Copper Mountain


Another glorious day on Copper Mountain.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

With a predicted sunny day, we decided to try what we call the Copper traverse. I've done this with Bob several times, but always in the spring.

With the possibility (likelihood) of tons of trail breaking, we trolled for volunteers and found Ralph and Chris were blissfully unaware of how much work this would be. Suckers!

So after setting up the shuttle car, we were off at just before 9am for a slightly more scenic version than previous runs. Slight breeze. No clouds. And -3 degrees.


After about three hours of hard work we got to the top of Point 9220 where we were richly rewarded with the views afforded by the clean air. The Sawtooths were particularly impressive. So was Borah, although it was a little too far away for a good picture.

We skied north off the summit and down to the saddle at the top of our first drop for the day. But it was already noon, so instead of making turns right away, we stayed on the ridgetop where we found a sunny spot out of the cold breeze, and had lunch.


Even in the sun it was cold, and I was a little damp from the climb. So it wasn't long before I started to shiver a bit. Or perhaps it was in anticipation of what was coming next?

Chris and I skied back to the saddle, but Bob needed to maximize his turns to he climbed up Point 9158 to our north. You'll probably have to click to get the bigger picture before you'll find him.

While Bob was getting his, Chris and I were getting ready to ski the bowl. I've been down this before, but this time I was wondering about the snow stability, etc. And this would be the steepest thing Chris had ever skied --and he could clearly see that-- so we were verbally encouraging each other to soothe our nerves.

Bob going off the face

And then it was time to jump in.

Again, click on the picture to find Chris. This is big country.

At the bottom, we discussed how steep we thought the bowl might be. To answer that, I dug out my inclinometer and told Chris to confirm it so he could get bragging rights. We found that the uppermost part of the bowl was right at 45°.


Chris in the bowl

Chris handled it with aplomb.

Those are Bob's tracks in the background. You can probably tell that the upper part of his run is steeper yet.

The snow was 6-8" of old powder with an icing of hoar frost on top. It seemed quite stable and we saw little evidence of avys. In places there was some sun crust, but not in these protected areas that we skied. We left lots of untracked, so go get it!

And then the work began. We again shared the work of setting a track back up the 700' to the top of Point 9158. Then we all skied off the north side chutes as we continued on our way to Copper.

Chris in front of Bob's tracks

Again we had to again skin to the top of the ridge. Once on the ridge, you do a flat traverse to avoid another high spot. By now were were getting a bit tired (understatement), and to top it off our skins were icing in the sun/shade of the SW-facing ridge. But eventually we got to the summit of Copper, where Bob and Ralph skied off the summit through a gap in the cornice.

Chris and I, being the more intelligent pair, slipped around the skier's right shoulder of the ridge and skied the eastern gully of the north face. Note the lack of sun... it was getting late. But I had been watching so knew that we would have light until about 6:30.

N. face Copper

When we got to the bottom of the face, we knew it wasn't too much further to the car. But it was cold down here and the temperature was dropping. And it was time for "survival skiing", with the challenge simply dodging the trees, downfall, and gully walls. I've done this before and it was always tough. In the powder, it was at least a little easier.

When we hit a good track at the bottom, we were only a few hundred yards from the car and thought we had it made...until we found that the snow bridge over the creek had collapsed. Damn! Or maybe I should say "No dam."

So we struggled upstream looking for an alternate bridge, eventually throwing in the towel and wading the creek. Getting down to the creek was simply a matter of otter-sliding down the snowbank. Climbing the 4' wall of powder on the other side of the creek (with the creek running under the snow) was another matter. Then, as it was only 20°, our boots instantly iced up, making it a struggle to get back into our bindings for the short ski up to the road.

6:28. Good timing.

All in all, a really great day. But boy was I tired!

Ralph made a movie.

Other ski trips

survival skiing

Mr. Natural Home | 2010 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski