By Mikaela Ruland
When thinking about Copper’s Moonlight Dine and Ski, I’d envisioned something along the lines of The Night Before Christmas. You know, “the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below?”
I couldn’t have been farther off base, I realized, as I prepared to follow a guy in a blinking vest down a pitch-black run.
Let’s back up a few hours...
After having received our safety briefing, we watched the lift operators turn American Eagle back on, just for us. We rode the lift up in the icy twilight and, after having dismounted and jumped on Excelerator, we were treated to the most beautiful pink skies. I saw my favorite horizon, the view from the top of Resolution Bowl, in a whole new light – literally.
We spent a few moments watching the ever-saturating colors, as fellow Moonlighters skied under a still lift. It was eerie and incredible to be some of the only people on the mountain.
As the light rapidly faded, we slammed lift line and quickly got back on the chair, hoping to fit in another run while we could still see.
We chose Ptarmigan and the cold, night air made our eyes water as we flew down, google-less.
Wiping frozen tears from our pink cheeks, we contemplated the dwindling twilight. We mutually decided it was time to head inside and warm our frozen fingers and faces.
After having stripped ourselves of bulky ski gear upstairs, we headed downstairs at Solitude Station and I stopped in my tracks when we reached the bottom. The normally bustling ski lodge had been transformed into a moonlit wonderland. Blue lights gave the room a mysterious glow and tealights flickered everywhere. Snow dusted trees and glittery snowflakes dotted the room and the tables were set for a classy dinner. I grinned as I looked around the room at everyone in ski pants and helmet hair, spreading cloth napkins across their laps. It was surreal.
As Summit County’s own, Beau Thomas, began to serenade us on an acoustic guitar, trays of appetizers were passed. There was flakey spanakopita with red pepper sauce, glasses of bubbly Prosecco and Spanish bruschetta, scattered with chorizo, gorgonzola and tomatoes and finished with sticky truffle honey.
As Beau played everything from Thomas Rhett to his own, re-imagined version of Fleetwood Mac tunes, we enjoyed cocktails and watched the mountain grow dark outside the floor-to-ceiling windows.
We were called to dinner and were treated with an opulent buffet. The biggest salad I’ve ever seen was served on a large, wooden board, vegetables and toppings making striking lines against the spinach and arugula, marking the start of the buffet. Bowls of Tuscan vegetable were ladled at the end. In between was an amazing feast. Bacon wrapped beef filets, pan seared chicken breast and, my personal favorite, Mediterranean mac n’ cheese dotted with Kalamata olives and tomatoes, made luscious by feta and manchego. Served with the delicious mains were fresh baked rolls and tiny spheres of butter, roasted vegetables and rich, basil risotto.
We enjoyed our feast in the company of our Copper guides, who would escort us safely down the mountain at the end of the night.
Confident we couldn’t eat another bite, we skipped the deserts that appeared on the buffet table. We were talked into Ricotta cheesecake by a persistent waitress, however, and managed to finish every last morsel.
As the amazing evening wound to an end, we made our way back upstairs, bundling against the cold. We switched on our headlamps and met the folks from our dinner table at the top of the Excelerator. Our guide turned on his blinking vest and we watched one group head down the run before we started.
Skiing in the dark is unlike any other experience. Though the moon shone in the sky, the mountain was engulfed in darkness. The evening cats had treated us to a beautifully corduroyed slope and we sailed down the run, the small orb of light from our headlamps and our guide’s blinking vest the only light on the silent mountain. The cold, mountain air was exhilarating, the snow was perfect and we quickly out skied the group in front of us, giving us first tracks on the freshly groomed slope. The cold tugged tears out of my eyes, but I finished the run laughing. I can see why people are inclined to skin up for moonlit lines.
From the base, the rest of the Moonlighters were only dots of light as they made their way down the slopes.
The Moonlight Dine and Ski was one of my favorite skiing experiences ever. A week later, I’m still smiling remembering that final run. If you want to get in on the action, there’s two dates left this season. Register now!