 wounded). The ski area opened just after the end of the war.

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We were surprised to find quite a few cars in the parking lot on a Monday, all families/mostly beginners, for which Cooper is perfectly suited. The runs felt surprisingly long, probably in part due to the mellow pitch. My wife and I both agreed that Cooper's terrain and views reminded us of a smaller Colorado version of New Mexico's Angel Fire, but with no destination-visitor amenities.

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Going to a less steep place was definitely the right call; by 11 am, everything had softened up nicely despite the cloudy skies, which made for pleasant high-speed cruising through the trees.


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A Touch of Switzerland in Colorado


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We had a nice lunch in the Irish pub in the lodge.


In short: a very pleasant family ski hill. Perfect if you have younger kids or lower-level skiers (our son would've loved it). Not necessarily worth checking out for stronger skiers unless the nearby cat-skiing is operating.


On our Tuesday departure day, we went to A-Basin, with similar weather: early sun giving way to overcast by late morning. I left my camera in the car so no pix. I skied there 35 years ago (!) as an almost never-ever while a sophomore at CU Boulder. I'd forgotten how much legit terrain it has, most of which wasn't worth attempting yesterday due to north-facing surfaces that didn't soften. Our preferred runs were on the south-facing Montezuma Bowl, which opened a decade ago. We skied until 1 pm, then ran off to the airport for a 4:30 departure to EWR.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby flyover » Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:18 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:Image
The unfortunately-named western gas station chain -- my wife was horrified.


There's worse. We've got a few of these around town:

pump-and-munch.jpg
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby EMSC » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:00 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:so we drove another 30 minutes to a place I've never seen covered in an online TR.


I've been to Cooper ~8 times (as a race coach), but the last was in March of 2006. That was about a year before I joined FTO. Not sure if I ever took any pics of the place though.

jamesdeluxe wrote:The unfortunately-named western gas station chain -- my wife was horrified.


And somewhat surprisingly, given the name, its a rather large chain of them.

jamesdeluxe wrote:There are mentions all over the property about how the famed 10th Mountain Division trained at Cooper Hill before being deployed in the Alps during WWII (900 Mountain Division soldiers were killed/4,000 wounded). The ski area opened just after the end of the war.


The primary 10th Mountain Division location of Camp Hale (now regressing rapidly to a meadow) is a bit further down the road toward Vail. Maybe 5 miles.

jamesdeluxe wrote:We were surprised to find quite a few cars in the parking lot on a Monday, all families/mostly beginners, for which Cooper is perfectly suited.


I wonder if Leadville schools are on spring break? or maybe just Texans on spring break? On a normal Monday it would be deserted and the poma would not have been running.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby kingslug » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:39 am

The kind of place Glen Plake might show up to.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:45 am

EMSC wrote:I wonder if Leadville schools are on spring break? or maybe just Texans on spring break? On a normal Monday it would be deserted and the poma would not have been running.

They were definitely locals -- Leadville must've been on break. We were expecting to see maybe a dozen cars in the parking lot (ten of them employees); however, there was a decent turnout.

kingslug wrote:The kind of place Glen Plake might show up to.

Agreed.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Mar 22, 2017 12:30 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:A-Basin....most of which wasn't worth attempting yesterday due to north-facing surfaces that didn't soften.

Pali didn't have winter snow? That would be really surprising considering how the comparable terrain at AltaBird (Highboy, Upper Cirque, Upper Silver Fox, etc.) has held up in the sustained warm weather of the past two weeks.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Mar 22, 2017 1:03 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:Pali didn't have winter snow?

I was skiing with my wife, who was on her fifth day of the season -- and due to my cancelled CH trip, it was only my 17th. Consciously taking her into double-black terrain where she's scared to death (even if it's in decent condition) isn't a formula for good marital relations.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Mar 22, 2017 3:48 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:
Tony Crocker wrote:Pali didn't have winter snow?

Consciously taking her into double-black terrain where she's scared to death (even if it's in decent condition) isn't a formula for good marital relations.

No it's not, but that shouldn't have stopped YOU, especially at a compact place like A-Basin where it's easy to regroup. Pali is also one of those places where you can ride the lift and observe the guinea pigs to see how the snow is before committing yourself. And there's a blue groomer off the back I think.

Liz is perfectly content to send me on my way when I want to ski something out of her comfort zone. :lol:
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Mar 22, 2017 5:25 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:No it's not, but that shouldn't have stopped YOU, especially at a compact place like A-Basin where it's easy to regroup.

I did two runs on the looker's left of Montezuma Bowl, where the snow was warmed up to perfection, while Juliet stayed on the groomers. I was really impressed by that entire terrain pod:

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Given how the north-facing terrain was still skiing (scratchy) at the time we left in the early afternoon, you'll have to take my word that it wasn't worth venturing into the Pali sector absent John Egan-level boilerplate skillz.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Mar 22, 2017 6:18 pm

I make this inquiry because as you know I seem to get a steady diet of 50F temperatures during Iron Blosam Week. This year may have been the most consistent example but I've seen it many times before.

North facing groomers at 15-20 degree pitch take on much more sun than the steeps at 30+ degrees. Therefore the former will have spring conditions or be frozen solid if the weather is like your day at A-Basin or AltaBird on windy and partially cloudy March 12. On that same March 12 we skied Mark Malu and the Rastas at Snowbird and Harold's/Tombstone at Alta, all of which had dry chalky snow, not refrozen boilerplate.

I wasn't there, but I'm highly suspicious because A-Basin is higher and usually colder than AltaBird and thus tends to preserve snow better on comparable terrain.

For future reference, don't take my word for it. Ride the lift and watch/listen to the skiers. If it's boilerplate you will definitely HEAR that. That what I did yesterday at Baldy and thus knew when the ungroomed terrain was ready.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Mar 23, 2017 7:55 am

Tony Crocker wrote:Liz is perfectly content to send me on my way when I want to ski something out of her comfort zone.

Like you dragging her up to ski a rock-hard Lone Tree at Snowbasin recently? And all those times you brought her into avy terrain in the Alps?
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Mar 23, 2017 9:15 am

Touché. But that is really a separate issue. I never suggested that your wife go near Pali.

I think this is more an oversight by an eastern skier who assumes that once the weather gets that warm, nothing is safe from the melt/freeze. Since I know otherwise dating back nearly 40 years to my formative ski years at Mammoth, I'm always on the lookout for the last vestiges of winter snow on the high, steep and north facing, my final run at Alta on Gunsight last week being another example. I know that strategy works in the Alps too, where Extremely Canadian guides found some good snow at La Grave, where it had not snowed for a month before I got there.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Mar 23, 2017 10:16 am

Fine, but you and Liz ski dozens of days together every season so splitting up for a couple hours to pursue separate terrain choices makes sense. OTOH, my wife and I ski by ourselves only a small handful of days per season so why go on a big reconnaissance mission to search out winter snow when there was beautifully softened double-black terrain in the Montezuma Bowl and we could easily meet at the bottom of the lift?

Related: after reading my Colorado TRs, Fraser corrected my inaccurate perception that you need direct sun to accelerate the softening process. He brought up the counterintuitive "albedo effect" effect in spring snow -- trapping heat near the surface (sun or no sun) -- instead of bouncing it back into space, which happens earlier in the season.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby Marc_C » Thu Mar 23, 2017 3:09 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:Fine, but you and Liz ski dozens of days together every season so splitting up for a couple hours to pursue separate terrain choices makes sense. OTOH, my wife and I ski by ourselves only a small handful of days per season so why go on a big reconnaissance mission to search out winter snow when there was beautifully softened double-black terrain in the Montezuma Bowl and we could easily meet at the bottom of the lift?


Now James, that's crazy talk. You know that Tony is the absolute expert on when, where, what, and how you and everyone else should ski. It's just silly to disagree.
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Re: Ski Cooper, CO: 03/20/17

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:37 am

Marc_C wrote:Tony is the absolute expert on when, where, what, and how you and everyone else should ski.

Tony's armchair-quarterback comments are a bracing mixture of spot-on observations and suggestions mixed with WTF absurdities because he assumes that we all have the same objectives for a given ski day.
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