Ski Cooper, CO, Report: Hidden Gems of CO are Alive and Well

James Pulfer | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Untouched tree stashes abound at this hidden gem of a ski area. Photo Credit: James Pulfer

Trip report is from Ski Cooper, CO, on 3/12/2023

Losing an hour of sleep due to daylight savings hurt a little after a full day of riding spring powder. Although, 14″ of snow in 48 hours helped keep the stoke level high. We rose an extra hour early to head towards the “Heart of the Rockies.” It was lightly snowing as the storm lingered on in western CO. My only worry this morning was to make it through the notorious “Glenwood Canyon” between Glenwood Springs, CO, and Gypsum, CO. This stretch has been extra heinous this winter with all the snow we have received, closing countless times, a few times for multiple days! A closure here will add multiple hours to your trip, not to mention doubling your mileage! As my lovely Co-pilot tried to catch some shut-eye, we navigated the 16-mile canyon. Success!

Shred stick solo! Photo Credit: James Pulfer

Luckily, we arrived in one piece, with only one highway closure, in the opposite direction! We pulled in just before 10 am as the deepest powder had fallen the day before. The parking lot was nearly empty as the crew guided us to our upfront parking spot! I was putting on my boots when I noticed a local who had just pulled in had brought breakfast burritos for the parking crew! Very cool move, dude! I could tell we were already in for a fun day; the stoke was high! We finished getting ready and headed towards the ticket office. We showed our Powderhorn season passes with a complete lack of line and received a free RFID card with three free reciprocal comp passes! Completely painless! Let’s get after it and check the snow conditions!

My Co-pilot and I enjoying the day and the views. Photo Credit: James Pulfer

We rode up the frontside chair, noting excellent side pow equal to the whole storm total! Being the start of spring break in CO, we saw many out-of-state plates, mainly Texas and Kansas. That said, the mountain did not feel busy or crowded! We dropped into the Piney Creek basin with taller and steeper terrain. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the trees were untouched and side pow still lined every run! Every turn was between boot and knee-deep; what a treat! With a base area that sits more than 10,500ft above sea level, this was not average spring pow! This was mid-winter Blower Pow!!

Sack lunch with a view at 11,500ft above sea level! Back on the chair! Photo Credit: James Pulfer

We lapped many different runs, exploring our newfound hidden gem until we got hungry. We took a break at the Ridgeview Cafe near the top of the mountain, where they had some tables set out for guests to enjoy the pristine mountain views! Not only for paying customers, but they also allow folks to bring sack lunches! Score! While enjoying the view, I witnessed a restaurant employee wipe off a table and benches for a family that had just bought lunch! You won’t find that kind of service at the “big box” resorts. The lift operators were also next level, stoking everyone up as they swung chairs. Lift lines were non-existent on this weekend powder day; truly a hidden gem!

Gotta love a good T-bar! Photo Credit: James Pulfer

Once I finished my sandwich with a view, it was time to head for the backside of the mountain. This basin is accessed by a T-bar surface lift and has only been operating since the 2019-2020 season. All runs on this side are double black, and most are gladed terrain. I enjoyed the terrain selection in this area, but it seemed to have been skied out harder by locals seeking the steepest pitches. I then decided to head back to the front side, where I noticed loads of untracked lines from the lift. Pro Tip: Trees between green runs in beginner areas rarely get skied and hold powder for days after a storm! This turned out to be the rest of my day. I rode deep, untracked powder here until my legs were spent, and it was time for a local libation. I noticed many uphill travelers outside the ski area’s boundary throughout the day. They were riding a backcountry zone accessed by a passenger snowcat run by Ski Cooper. The Chicago Ridge Snowcat offers 2,600 skiable acres of untouched powder for you and your friends to enjoy!

Ski Cooper is rich with incredible ski history. Cooper hill was training grounds for the 10th mountain division, providing a five-month-long season to train soldiers in an alpine environment. Legendary Camp Hale is right around the corner, where the soldiers camped between training missions. When WWII ended, some soldiers formed the ski area for community enjoyment in 1942. 10th Mountain Division soldiers also started many other resorts in CO upon returning from WWII. All in all, Ski Cooper was absolutely what I would consider a hidden gem in every category! Highly Recommend it if laid back ample powder is your cup of tea.

Cooper Trail MapsTrail map of Ski Cooper, noting surrounding peaks of the Central Rocky Mountains. Photo Credit Ski Cooper

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