As Copper, Breckenridge ski resorts open, skiers and riders look for repeat of last season

A skier rides Duke's Run on opening day at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Friday, Nov. 8.
Liz Copan /

FRISCO — Fresh off a 2018-19 season that provided plenty of powder, opening day skiers and snowboarders at Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain Resort on Friday all craved the same thing.

“I want a repeat season of last year at Breckenridge because it was awesome,” Breck local Jason Pressler said. “We haven’t had a double-dip, back-to-back, awesome snow seasons in a long time.”

Riding high on a thrilling Oakland Raiders victory Thursday night, Raiders fan Pressler sported his finest black and silver Howie Long Raiders jersey at Breckenridge on Friday. On a scale of zero to 10, Pressler graded Friday’s opening conditions a “9.0.”

Much like legendary Raiders owner Al Davis’ simple phrase, “Just win, baby,” most every skier and snowboarder at Breckenridge and Copper on Friday exuded a similar saying: “Just snow, baby.”

On Friday, despite recent warming conditions, Breckenridge opened nearly 200 acres of skiable terrain out of its recently renovated Peak 8 base area. On the other side of Tenmile Canyon, Copper opened 90 acres of top-to-bottom terrain, including a Woodward Copper pop-up terrain park.

After Keystone Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Loveland Ski Area opened during last month’s record-breaking October snowfall, Copper and Breckenridge’s openings rounded out the celebratory first-chair festivities in Summit County.

At Copper, the resort’s new terrain-park zones and Three Bears lift on Tucker Mountain had skier after skier excited for the new season. With the new Red’s Backyard hike-to-jib terrain park zone (inspired by Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard, of Summit County) and the new Woodward Peace Park (inspired by snowboarding icon Danny Davis) the resort and Woodward Copper are progressing their terrain parks even further this winter.

The new terrain park zones, scheduled to open in late December, are part of Copper’s new Woodward Mountain Park concept. Woodward Mountain Park, which has zones littered throughout Copper’s front side, draws Woodward Copper even closer to the heartbeat of Copper’s overall skiing and riding ethos.

“It’s so sick,” Ben Kottcamp, of Glenwood Springs, said. “I’m so excited to ride it.”

“We just want to get in as skiers,” Kottcamp’s friend Chris Abel said with a laugh.

The Three Bears lift on Tucker is the other new addition to Copper that opening-day folk buzzed about Friday. Copper Mountain spokeswoman Taylor Prather said the new lift, which will rise more than 1,100 feet from the base of Copper Bowl and up to 12,337 feet, is completed. With the cable spliced, the resort is just waiting on Mother Nature to cooperate in order to open lift-serviced skiing to the double-black diamond, expert glade and chute skiing.

When Mother Nature does cooperate — and when Three Bears, Red’s Backyard and Peace Park open — Copper is ready for the resort’s next era.

“This is another year of transformation for Copper,” Prather said. “We’re putting $100 million into the resort. I’m most excited for Three Bears at Tucker Mountain. That’s a huge transformation that is two decades in the making, so we’re really excited to bring that to life this winter. The people that have skied back there off the (snow)cat or have hiked back there really know that it’s something very special for Colorado.”

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Steve Warner, of Dillon, knows all too well how good the skiing is on Tucker.

“It’s a blast, but don’t go there,” Warner said sarcastically. “Nobody should go there.”

For those opening day skiers and snowboarders not specifically stoked on Copper’s new lift and parks, the simple pleasures of opening day sufficed.

“The most exciting thing is getting to the top and seeing the view again,” Terry Rauschenberder, of Silverthorne, said. “Really, it’s so gorgeous up there.”

Back at Breck, Summit County local James Warren skied his own personal gorgeous view. Living up in Illinois Gulch, Warren’s balcony looks out over Breckenridge Ski Resort. Wearing a poncho and a sombrero with constellations drawn artistically on the attire, Warren’s fiesta theme made the most of Friday’s warm temperatures.

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Despite the sun, Warren’s seven runs on the opening day snow — which soon turned to spring-like conditions — made the sombrero-ed skier smile. Soon enough, he said, he’ll be skiing off the highest lift in North America, the Imperial Express SuperChair near the summit of Breckenridge’s Peak 8, into blissful high-Alpine terrain. Last season, an extended winter took Breck’s season into June, when skiers like Warren were able to ride Imperial until the resort’s latest-ever closing day, June 9.

The resort again plans to keep lifts spinning to Memorial Day weekend 2020, weather and conditions permitting. For now, Friday’s conditions were all an early-season skier like Warren could hope for.

“You can’t complain. It’s bluebird, man,” Warren said. “It’s nice up there. A little windy up top, but that’s Breck.”

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