Copper Mountain Resort embraces uphill skiing with race series, daytime routes
Resort president says sport big part of ’Athletes Mountain’ brand
When Copper Mountain Resort President and General Manager Dustin Lyman saw the level of demand for uphill and backcountry skiing last March, he knew Copper needed to add an uphill race series to the resort’s lineup.
Since Lyman began leading the resort at the start of the 2018-19 winter season, the Boulder native and former National Football League player has leaned into the resort’s niche as “The Athlete’s Mountain.” Along with serving as the U.S. Alpine Ski Team’s official training site and as the elite training and competition venue — via Woodward Copper Mountain Park — for park and pipe sports, Lyman believes uphill is a part of Copper’s athlete-first brand.
“For all gravity sports, Copper’s already been the preferred training ground,” Lyman said. “… We are just continuing to expand on what really is already organically our brand.”
With Breckenridge Ski Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s entrenched uphill community and races, Copper “is a part of the whole puzzle,” as Lyman put it, in Summit County. That said, Lyman and the Copper team knew there could be opportunity to create some specific uphill routes and races for people during and outside of lift operating hours with Copper’s naturally divided terrain. Much like Woodward Mountain Park, Copper cultivated its uphill network with options ranging from entry level to expert.
“We are interested in growing the sport, and it’s more accessible if we’re able to provide a daytime route,” Lyman said.
Lyman is an avid uphiller himself who raced in the debut Copper Uphill Race Series sponsored by Mammut. Lyman and the resort wanted to take what often is a solitary sport and bring people together with the series, albeit this first year within COVID-19 safety measures.
The resort saw between 30 and 40 entrants for each of its three races, which culminated in the season-ending Copper Cup on Saturday, April 10. Lyman said the multiwave, mass-start race exemplified Copper’s place within the uphill community. The race traversed the resort’s terrain from the East Village base area a steep 3,000 feet all the way to the highest point on the mountain. There, at 12,400 feet — at the top of the Storm King lift — racers skied back down to the finish line at the base of the Sierra and Rendezvous lifts. The early morning races were complete with a stunning sunrise backdrop above tree line of the Tenmile and Gore Ranges.
The resort president finished in the middle of the pack at all three races as he highlighted several resort employees for their strong races, including ski patrol supervisor Shauna Bocksch. Bocksch, who won the first sport women race and was runner-up at the second race, played a part in helping the resort cultivate a true uphill race experience. Bocksch said the series’ second race, with a presunrise start out of West Village, encapsulated the uphill vibe complete with the sun peaking up from behind clouds high up on the course.
“And there’s a camaraderie at the top,” Bocksch said. “There’s a common bond from the sufferfest.”
Other top racers in this season’s series were Mark Koob, who won the season’s second race and was twice runner-up; Eric Broecker, who won the series’ first race; and Stephen Rosenman, who finished in the top four in all three races. It was Art Whitehead who won the Copper Cup in a time of 48 minutes and 57 seconds.
On the women’s side, Team Summit ski mountaineering head coach Jaime Brede won the Copper Cup in 1:03:17, as well as the first race of the season. Marisa Watsom was another standout with the overall women’s win in the second race of the season and runner-up to Brede at the Copper Cup.
Bocksch credited Lyman for pushing the envelope to expand uphill opportunities. After the resort hosted this series and operated four routes this season, Bocksch thinks the resort will add more events and set up a framework to further expand uphill programming safely next year.
“The feedback from all of our users is very positive, and there’s a lot of opportunities,” she said.
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