Ski Cooper and Chicago Ridge
If you're looking for the perfect Colorado family ski vacation, you've come to the right place. Ski Cooper, located atop Tennessee Pass, ten miles north of Leadville, Colorado, on U.S. Highway 24, has in recent years earned recognition as one of the nation's most successful and innovative small ski areas. With full-day adult lift tickets priced at just $47 for the 2013-2014 season, Ski Cooper is one of the most affordable family ski resorts around.
Ski Cooper and Chicago Ridge attract skiers and riders from all around the world. Five lifts, 2 chair and 3 surface, serve the 400 ski-able acres. There are 26 runs: 30 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate and 30 percent expert. The resort averages 250 inches of natural snowfall a year. The longest run is Trails End, at 1.4 miles. The base sits at an elevation of 10,500 feet, with the summit at 11,700 feet.
The base facilities include the Ski School, which offers alpine, telemark and snowboard instruction; a Day Lodge with guest services, ticket offices, first aid room, lunch room, restaurant and bar; a rental shop; the Children’s Center, featuring a Children’s Ski School, rental equipment and Day Care for children ages 3-7; the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, with rental equipment for cross country skiing, telemark gear and snowshoes; the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse; and Chicago Ridge.
For first-time skiers and riders, Ski Cooper’s Never Ever Ski Package is one of the best deals around. Choose a two-hour lesson with equipment rental and an EZ Street Magic Carpet® ticket for $60. Group discounts, multi-day passes and annual passes are also available.
The Tennessee Pass Cookhouse offers a unique dining adventure with some of Colorado’s most spectacular views. To get there, grab snowshoes or cross-country skis and hit the groomed one-mile trail to the yurt. An elegant, four-course gourmet dinner awaits featuring elk tenderloin, rack of lamb, salmon, roasted chicken and vegetarian specials. The Tennessee Pass Cookhouse serves dinner daily and lunch on weekends. (Call 719-486-8114 for reservations.)
Ski Cooper hosts events throughout the winter, including the Special Olympics, the Telefast, Santa with live reindeer, telemark and women’s clinics, Senior Days, a Nastar race course, Youth Ski League Championships, Masters, High School races, Speed camps, and the Tenth Mountain Division reunion and memorial service located at the monument.
Ski Cooper's origin goes back to World War II, when the U.S. Army developed Cooper Hill and nearby Camp Hale as a training site for the ski troopers of the famed Tenth Mountain Division. Following the war, Cooper Hill opened to the public as a county-operated ski area under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service since it’s located in the San Isabel National Forest. Ski Cooper has come a long way since then.
Just a few minutes south of Ski Cooper, Leadville and nearby Twin Lakes are affordable, authentic mountain towns, with charming specialty shops, restaurants, galleries, and coffee shops. Lodging options range from an elegant Victorian hotel, inns and B&Bs, to lodges, cabins, and vacation rentals. At an elevation of 10,152 feet, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in North America, located in the geographic center of Colorado, 103 miles west of Denver and 129 miles northwest of Colorado Springs.
Photo credits: Top two photos are by Casey Day. Photo on bottom right is by Scott D.W. Smith.