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Friday February 24, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The PlanetSKI road trip moves on in Colorado from Vail and Aspen to Copper. This road trip is getting better and better on our second visit to Colorado. NEW & UPDATED

Sunday 26th February - Day 20


I have driven past Copper Mountain in Colorado too many times over the years to remember.

It sits right next to the I-70 highway that serves all the resorts you could care to mention in this part of Colorado - Winter Park, Arapahoe Basin, Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Keystone and many more.

But I have never visited so it seemed a good idea to pull over on my way from Aspen to Salt Lake City via Denver.

If only just for a day.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















"We have something for everyone here in Copper and with so many other ski resorts around we are one of the best. It is a skiers' resort and we focus on the skiing," said Stephanie Sweenie from the resort tourist office.

She had offered to show me round the resort for a couple of hours to help me get my bearings.

My in-built bullshit detector twitched.

And then she uttered the A-word as she enthused about the resort.


My detector twitched into the red zone.

As a travelling ski hack I tend to get shown round resorts and have to endure a load of spin and PR puff.

The worst of all shall remain nameless (Pete).

And so too shall the resort (Deer Valley).

He took myself and my colleague, Alf Alderson, round the resort a few years ago.

After two runs he started doing ski ballet - now if he wants to put one leg around the other, and ski backwards and pirouette all over the place that is his business.

But I object to being fed a load of nonsense.

"We have the best skiing in the world and our resort is bigger than the resorts you get in Europe plus we have the greatest snow on earth, It's awesome here," he said.

I politely enquired if he had been to the Alps.

"No Sir," he responded.

I felt like telling him a good skier would find it hard to ski from one end of say Paradiski, Les3Vallees, the Arlberg, the Portes du Soleil (to name just a few) and back in a day.

In Deer Valley one could do the whole resort in a morning stopping for a long hot chocolate and be sitting down to an early lunch.

It would take a little more time I guess if one did it in ski ballet style

I didn't tell him this though.

I told him I had to film a video and skied off.

I wondered if I was going to hear more of the same nonsense from Stephanie.

It turned out I could not have been further from the truth.

Copper is, er, a gem.

Stephanie left me trailing in her wake (or should that be spray) as we tore round the resort.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















So, did it have something for everyone?

Steeps. Tick.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















Moguls. Tick.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















Terrains parks. Tick

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















Groomers. Tick.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado














And what is brilliant is that the easy slopes are on the right of the resort and as you progress over it gets more difficult.

On the extreme left are some proper black runs.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado















Spaulding bowl is a must.

As is Tucker Mountain.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















Where there is even a bit of cat skiing

Cat skiing, CopperCat skiing, Copper
















Well more like a cat takes you to some skiing:

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado


















And check out this video from the area:

Now Copper is also one of the world's leading resorts for freestyle skiing.

Its half pipe is usually the first one in the USA to open.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado

















It has 5 terrain parks and that is not including the half-pipe.

And this:

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















Woodward Barn is where US and international athletes come to train in the foam pits.

It is open to mere mortals too.

"Many locals come here and it is also a great training tool for skiing as people learn balance and co-ordination as well as tricks," said Stephanie.

It is a place of fun.

Check out our time-lapse video here ;-)

The village itself is purpose built and quiet - if you are after nightlife head to nearby Breckenridge. 

But I wasn't - I wanted to ski and sleep.

It boasts heated pavements.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















And an outside communal fire which is a great place to sit and chat to the locals.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















Like Breckenridge is it high here, 2,955m, and visitors can suffer.

The local stores offer a temporary solution.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















I had been very pleasantly surprised and next time I drive along the I-70 I will smile with fond memories.

Copper, ColoradoCopper, Colorado
















So what did I think of the resort overall?

It has something for everyone and with so many other ski resorts around it is one of the best. It is a skiers' resort and it focuses on the skiing.

Next stop - Jackson Hole in Wyoming.

Saturday 25th February - Day 19


It was undoubtedly the hardest day's skiing of my road trip so far.

And one of the best (along with Park City, Alta, Snowbird, Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Norquay and Vail).

The Highland bowl in Aspen is one of those runs that advanced skiers and snowboarders want to tick off their list.

There are maybe around half a dozen signature runs in North America - Delirium Dive at Sunshine Village in Canada and Corbett's couloir in Jackson Hole are among them.

I have skied the former but not the latter and I'm hoping to put Corbett's couloir on the list as I visit Jackson Hole later this week on my month long 20-resort ski road trip.

There is a run under the main lift in Big Sky that the ex-Olympic skier, Martin Bell, told me about as I skied with him earlier in the week in Vail - see lower down this blog for a report on that day.

I'm hoping to be in Big Sky after Jackson Hole so maybe that will be ticked off the list too.

Today though it is all about Highland bowl in Aspen and the hike to get there.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















From the top of the Loge Peak lift it is a further hiking vertical ascent of 250m and all at over 3,500m in altitude so the air is thin.

Especially for someone like me who lives at sea-level in London (not that I have been there much since October).

It is skis on back-pack and gentle plodding.

I started off slowly.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















And then got slower.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















In these matters I am the tortoise not the hare and had to step aside many times to let the faster people pass.

For me the trick is to get into a gentle rhythm and breathe in syncronisation with my footfall.

But I always make it and one hour later I was at the summit.

Time for a sit down.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















And to leave a momento of PlanetSKI's presence.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado















But my achievement was pathetic in comparison to some of the others on the peak.

This man had a prosthetic leg.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















Others on the summit were taking part in the Power of Four ski touring race.

This was just one of four peaks they were tackling that day.

It is one of the toughest ski mountaineering/touring races in North America and it happened to be taking place when I was in resort.

90 teams of two set off at 6AM and walk up and then ski down Snowmass, Buttermilk, Highland and Aspen peaks.

The best finish shortly after 10AM and the final pairs come in as the afternoon draws to a close.

I had seen them earlier in the day before the lifts opened and I was having my breakfast at the bottom of the resort.

Power of Four coming throughPower of Four coming through
















And from the lift as I took the easy way up to the start of the hike to the top of Highland bowl.

Going upGoing up
















But back to the top of the Highland bowl.

The reason to go up is to come down.

Now I have to be honest here... I didn't want to get my video camera out.

Or even my Canon G15 that takes photos.

I wanted to ski powder and enjoy the ride down.

There was a quick pose half-way down as I paused for breath.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















And another taken by my ski buddy, Jim Ordoire, just before we went into the trees.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















But mainly we just skied the powder.

We found some knee deep snow to the side and floated down in the lightest snow on the huge north facing bowl.

It really doesn't come much better and I could feel myself falling utterly in love with Aspen.

48-hours is not enough!

Lunch was a quick bowl of soup and then Aspen Mountain itself.


It is hosting the Alpine Skiing World Cup next month so skiing the course seemed a reasonable idea.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado














It starts off flat and you wonder how on earth they can get any speed up and then it drops away sharply.

And very steeply.

Coming soonComing soon
















The end itself seems to be right in town.

Finish area under constructionFinish area under construction

















Now no report on Aspen is complete without a mention of its Shrines.

There are more than 100 dotted about in the trees.

The Aspen/Snowmass Shrines are homemade covert memorials made by anonymous locals, and hidden in the trees off of the various ski runs of one of the four mountains.

There are shrines to Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, John Denver, 9/11, The Yankee Stadium and even Snoopy.

Two are right next to each other:

In the treesIn the trees
















Elvis lives!Elvis lives!
















And so it appears does Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn MonroeMarilyn Monroe
















For more details on the Shrines then see here.

Next stop is the ski resort of Copper in Colorado which is just a few hours away along the I-70 highway.

It's a resort I have never been to and know absolutely nothing about.

I wonder what it's like?

The I-70, ColoradoThe I-70, Colorado
















Friday 24th February - Day 18


Meet my new best friend.

Step forward the utterly wonderful Nina Gabianelli.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















She is from the Aspen Historical Society and has been enlightening me on Aspen's past.

She showed me round the town in undoubtedly the best vehicle so far of this road trip of mine.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















An electric car with a top speed on 15 mph - much of the ride was spent with her foot flat on the floor.

Her speed of delivery was just as quick.

She unveiled the fascinating history of Aspen in the most interesting manner possible.

Quite simply she brought history to life with her passion and knowledge and I urge anyone who comes to ski in Aspen to hitch a lift with her in the electric buggy.

One of the things that makes Aspen special is its history.

Aspen's prosperity back in the 19th century was based on silver.

At the height of its boom from 1879 - 1896 it produced one sixth of the silver in the USA and one sixteenth of the production of the whole world.

One man who made his fortune was JD Hooper.

He built this house.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















In one 60-day period in 1881 his company mined $600,000 of silver in 60 days - that amounts to £30m in today's money.

And it wasn't just silver.

There was gold, tin, copper and coal.

The houses in this part of town, where JD Hooper built his home remain as they were and do not come cheap.

This one is just an average one, but is worth around $15m.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















And this one was my favorite as Nina chugged round in her electric chariot.

The architecture of AspenThe architecture of Aspen
















Suddely a white car shot across the road in front of us at an intersection.

"Hey there was a Stop sign there and you just shot across in front of me. C'mon Lady! Now where was I......?"

And without a break in her history lesson she told me how 30% of the houses in this part of town are empty much of the time - they are second or third homes for people.

In town there is Prada, Ralph Lauren and a range of upmarket shops - the Gucci shop sits opposite the Aspen Thrift shop.

Colorado was the 38th state of the USA and joined the Union in 1876.

A flag with 38 stars is on display in the historic Jerome Hotel that was built in 1889.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















It was taken over in 1939 by Mansor Ekisia, a Syrian immigrant, and provided lodging for the developing ski industy that started a few years earlier.

The first lift, a single chair, started running in January 1947 and one of its pylons remains.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















It was a 45 minute ride up the hill and at the time was the fastest, longest and highest lift in the world.

It cost 50c to ride.

During World War Two the 10th Mountain Division trained here and after the war ended skiing developed.

Army pioneersArmy pioneers
















The Jerome Hotel is steeped in history.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















It is classic 19th century US architecture and inside the native Americans are remembered.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















They were forced off the land and put into reservations once silver was found.

Nina was a fascinating tour guide and like many she came to Aspen from elsewhere

She was originally from New York.

"It's madder here with a huge collection of oddballs just doing their own thing and living their lives as they want to ."

And with that I went outside of the Jerome Hotel to write this blog on a bench in the snow with one of the locals.

I was beginning to like Aspen.

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















And meet another one of my new best friends in Aspen who I'd met earlier in the day.

Jacqui and Yours TrulyJacqui and Yours Truly
















"You are a risk taker, who likes to go fast and are a good communicator," said my ski guide for the day, Jacqui Forster.

She judged me within the first few moments of meeting me.

Not from anything I said but from what I was wearing and my choice of colours.

"I can tell this because you don't wear a helmet, you have red GS racing skis and a bright blue jacket with a dash of orange," she told me in the gondola as we went up.

"You have got two out of three right," I said.

I am not a risk taker.

Well, only calculated ones.

Jacqui practices Aurasoma.


This is a person who believes colours are what makes us as humans and our choice of colours defines who we are and indicates character.

"I'm just wearing a blue jacket because some nice person at Atomic gave it to me. Last year I had a green one," I protested.

"Are yes but green is close to blue and even though you didn't choose to buy it you chose to wear it and that reflects you character."

"Believe me I'll wear anything if it is free and it's pretty obvious I like to ski fast as I have Atomic Redster racing skis," I said.

She was having none of it.

"They are bright red and that tells me you like speed on the slopes," my new Aurasoma specialist advised me.

I wasn't convinced but boy did we have a laugh together as I took the p**s out of her colour stuff and she gave back as good as she got.

In fact she probably gave back better.

Look at the photo above and you will see that she has the skill of holding her skis (pink) without touching them.

Now that is a skill.

We had a fabulous time skiing together and laughing.

We laughed a lot.

I was, though, unconvinced by her colour stuff (as I preferred to call it ).

Stuff and nonsenseStuff and nonsense

















Now Aspen is known for its arts and music scene and the night of my arrival the Stringdusters were playing at the Belly Up club.

They are a Blue Grass band and doing rather well at the moment.

My friend Jim Odoire who I was skiing with seemed very excited about the prospect (more about him in tomorrow's blog).

I can't say I'm familar with the Stringdusters or even Blue Grass music.

But I have a default position of saying 'yes' to pretty much everything.

It has got me into a bit of trouble every now and again, but generally is an excellent default position to have (perhaps it is to do with my love of red, blue and orange?).

It was a fabulous night of music.

The Stringdusters, AspenThe Stringdusters, Aspen
















To my untrained ear it is hip-hop, blues, country and even jazz all rolled into one.

Boring in places but soaring in others.

See here for one of their songs - it's 12-minutes long but bear with it as it's well worth it.

We tumbled out of the Belly Up Club the wrong side of midnight with a few too many beers consummed.

"So what?' I hear you say.

Well I would say that too except tomorrow is set to be rather a large ski day and it's starting at 07.30.

We are hiking up to Highland Bowl at 3,777m in the morning - it is one of the highest powder bowls in the USA, arguably the steepest and certainly the longest.

In the afternoon we are skiing a World Cup Downhill course at speed.

Aspen is holding the Alpine Skiing World Cup next month and a little preview ski on the course itself seems like a good idea to me.

And there is the small matter of searching for shrines to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley in the trees of Aspen.


Night, night all.

For full details of Aspen then see its web site here -

James was staying at The Limelight hotel. A boutique hotel right in the centre of town and nearby the main slopes - see here for further details.

And don't forget to check out the Aspen Historical Society

Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado















Aspen, ColoradoAspen, Colorado
















Thursday 23rd February - Day 17.

Sometimes Facebook is a wonderful invention.

My plan was to drive from Denver in Colorado to Aspen for 4-hours along the i-70 freeway after flying down the 1,250 miles from Calgary in Canada after visiting my son.

See here for the blog on my 5-days in Canada.

The i-70 passes many of the major resorts in Colorado: Winter Park, Copper, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Vail.

Vail is home to my very good friend Pat Barrett and he owes me a pair of ski gloves (long story).

"Hey James stop by and I'll get you those gloves and we can maybe go for a ski too," he messaged me on Facebook as he saw I was passing by.

With heavy snow forecast it seemed a good place to stop overnight and break the journey.

And anyway I like doing things on the spur of the moment.

Living in the present is where I am happiest.

Pat, and his faithful dog Jackson, gave me their usual warm welcome as yet more snow fell.

Pat and JacksonPat and Jackson
















As I arrived in Vail it seemed the snow was following me around North America. Smile

The former British ski racer, Martin Bell, is also based in Vail and we'd bene trying to hoo up for a ski for a while.

We'd missed each other a couple of weeks ago on my road trip - he was in Loveland in Colorado as his daughter Reece was racing (more about Reece later) and I was in nearby Arapahoe Basin but neither of us could get to the other.

"I have been following your blog round North America and it's been a great read," he said to me.

"Well you're going to be in the next one," I answered.

We have met each other a few times and don't know each other that well, but had become Facebook friends and promised each other a ski together one day.

He also happened to be a bit of a hero of mine.

He is GB's most successful male Olympic skier with an 8th place in the Downhill at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games.

He raced on the World Cup circuit from 1981 to 1995 and competed at 4 Winter Olympics.

Some say he is the best male skier Great Britain has ever produced.

It seemed fate and Facebook was intervening.

Pat used to be the international marketing director for Vail Resorts a few years back and we'd become firm friends. 

He is a good telemark skier and great company.

And there is, er, nothing like being shown around a resort by a local.

"With all this fresh snow we should go to Headwall by the sunrise lift and we should get some good stuff," said Pat.

I can safely say it was the worst snow I have skied all season.

'Dust on a crust' is the normal phrase to use.

I can handle a bit of dust on a light crust.

But this was ankle deep powder spread over big icy moguls.

It was sh*te.

"Sorry about that, guess I got that a bit wrong, but hey it can only get better," he laughed as I moaned and grumbled about his dreadful choice of route.

Friends re-unitedFriends re-united
















And better it got. 

We skied powder in the trees, fresh snow on the groomers and pretty much everything else Vail could throw at us.

Pat in the powderPat in the powder

















And then Martin joined us.

Martin BellMartin Bell
















He now works as a race coach for the Vail Ski and Snowboard Club - his 15-year old daughter Reece is following in his footsteps (or should that be ski tracks?) and is heading for a career as a racer.

She came second in the aforementioned slalom race at Loveland and first in a recent GS in Eldora.

"She is doing well and when she turns 16 she will have to chose a nation to race for. With dual nationality she could race for the US but she wants to race for GB and to follow what I and my brother Graham did," said Martin.

"She is determined, talented and could do well."

Reece Bell - the next gerationReece Bell - the next generation (Mike Coil Photography)














Reece Bell - on the podiumReece Bell - on the podium




















Martin also thinks British ski racing is on the up with the current success of the slalom skier, Dave Ryding.

"It was stunning to see him standing there with a one second lead over Marcel Hirscher and it was a dream come true for a British ski racer." 

See here for PlanetSKI's report on his 2nd place at Kitzbuehel.

"I actually coached him when he was 15-years old, the same age as my daughter Reece, and he had quick feet then."

Reece Bell is certainly a name to look out for.

She is sponsored by Atomic and POC and is a bright prospect.

And with that I followed Martin down the slopes as he made even a steepish run look easy.

And the steep icy moguls.

Now I have skied with a few famous people over the years and some exceptional skiers but Martin was one of the best people to spend time with on the slopes - charming, considerate and courteous.

And a very, very good skier.

Into the steepsInto the steeps















Into the powderInto the powder
















Some say you should never meet your heroes as they will always disappoint - after today's experience I beg to differ.

And with that there was only one thing the three of us could do - après in the Red Lion.

What a fabulous day!What a fabulous, fabulous day!














Oh, and just in case you are wondering I never did get those gloves off Pat (even longer story now).

It was either go shopping or have another beer in the Red Lion.

Now that was an easy decision to make and it means I will have to return.

Next stop Aspen:  2-hours west down the i-70. 

I have never skied there and to say I'm looking forward to it is an understatement.

You'll be the first to know what I make of it and what random experiences, hopefully, happen.

Bring it on!

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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