Copper Mountain eyes new lifts, trail upgrades, wind turbines

Forest Service launches review with 30-day public comment period

The U.S. Forest Service is starting to review a proposal to upgrade lifts and trails at Colorado’s Copper Mountain Resort.

*Corrected to clarify replacement of H Lift with a high-speed quad in 2011 as the most recent major lift upgrade.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Copper Mountain has proposed a slate of on-mountain lift and trail projects to improve the overall skier experience, enhance teaching opportunities and modernize the resort’s lift infrastructure.

Specifically, Copper wants to replace the Kokomo and Storm King lifts, add a new Union Meadows surface lift and a new terrain park surface lift that will also help enhance Woodward at Copper’s camp operations.

To improve skier and snowboarder flow across the mountain, the resort is also proposing improvements to the T-Rex Connector trail and the Spaulding Bowl runout trail, improved access to the Enchanted Forest area and grading around one of the towers of the Sierra Lift.

The proposal also includes adding two 24-foot vertical wind turbines on Union Peak to generate about  2,000 kilowatt hours per year. The proposed wind turbines will add renewable energy capacity generated by existing turbines installed in 2011. Click here to learn more about kilowatt hours.

This proposal only includes a few elements from an earlier on-mountain MDP, said Shelly Grail, winter sports ranger on the Dillon Ranger District. This plan focuses on improving skier and snowboarder flow on the mountain, and especially on improving service in the beginner area. Grail said.

The last major lift improvements at Copper were in 1998, when the resort installed the Super Bee and the Excelerator chairs, and 2011 when H lift was replaced with a High speed quad. Since then, Copper has tweaked a few trails, added snowmaking capacity and done some glading on the front side of the mountain.

The improvements to the Spaulding Bowl runout trail could enable Copper to open the bowl earlier. Often, the terrain in the upper part of Spaulding Bowl is ready to go before Copper can open the egress trail. Rock removal, relocation or even blasting, along with some grading, would help address the issue, according to a scoping notice issued by the U.S. Forest Service.

The notice marks the first formal step in the agency’s review and approval process, with a 30-day public comment period aimed at soliciting public input that could help shape the final plan. A few of the projects were outlined in a 2006 environmental study, but with previous resort owner Intrawest struggling financially, the on-mountain improvements weren’t completed at the time. The 2006 plan also included a Tucker Mountain lift.

On the beginner side of the mountain, the existing Kokomo lift does not efficiently serve the teaching terrain. The base of the lift is too far from the base area facilities and doesn’t have enough capacity to meet the demand, according to the resort and Forest Service. Replacing the lift with a high-speed detachable four-place chairlift, and bringing the bottom terminal closer to the Union Creek base area facilities would improve service on peak days.

Higher on the mountain, the Storm King lift has been in operation since 1985, but now requires too much maintenance and operates unreliably — thus the proposal to replace Storm King. Copper is also eying a new surface lift  in the Union Meadows area, where people hike to access Copper Bowl.

Written comments must be submitted via mail, fax, or in person (Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays) to: Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor, c/o Shelly Grail Braudis, Snow Ranger, PO Box 620, Silverthorne, CO 80498. Electronic comments including Word (.docx) or PDF attachments can be submitted to The name and mailing address of the person submitting electronic comments must be included.


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