Both Cummings and Todd Casey, an alpine and telemark instructor and longtime local at Copper, love the resort's Woodward Center. "It's an indoor training facility for freestyle," explains Casey. There are foam pits, trampolines and a skate bowl, all of which allow you to "learn all the tricks you've maybe wanted to do on snow, but you didn't want to land on your head," says Cummings. "Instead, you land in the foam, which makes it safer and less stressful. That's where I've been a lot, early season, training. And I'll probably be in there after skiing some days."
"Copper is a good resort for families in the respect that it's easy to navigate," Casey says. "It's not spread out as laterally as some of the other resorts in the area." He mentions the complimentary snowcat skiing at the bottom of Copper Bowl, which gives access to Tucker Mountain and all the steeper terrain that area offers. "It takes you about halfway up to the hiking-only terrain. It saves you quite a bit of time hiking, it's a neat place, and it's really great skiing because there's no lift access."
Casey also recommends the Rendezvous lift for beginner-level skiers (but not first-timers), because "it allows beginner skiers to get all the way to the top of the mountain and see the view." Copper offers ski-school programs that provide bus transportation from Denver, too, and "because of the elevation and a large portion of the resort facing to the north, we don't get that spring melt as much as other resorts. The skiing is good at Copper right till the end."
General Information: www.coppercolorado.com; 1-800-458-8386.
Location: 75 miles west of Denver via I-70, exit 195.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends.
Snow Report: 1-800-789-7609.
Lift Rates: TBA.
Terrain: 2,450 skiable acres with 126 trails; 21 percent beginner, 25 percent intermediate, 36 percent advanced, 18 percent expert. The base is 9,712', with a 2,601' vertical drop; summit: 12,313'.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Clif Dimon is both a skier and a rider; he won the North Face Masters snowboarding competition last year, and he's been hitting the slopes at Crested Butte for the past twenty years. "If you're starting to get a little bored with your skiing, doing the same runs and feeling like you're not really testing yourself anymore, then you should definitely get over here for a long weekend, especially on a powder day, and see what can be done on skis as far as lift service goes — not having to hike up into the backcountry," he recommends.
"Crested Butte has a ton of big-mountain snowboarding," Dimon adds. "Experienced skiers and riders can come here and really push themselves. It's got hard stuff that you can do that's lift-served to any level. Anyone, no matter how good they think they are, can come here and ski something that they'll find very difficult. That's one of the qualities that I think kind of separates it from the pack.
"That, and the craziness of the local populace," he adds. "It's kind of a quirky little town."
Dimon recommends the Headwall, Spellbound and Phoenix terrain. "One lap on those three runs, and you could be good for the day," he says. He also recommends Butte 66, the Avalanche and the Brown Labrador Pub. "Those three are kind of your focal points. In the spring, you'll have snowball fights between the bars."
New this year is a base-area Adventure Park with year-round ice skating, bungee trampolines and a climbing wall, a lift-served tubing hill (lit for nighttime tubing) and a new beginner learning area.
Nearby, there's the Crested Butte Nordic Center, which provides 35 kilometers of groomed trails for traditional and skate skiing, an ice rink, snowshoeing and a sledding hill, plus rentals, lessons and guided backcountry tours into the Gunnison National Forest. Call 970-349-1707 or visit www.cbnordic.org for Nordic Center information.
General Information: www.skicb.com; 1-800-810-SNOW.
Location: 231 miles southwest of Denver via U.S. Hwy. 285, U.S. Hwy. 50 and Colo. Hwy. 135.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Snow Report: 1-888-442-8883.
Lift Rates: Adult day pass: $59 through December 16, $63 December 17-April 4.
Terrain: 1,167 skiable acres with 121 trails; 23 percent beginner, 57 percent intermediate, 20 percent advanced. Base is 9,375' with a 2,775' vertical rise; summit: 12,162'.
Durango Mountain Resort