Sunday morning found the Mashugana loading up a Jeep and turning west for some ski therapy. Ski bums everywhere will be familiar with process. Everyone has their own unique routine that they follow time and time again in an almost religious fashion. Personally I am stringently OCD about my ski bag. My bag, containing everything I will want or need, is always loaded and ready to go. Including all my gear, plus spares, it also has several pairs of headphones, a flask, cigarettes, extra lighters, etc. As I never know when I’ll be headed to higher altitude on a whim the bag is essential for taking the thought and effort out of ski mornings. Next, its off to the corner store for some high protien snacks and the largest red bull I can get my hands on.
On this particular occasion I was heading to Copper, a resort that I have somehow in my 25 years in Colorado never skied. My companion for the day was a neighbor of mine. Always down for tom foolery I am confident he will be appearing in many more adventures. A former lifty at Copper he insisted on taking me to his former stomping grounds to show them off. About 10 minutes past Frisco, Copper is owned a separate resort company than Vail where I normally buy my passes. As we trucked up I-70 I had no idea that like an unexpected beautiful woman, Copper was about to steal my heart and run away with it.
Upon arriving we headed straight to a pro shop for a few gear adjustments. My neighbor seemed to know everyone and we made quick and inexpensive work of the things we needed. With our gear ready to rock and roll we walked across the street to Red Hots to meet a few other Copperites that we would be riding with. Red Hots sits directly at the bottom of the American Eagle Lift in Center Village. Serving almost exclusively mac n’ cheese, hot dogs and beer, Red Hots is brilliant, but I’ll get to that later. It was clear that the staff of both Copper and Red Hots all knew each other and operated as a sort of ski bum family, existing in a sort of endless winter, college life style, Neverland. My partner and I threw back a quick shot of Jager as the man at the cash register was relieved of his duties with a tap on the shoulder and a simple “go ride man”.
The three of us headed clipped in and headed up the lift. Riding towards the top I was witness to a quick and friendly argument of where we would be skiing/riding. Every suggestion and comment between the two Copperites was met by a “yea man, I’m down with that, or we could go to…, but I’m cool with anything, but this run is sick, or we could go here, but its up to you, or this, but its all good”. Extremely entertained, it was clear I was along for a ride and I was completely OK with that. Hopping off the lift we jumped another to the top. After disembarking we immediately dove into an epically steep mogul run. Beginning with my partner taking a head over heals tumble within the first 100 yards our first run set the tone for the day. By the time we got to the lift again we had skied bumps, trees and open terrain, all in one run.
Skiing with the liftys of Copper was like what I imagine playing golf with a masters level caddy would be like. The new every inch of their turf like it was the back of their hands. Dragging me around the mountain all day we skied/rode every type of terrain. I quickly realized I was seeing parts of Copper that while 100 percent open to the public, few people new of. In addition to this I had a sort of play by play breakdown of the mountain. Occasionally we would stop and I would be told of some hidden gem.
My favorite of these during the day was what I think was a frozen over creek bed complete with a waterfall that provided an excelent steep drop out of nowhere. Taking the T-Bar lift to the top of Alpine we traversed to skiier left and dropped down into some of the most fantastic tree skiing I’ve ever done. We made our way through soft powder and perfectly spaced trees, following lines that the lifties obviously knew well until we came across the creek. About 5-10 yards across the creek bed provided a narrow snow packed track that wound through the woods allowing us to pick up quite a bit of speed as we eventually went flying over the waterfall hovering a few inches over the snow as suddenly the pitch of the mountain increased exponentially for a few seconds.
With aching knees and an icy beard from my guided tour of Copper we stumbled back into Red Hots at the end of the day for a beer and a snack. A few cooks lingered behind the open line throwing together cheesy delicious mac n’ cheese. Sinful items stood out all over the menu such as buffalo chicken mac and philly cheese steak mac. Opting to go with the Buffalo chicken I was not disappointed. Rich and cheesy it was full of fried chicken, bacon and a distinct buffalo flavor.
Accompanied by a Ranger IPA it left me wondering how in 20 years of skiing I never realized that obviously this was the only choice for post skiing sustenance.
Copper provided a perfect day of skiing and an addictive new food group (Red Hot Mac n’ cheese). While both the skiing and the food were great they were made exponentially better by the distinct “vibe” that existed throughout the mountain, the restaurant and the community. A sort of combination between Skulls Secret Society and the Lost Boys of Peter Pan this community may have converted the Mashugana forever. They lived a carefree, never summer, life that made me want to sell everything but my skis, trade in my Audi for a Jeep and disappear forever into Copperland wehre I could spend the rest of my days frolicking through the woods with Peter and the boys.