Earning Turns at Copper Mountain

Do you like earning your turns? Do you quietly whisper a “gotta get up to get down” mantra as you buckle your boots for the day? Or, perhaps you’re intrigued by an opportunity to experience the season in a new way?

Whether you’re a seasoned backcountry traveler or dedicated chairlift rider (wondering why anyone would choose to ski up a mountain), Copper Mountain’s Uphill Program is a great way to experience a challenging ascent and a fun descent in the frontcountry.

Gotta get up to get down…

While uphill travel at this Summit County resort has been around for some time, Copper Mountain has revamped their program and made some changes in the name of safety for the 2020/2021 winter season including pass options, routes, and parking. And, as a lover of the uphill grind, I was beyond excited to try out some of their routes!

This February, I had the opportunity to throw some skins on and explore a few of Copper’s Uphill Access routes with a guide and solo. Spoiler alert: it’s one helluva good time! Copper has something for everyone: trees, steeps, and a stellar apres vibe.

For my first tour, I tagged along with Trina, one of Copper’s wonderful ski school instructors and Uphill guides. We strapped our Uphill Access armband passes on and skinned up Route #4 in West Village, indulging in a mellow climb through the trees. Unfortunately, after being out of state for a few months this season, throwing myself into a high elevation tour (Copper Mountain’s base elevation sits around 9,700), I was sucking air. Thankfully, I was still having a great time, thanks to the Copper team being incredibly fun to tour with! Smiles were not in short supply. 

Skinning through the trees is one of my favorite ways to get up a hill, but I was also thankful for the several clearings we passed through to soak up some gorgeous views! I also appreciated the flagging marking the route through the trees. While blazes and flagging aren’t as common in the backcountry, I felt Copper’s route-finding flags could definitely help beginners learn to visualize the most efficient route. 

Copper’s Uphill program is fairly straight forward and their website outlines all the access logistics. Like a backcountry outing, several of the routes are accessible for pre-dawn starts. And, like many backcountry outings, the tour varies. When I asked Trina about the average time commitment and logistics of a guided and unguided uphill tour, she explained that skiers and riders of all abilities are taking on the Uphill Program. While some can get to the transition point in an hour, others might take 3 hours, depending on skill, ability and chosen route. But, while Uphill Access pass holders can lap the routes at their own pace, there are time constraints (Day Time routes and After Hours routes) on each route and guided trips have a mandatory turn around time (1:30 pm) – which is also a typical best practice in the backcountry for many reasons, including ensuring enough daylight for the trip.   

The skies were clear and the stoke was high at the transition point. We gained just over a thousand feet and fresh groomers were awaiting us. 

It was all down hill from there…

Want to try it for yourself? 

To explore Copper’s uphill opportunities, all skiers/riders need an “Uphill Access Season Pass”. While the cost is covered for Copper Mountain Season Pass and Ikon Pass holders, all others will need to pay $59 for the season. 

Starting this year, the resort also expanded their designated Uphill routes to provide visitors with a better skiing experience (i.e., easier skin up!) and, for safety reasons, they are limiting before and after-hours access, so check their regulations and route maps before venturing out. Also, if you’re new to the backcountry and uphill touring scene, Copper provides a full uphill rental package, including ski/splitboard, poles, skins, helmet and pack.

Additionally, they’re hosting some fun uphill events, like their Uphill Race Series. Similar to their mountain biking race format they host in the summer months, the resort will have challenges for guests to “virtually” compete against each other (via Strava) on specific uphill routes on certain days to earn prizes.

So, whether you’re just starting out, looking for a new experience or just steering clear of any unstable snowpack/uncertain backcountry conditions, consider checking out Copper Mountain’s Uphill experience this season!

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