by Lisa Blake
One of the most thrilling perks (and hidden gems) at Copper Mountain is the free Tucker Mountain Snowcat. Expert skiers and riders load up in groups of 12 to catch a free ride to 273 acres of glorious high-alpine back bowls. When other resorts’ powder days have churned into crunchy bumped-out runs, Copper skiers are soaking up face-shots on Tucker, some of Colorado's best in-bounds terrain.
Copper Bowl opened in the 1995–96 season and snowcat-accessed skiing on neighboring Tucker began in 1998. Go-hard powder seekers cherish the area for its pristine treeless runs, steep chutes and snow-loaded secret stash bowls.
Copper Mountain 12-year Ski Patrol Foreman—and guardian of Tucker Cat Land—Reed Ryan shares some insider tips:
- If you are all about the skiing, you can hike out the West Ridge (accessed from the top of Mountain Chief lift) to Lallarookin or the Iron Mask and descend those paths to the bottom of the Nacho, where we open a skinning gate for the guests that prefer to access Tucker under their own power. It’s a great way to be ahead of those in the cat line and get in two runs!
- Check out Valentine’s (us patrollers call it Fremont 1.5) when it’s open. Prior to Valentine’s Day in 2014, this avalanche path did not exist. A very large avalanche gave us an entire new run by taking out 3 acres of old growth trees. It’s awe-inspiring to see the power of nature.
- Tucker Mountain exists in its natural state, which means beyond indicating where our ski area boundary is, we do not do any hazard marking. Rocks, cliffs, trees and stumps abound. Skiers may encounter all different kinds of snow—hard windslab, avalanche debris or some very deep and soft powder. What you won’t find is any grooming. It’s pure skiing left wild.
- You need to be in relatively good shape—the hike to the top of Tucker Mountain from the cat drop-off is 1 mile. That can be difficult for some folks who aren’t accustomed to hiking at 12,000 feet.
Copper marketing guru Stephanie Sweeney adds this sweet nugget of advice: “Fremont 1 is totally worth the extra hike. Not as many people make their way that far so the snow is usually the best.”
When: Weather permitting, Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Tucker terrain is open for hike-to skiing the rest of the week post avalanche mitigation.) Get there 15 to 20 minutes early to beat the snowcat rush.
Where: Catch the two free snowcats above the base of the Mountain Chief chairlift.
Tip: Guests wearing avalanche beacons receive front-of-the-line privileges.
Numbers: Around 200 guests hit Tucker on the weekend. That number shrinks to 5 to 10 guests per day midweek.