Copper Mountain Resort wants to expand snowmaking, trails and overnight camping options

Copper Mountain Resort wants to expand its snowmaking operations by more than 80 acres, while also expanding its summertime offerings with miles of new mountain biking, e-bike and hiking trails.

Copper is applying for the proposed project through the U.S. Forest Service. The White River National Forest, led by forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, is currently preparing an environmental assessment through the next month for Copper’s proposed project and is seeking comments and feedback from the public.

If Copper’s plan is approved, the resort anticipates commencing construction as early as this coming spring or summer.

“The snowmaking component of the project would ensure timely opening of the resort as well as adequate snow coverage on all trails where snowmaking infrastructure is installed,” Fitzwilliams said in a scoping notice announcing the proposed projects.

For the summer, Copper wants to build out its existing mountain biking trail network by approximately 23.6 miles, including a mile of e-mountain biking trails. The resort also wants to expand its existing hiking trail network by approximately 13.7 miles.

Copper’s proposed summer programming additions would also center around overnight camping at the resort as well as an extension of Copper’s existing “A-1” mountain access road by approximately 370 feet to provide access to a parcel known as “Olie Lind.”

New summer trails

Copper’s 23.6-mile expansion of its mountain biking trail network would require the construction of 45 distinct trail segments that would be integrated into the resort’s existing mountain biking trail network.

The proposed trails would include a variety of trail styles characterized as traditional, singletrack, optimized singletrack, gravity singletrack and double track. The new trails would also accommodate beginner through expert ability levels.

More specifically, the proposed trails would cater to gravity riders, enduro riders and e-bike riders.

Gravity riders (also known as downhill riders) use bikes equipped with long travel suspension that absorb the impact of extremely rough terrain and repeated jump landings. Gravity riders almost always use a shuttle or lift service to ascend to the top of their ride. Enduro riders use bikes equipped with travel suspension that allow for high performance on rough downhill terrain without compromising efficiency on the uphill.

E-bike riders generally use bikes that resemble those used by enduro riders, but with the addition of a battery and electric motor. According to the forest service’s scoping notice, designs for e-bike trails would adhere to different standards than those that would be applied for construction of gravity and enduro trails.

According to the scoping notice, 14 trail segments would be beginner optimized singletrack, nine would be intermediate optimized singletrack, one would be intermediate gravity singletrack, seven would be advanced optimized singletrack, six would be advanced gravity singletrack, one would be expert optimized singletrack, four would be expert gravity singletrack, one would be an e-mountain bike climb optimized singletrack, one would be an e-mountain bike climb double track and one would be an e-mountain bike climb traditional singletrack.

Approximately 6.3 miles of the resort’s existing mountain bike trails have been identified as requiring reconstruction, including those with excessive erosion, fall lines requiring rerouting and trails that have become overgrown from lack of use.

Within the 6.3 miles of trails identified as requiring reconstruction, approximately 3 miles of existing mountain biking trails would be reconstructed and repurposed as hiking trails. In addition, approximately 1.2 miles of existing mountain biking trails would be abandoned with vegetation and terrain being restored to their natural states.

Snowmaking expansions

The 86 acres of snowmaking expansion would all be on the frontside of Copper’s skiing and riding terrain and in six watersheds: Formidable Basin, Loverly Basin, Roundabout Basin, Union Gulch, West Tenmile Creek and Wheeler Creek.

To offset potential watershed impacts in lower Wheeler Creek and its tributary, McKenzie Gulch, Copper is proposing to implement an adaptive management plan with two components: the installation of an in-stream diversion structure in McKenzie Gulch — just above the confluence with Wheeler Gulch — and the application of restorative projects in the lower reaches of Wheeler Gulch.

The in-stream diversion structure would be designed to capture and reroute snowmelt runoff originating within Wheeler Gulch and Formidable Basin. It would be constructed on the right bank of McKenzie Gulch at an elevation of approximately 10,085 feet, just upstream of its confluence with Wheeler Gulch.

In terms of water rights, the proposal for expanded snowmaking would require the diversion of water in excess of the currently approved amount of 530 acre-feet per year. Copper currently uses this 530 acre-feet of water on its 329 acres of existing snowmaking coverage. As such, the resort is proposing to divert an additional 246 acre-feet of water from Copper’s decreed diversion structures on Tenmile Creek and West Tenmile Creek to provide new snowmaking coverage on 229 acres of trails — 143 acres previously approved for snowmaking coverage and the proposed new 86 acres.

New summer programming

Copper’s new summer overnight-camping programs would be based in an area that is near the bottom terminals of the resort’s Rendezvous and Sierra chairlifts. Copper anticipates the area could accommodate approximately 30-50 guests at a time, two to three nights per week.

Copper would also explore using wood platforms resembling large pallets to facilitate camp setup and to provide a flat surface for guests to sleep on. All non-natural features, with the exception of signage, would be temporary and could be promptly removed during the summer season and would be removed annually at the end of summer.

How to commenT

Comments on Copper’s proposed project will be accepted through Dec. 9. Written comments can be submitted by mail to: Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor c/o Sam Massman, project leader Dillon Ranger District, PO Box 620 Silverthorne, CO 80498. Comments can be dropped off in person to: Sam Massman, project leader, 680 Blue River Parkway Silverthorne. Electronic comments can be submitted at

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