The origins of Ski Cooper go back to a military training ground for mountain troops during World War II. Located 10 miles north of Leadville, Colo., the 400-acre ski area is now known best as an affordable option for family vacations. With no slopeside lodging at Ski Cooper, visitors generally stay in Leadville or come down for the day from the corridor of resorts near Interstate 70.
Compared to the larger destination resorts, Ski Cooper features remarkably uncrowded slopes. Especially on weekdays, guests may often feel as if they rented out the entire mountain.
The vertical rise of 1,200 feet is primarily served by two chairlifts. The terrain tends to be forgiving with plenty of options for beginner and intermediate skiers. Making up 34 percent of the mountain, the black-diamond advanced trails can be challenging, but they are far from extreme.
More experienced skiers and boarders may want to try the Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours offered near the ski area. Operating on 2,640 acres of permitted land for groups of six to 12, the snowcat skiing costs $299 per person with included powder-ski rentals. The snowcat skiing does have an overnight lodging option with sleep yurts in the backcountry.
Ski Cooper's lift-ticket rates are among the least expensive in Colorado. For the 2013-14 ski season, the walk-up window rates are $47 for adults and $27 for children ages 6-14. Children 5 and under can ski for free. Advance online booking can lower the prices even more.
- For beginners: Novice skiers and boarders will find the green runs and many of the blue trails to be very manageable. Molly Mayfield on the frontside and Tenderfoot on the backside are a couple of the main beginner trails.
- For intermediates: At 1.4 miles, Trail's End on the frontside is Ski Cooper's longest run. Stronger intermediates may also be able to handle Ski Cooper's black-diamond trails.
- For experts: While the Chicago Ridge snowcat skiing can offer steep terrain, experts will not find any incredibly demanding runs within the ski area boundaries. However, some good tree-skiing on the backside and the laid-back vibe can keep advanced skiers and boarders happy.
Disclaimer: Lift tickets were provided during visit to Ski Cooper.