Located just a few miles from Leadville, Ski Cooper is a little different from other resorts in that it is small, family focused spot and mostly affordable, with just as much terrain for beginners as for other skiers. Although the mountain has been open for a handful of days already, it will open for good today.
You can read about every Colorado ski resort in the Edge, our winter sports guide, as we roll it out online. Each description lays out what's new, what the signature experience is, what to splurge on, how to go cheap and, of course, what to drink.
SKI COOPER/CHICAGO RIDGE
What’s new: “Cooper is different, in all the right ways,” says Ski Cooper spokesman Patrick Torsell. “No lift lines — unless you consider one to two minutes a line — no condos, no hard, man-made snow, no pretense; just Colorado’s softest snow, a laid-back family-friendly vibe, smiling faces, free parking, amazing lessons and clinics from our Ski & Ride School, après-ski fun in the Irish Pub, and all at absurdly affordable prices.” Ski Cooper spent the summer building a new race headquarters at the top of Piney, one of its steepest runs, and is making arrangements to keep a portion of the run open to the public even when it’s being used for races and race training. The ski area also renovated its base-area lodge and added handcrafted beetle-kill pine tables and benches.
Signature experience: “Cooper’s no-skis-required Scenic Sightseeing Tours take guests of all ages on an unforgettable snowcat ride up Chicago Ridge, where they enjoy some of Colorado’s most stunning views, venturing to well above 12,000 feet,” Torsell says. “See snowcapped fourteeners in all directions, and learn about the remarkable history of Cooper and the 10th Mountain Division ski troopers from WWII who cut the first trails here.”
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Splurge: “Spend all day in open bowls and incredible glades on untouched snow with Chicago Ridge Snowcat Skiing,” Torsell recommends. “Including your guides, there are only fourteen of you at most, with 2,600 acres to explore. For the math geeks, that’s just 0.005 people per acre, or about 185 acres per person! Depending on the ability of your group, you can expect to make eight to twelve runs. Stunning views, amazing terrain, warm and comfy transportation and a gourmet lunch create the perfect skiing or riding adventure.”
Ski bum tips: “$30 Thursdays are where it’s at,” Torsell says. “Starting January 7, get an all-day adult lift ticket for just $30 every Thursday, then cap the day with après-ski drink and appetizer specials and free live jams at Katie O’Rourke’s Irish Pub in our base lodge. And if you need a perfect ski-bum place to sleep, crash in Leadville Hostel’s dormitory for just $23 a night.”
Drink locally: Try Kerrigan’s Irish Stout, brewed exclusively for Katie O’Rourke’s Irish Pub by the Dillon Dam Brewery in nearby Dillon.