How it started
In May 2020, Copper Mountain opened its slopes to spring and early summer training because of the pandemic. At the time, they knew programs were desperately looking for training locations and generously decided to help fill the void. Copper’s opening was a welcome relief to many teams. While many traditional training venues were unavailable to US citizens because of international travel restrictions, other domestic options did not open due to the pandemic. Copper had not planned for spring training, so with very little preplanning, they scrambled to keep access roads skiable and fences upright. All while complying with COVID regulations. However, POWDR Corp had saved the day for the US Ski Team and Colorado ski clubs by providing access to quality training. All they hoped for was to break even economically.
It doesn’t happen magically.
As with all training on Copper Mountain, the brunt of the on-hill operations fell onto the shoulders of Frank Kelble. Kelble’s mountain operation team pulled off a miracle that first year and made a former dream a reality. Ever since that first spring, Copper has only made perfect better.
Following that first year, the mountain operations team begins doing a significant amount of their preparation work for the May/June camps in the fall. And the fall efforts include making large amounts of snow during October and November in places explicitly selected to benefit the access to and the quality of spring training slopes.
The training venue has ten ample training lanes and two daily training sessions on three distinct trails. The Exelerator chairlift that serves the training is a high-speed quad that takes only 3 minutes and 20 seconds from the bottom to the top.
The three slopes in the spring and summer offer mild terrain with great snow and perfect grooming, an ideal place to start a preparation period.
Usually, the older kids ski when the snow is harder in the early session from 6:00-8:45 am. Then the younger athletes arrive at the top at 8:45 and take over the lanes until they download to the bottom at 11:15.
It requires nature, however, to make this exceptional training possible. In Copper, the top of the training lift is 11,900 feet above sea level and services 846 vertical feet of skiing.
The quality of Copper training is attractive to absolutely every level of alpine ski racing. And with the stable weather that comes to the Colorado Rockies in the middle of May, the slopes usually experience a nightly freeze. Because of that, the early lanes rarely require salting. It is safe to say the training is as good as possible.
This spring, the Copper Mountain Resort offered training from May 11th through June 16th. As with all summer skiing, the end date is weather-dependent, but quality training has been available every year until the last day of the season. Copper mountain operations have learned a lot over the first three years. They know what it takes to be as good as it gets.
Who is taking advantage
Copper offers a unique opportunity for Colorado teams to train at a fantastic venue close to home. It can also provide quality and convenience for those visiting from out of state. It is undoubtedly a high-value training location and with accommodation demand at seasonal lows.
I attended the sessions on Saturday, June 4th, to speak to the customers. That day, ten programs were training. The home program Team Summit included all ages in many groups involved in both sessions. And Stiegler camps had a mix of a World Cup skier through U16s. The Park City Ski Team looked like their FIS program was skiing well and enjoying being only six hours from home. Also, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s U16 women had driven over the pass and were training next to the US Ski Team. Holderness School was training on all the lanes on the Ptarmigan slope with two parallel GS courses. The school had a large group, including current athletes and alumni who are currently competing with collegiate programs.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club had a group that included U14s through PG athletes, all taking advantage of the excellent conditions on multiple skill acquisition courses.
Quotes from the athletes
Although None of the athletes had much time to talk between their runs, a few graciously offered their thoughts.
Aaron, a hometown Team Summit U14 athlete, skied up with the FIS group that morning. He says, “Having amazing training with excellent conditions on my home hill – what could be better? We are so lucky.”
Owen Pethic, a high school junior with the Holderness school, told me, “Being here with all my friends is the best. And the snow and the training here at Copper are next-level. And I love everything about ski racing, especially the rush of adrenaline I get at the start of the course.”
Samantha U16 is from Palisades Tahoe, California, trained in Copper with the Stiegler camps. She remarks, “Copper is perfect. It has excellent snow and incredible terrain to develop skills.”
Katie of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail told SRM, “I am close to home, and we have fantastic daily conditions. And I get to ski next to Mikaela.”
Lauren, a U14, tells us, “The June camp is excellent. The snow is perfect, and I love skiing every day with friends.”
Lily of Team Summit said, “We get to train when school is out, and I get to be with my friends who always encourage me.”
Natalie, a teammate of Lauren and Lily, says, “I love skiing with friends, working on my skiing in the summer, and being with the coaches.”
Copper is excited to host high-quality spring and early summer training. And During the spring and early summer, Copper’s quality can compete with anywhere in the world. But Although they are doing it very well, they are constantly learning how to do it better. Thankfully, With the number of domestic quality off-season training opportunities becoming more limited, it is great to have another high-quality option.