Ski Cooper is located about 6 miles outside of Leadville, Colorado on Highway 24. It really is not much of a resort, just a ski area. The lodge offers hot meals for skiers along with a place to sit and warm up with a mug of hot cocoa. The amenities are few but the crowds are fewer. The skiing is as good as it gets in Colorado. One of the main draws is that you can ski on wide open runs with little competition for the ski lifts.
The prices are about 20% of the prices of the well-known ski resort areas in Colorado. Vail charges $189 for a lift ticket per day. The snow and the ski lifts are the same at Vail as at Ski Cooper. If you go to Colorado to ski, the value at Ski Cooper is unbelievable. Thursdays are known at Ski Cooper for the $30 lift tickets. You have to drive to the “resort” but the skiing is fantastic.
It is satisfying to ski there because of the lack of crowds, the non-existent lift lines, and the fact that you can park feet away from the entrance. Did I mention there is no fee for parking? In Vail, you can count on paying at least $25 per day. Even when the Ski Cooper parking lot is packed, the walk to your car is short. Every skier can get in as many runs as wanted. Regardless of the weather, no waiting in line just to get up the mountain.
The downside is that Ski Cooper is only a mere 400 acres. It contains only 26 trails. Compared to Vail, it is tiny. Vail is 13 times the size of Ski Cooper. There are only 2 lifts at Ski Cooper, a triple and a double. However, you can ski all day and not have to wait, wait, wait. The difference in money makes the value a great one for everyone.
There are enough green (beginner), blue (intermediate), and black (expert) runs to satisfy everyone. The runs are spacious. There is little fear of being run over. Beginners, as well as experts, share the runs. The ski lifts are just like any other ski lift. The individuals manning the ski lifts are polite. They are willing to slow the lift for anyone that needs a few extra seconds to load.
Ski Cooper rents boots, skis, and poles. Helmets are available for an extra $8. The line is long but moves quickly. If you have a problem, ski down to the lodge and they will exchange your skis for another pair or happily repair your skis. The shop asks if you are beginner, intermediate or expert and fits you accordingly.
Ski Cooper is one of the oldest ski “resorts” in Colorado. It started as a training ground for the 10th Mountain Division Special Forces during World War II. This force fought in the Alps with wooden skis. The infrastructure of Ski Cooper has entered the 21st century so is indeed safe. However, it feels like we have stepped back in time.
If you only go to visit the mining town of Leadville near the resort, it is worth the drive. Be forewarned, the roads are narrow and a bit scary. You will have to drive past the “mega-resorts” of Copper Mountain, Keystone, as well as Vail to arrive there. The residents of the area think nothing of passing on icy winter roads. It is not for the faint of heart. However, there are many others who drive cautiously. The drive is worth a day visiting Leadville. If you are a skier, the drive is even more well-spent.