Tow Rope at Cooper | Chicago Ridge – Scott Rappold
There are a lot of mountains in Colorado that draw accolades, but they tend to also draw crowds. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, explore a new area or perhaps even feel a bit more like a local, then Ski Cooper is a cool grassroots respite from the 1-70 corridor. And this time of year, why not try something new!
Yes, Ski Cooper is small and not as steep as some of its nearby neighbors, but it still has plenty to offer to put a smile on your face. For starters, a day ticket is just $62 and a half-day, which runs from noon to 4 pm is just $49. Yup, the smile is already starting to form. And the mountain doesn’t try to make up for dollars by getting you on the food. It’s equally reasonable with friendly local staff running the place.
While we’re on the topic of food, you have options here, too. My two favorite stops at Ski Cooper are the Nordic Center, which is just a short walk across the parking lot and the Ridgeview Café, which is in a yurt on the mountain at the top of the 10th Mountain Chairlift. Here, you’ll find a cozy atmosphere and basic fare, but the burgers are worth the stop. At night, the yurt transforms into a more intimate setting serving up a gourmet meal made from locally sourced ingredients paired with local wines. You can make a reservation online to take a snowcat from the main lodge up to the yurt for dinner.
As for the Nordic Center, I first discovered it because I was in search of a good cup of coffee—a latte to be exact. And I found it here, along with homemade quiche, burritos, sandwiches and super yummy cookies. Here, you’ll find mountain rustic that makes you feel like you could just as easily be in the Swiss Alps. And if by chance, you can’t totally cut the cord from work, you’ll find decent wifi here, too. But I’ll come back to this place in a second.
As for skiing, there are different approaches you can take to enjoying Ski Cooper. You can simply ski all day. The mountain is primarily fun long cruisers. The 10th Mountain Doublechair runs up the front side. It’s slow as double chairs tend to be, but riding it will help you relax and get into the mood of the place. The runs under this chair are good for beginners but still open and fun for experienced skiers too. You’ll find a bit more steepness in the runs on the west side of the mountain where the Piney Basin Triple Chair runs. And of course, the new Tennessee Creek Basin offers up more tree skiing down the backside of the mountain. You’ll want to hit this area on a powder day. But the mountain has roughly 60 runs, plenty to keep you busy.
But, if you’re looking to mix things up a bit more, then try Nordic skiing in the morning on the 27 kilometers of set track that runs behind the Nordic Center. You can rent classic or skate skis, snowshoes or even fat bikes here. And then once you’re done, catch that half-day ticket price deal and alpine ski in the afternoon.
Or another super fun option is to ski all day at Ski Cooper and then stay in one of the Tennessee Pass yurts at night. For this option, you can make reservations online. After making your turns, you’ll want to head over to the Nordic Center by 3 pm to check-in. From there, it’s just a 1.3-mile ski into the yurts. But don’t worry about being tired and lugging gear, they’ll snowmobile your gear up to the yurt for you. You can either make dinner and eat your meals in the yurt or even have your meals catered at the yurt. For something fancier, make a reservation at the Cookhouse. It’s just a .3 mile ski from the yurt and dinner here is definitely guaranteed to be memorable. Regardless, adding a night at the yurt into the mix is definitely your best get-out-of-town, get-away-from-the-crowds option! The next morning, it’s an easy ski out and you can start all over again. Or, if the yurt isn’t your thing, there are plenty of lodging and good food options in Leadville, just a 15-minute drive (10.3 miles) down Highway 24.