Distinctive trio

Copper, A-Basin, Breck offer different options for skiers

Julie Norman stands at the top of the Sierra lift at Copper Mountain Resort, one of three good ski resorts over Vail Pass. Copper is a great place for skiers, with plenty of naturally divided terrain. Arapahoe Basin is bigger than it seems and Breckenridge’s huge acreage offers plenty of options.

My boyfriend and I are lucky enough to have friends near Breckenridge, and some winters we journey over Vail Pass to ski with them when we need a change of pace.

A few years ago we went for a long weekend that allowed us to hit three great ski resorts in three days: Copper Mountain; Arapahoe Basin; and Breckenridge.

Three resorts in three days can be expensive, but we saved money on tickets by using Liftopia.com. We found great deals for Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin (A-Basin) and decided to also ski at Breckenridge while we were there.

These three mountains, while close to each other in distance, are worlds apart in terrain, which is another good reason to experience all three.

Copper Mountain

The first day we headed to Copper Mountain, which is considered a “skier’s mountain” because of its wide variety of naturally divided terrain. Copper is designed to get tougher as you move from one side of the mountain to the other. The western side has green and blue runs, and the eastern side has steep black runs.

Bowls such as Union and Spaulding can be accessed from short lifts near the top of the mountain. The resort has free parking with buses that will take you over to the lodge and lift area.

We jumped on the American Eagle lift and then the Excelerator to get all the way to the top from the Center Village. This place was hopping.

For our first run I think we just sort of pointed in a direction and joined the throngs heading down. We were skiing toward a blue run called “Oh No” when we stopped to take a break and let the crowds pass by. A black run that seemed virtually empty veered off to our right.

“Should we just ski this?” my boyfriend asked.

We decided to go for it because it wasn’t crowded. What we discovered was that while we did make it down the Far East run, it was empty for a reason. The moguls here were some of the largest I’ve seen, and the run was steep. If you’re looking for a challenge, the runs on the far east side of the mountain are for you.

Deciding that one tough expert run was enough for a bit, we traversed the mountain to the Union Creek lift, which would allow us to access the Timberline Express lift with more blue terrain and access to some more advanced runs off the Sierra lift. After playing around in the wind and snow on this far side, we headed back down the mountain for much needed snacks and libations.

Copper is a popular resort, but lift lines move quickly, and once you get away from the center of the mountain, where most lifts are located, you can find some fun and less-crowded terrain.

Arapahoe Basin

Our next adventure was at Arapahoe Basin. It’s important to get to this resort early in order to get a good parking spot in the lower lot. Some people make reservations and pay for front-row parking by the lifts, so they can grill out on the “beach” after skiing.

A-Basin is low-key and small. From the base you sort of wonder where all of the runs are. What you might not see is the more than 100 trails and lift-accessed bowls that this legend of the ski world is hiding. Known for being one of the oldest ski resorts in Colorado, it’s great for spring skiing but doesn’t offer much in the way of beginner terrain.

Once you’ve made it up one of the few lifts accessible from the base, you’ll begin to see one of the reasons A-Basin is unique. The majority of the ski hill is above treeline.

I didn’t realize how necessary trees were for helping me orient myself until I was suddenly without them. There are dozens of runs that just fall off a ridge without a tree in sight to separate them. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was going up or down. Still, this crazy mountain was growing on me.

The best part, in my opinion, is there is a great lift-accessible bowl here. Montezuma Bowl is on the back side of the A-Basin resort. By hopping off of the Lenawee Lift and keeping up some speed, you can make it almost all the way to the bowl’s entrance without much effort. 

What I enjoyed about this bowl was there were some less-steep, blue entrances to it. This was the first bowl I’d ever skied, and just being able to say to myself, “This is a blue-rated run” was helpful. We made several runs over here, skiing down to the Zuma lift and back to the top before dropping back onto the main side of the mountain for lunch.

There’s more at A-Basin than you may first realize. Sitting on the deck of the midmountain restaurant, we could watch people hiking out to an area called The Land of Giants via the East-Wall Traverse.

It may seem small, but there is a lot of terrain to explore at Arapahoe Basin.


Our last ski stop before heading back across the state was at Breckenridge, which to me represents the All-American family ski resort. There are buses to the resort right from town and, at the end of the day, you can take the Four O’Clock run all the way back to town.

Breck is huge. There are more than 2,300 acres of skiable terrain and 154 named trails. There are several bowls to ski and hike-to terrain as well. Having a local to guide you around the mountain will definitely help, but if you have a few days, take some time to explore each peak.

We skied everything from the Contest Bowl off Peak 8 to mellow blues such as Briar Rose on Peak 9. We spent the latter part of the day on Peak 10, where I cruised on a few black runs, and the rest of the group headed down a steep glade called The Burn.

We stopped for a break at the restaurant at the base of Peak 10, where we lounged in colorful Adirondack chairs on the “beach” before heading down the mountain and home.

In three days we explored three distinctly different ski resorts. If you haven’t had the chance to ski one or all three, get out and explore.

Daily Sentinel online advertising coordinator Julie Norman can’t do enough snow skiing, cross country or downhill, on her winter weekends. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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