, which first debuted as Cooper Hill in 1942, opened for the 2017-2018 season on December 9; it will celebrate its 75th birthday on New Year’s Eve. The publicly owned ski area has some of the most affordable lift tickets in the state. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, lift lines, man-made snow and mega-resort vibes, this is your spot.
Here are five things you need to know about Cooper and nearby Chicago Ridge this season:
1. Adult lift tickets purchased online range from $48 to $52 (slightly discounted from the window rate) depending on the day. Still too rich for your blood? Hold out for $30 Thursdays, January 4 through the end of the season, or 2Fer Tuesdays, January 9 through February 27, when you’ll get two adult tickets at the window for $54. That’s just about the best ski deal in Colorado, for a great little ski area near Leadville with a lot of fun beginner and intermediate slopes. The season-pass deal is pretty sweet, too: $399 buys an unlimited adult pass with three free days at each of 31 partner ski areas, including Crested Butte, Monarch, Powderhorn and Purgatory.
2. Once you’ve explored everything in-bounds, book a $369 backcountry tour with Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours, prowling 2,600 acres of open powder bowls and glades (roughly the size of Vail’s famed back bowls) in the San Isabel and White River national forests. Scenic sightseeing tours on the snowcat are also available for non-skiers. Book online at skicooper.com
3. A handful of hardy WWII veterans still show up for the annual 10th Mountain Day Ski Down, on March 2. Afterward, you can buy them pints at Katie O’Rourke’s Irish Pub, which has brews from the Dillon Dam Brewery.
4. For budget accommodations, try the Leadville Hostel, which has bunks in dormitory-style rooms for $23 per night, couples’ rooms with shared bath for $35 per person, and private rooms with private bathrooms starting at $60 per night.
5. Check out the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, overlooking the Sawatch mountains, for Nordic skiing adventures and fat-bike mountain biking (tennesseepass.com
). Lessons and gear rentals are available; rates start at $15 per day for adult trail passes, and season passes are available for $95. The winter season runs from Thanksgiving to April 17: Ski, snowshoe, or ride the fat bikes all day, then make the one-mile trek to wine and dine at the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse ($89 per guest for a four-course dinner), and book a night’s stay in the Sleep Yurts ($245 per night; yurts sleep up to six people). Reservations required for food and lodging; call 719-486-8114.