Copper Mountain, known for its ‘naturally divided terrain’ between beginner and advanced areas, is located in Summit County, Colorado, one of the best ski regions in the US due to the high concentration of quality resorts.
Along with Copper’s terrain, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin are all within a short distance and connected by a free bus, while Vail and Beaver Creek are 20-30 minutes' drive away. This supplements Copper's terrain over the season for seasonal workers as Copper is best suited to intermediate and advanced riders, but not experts.
Copper's town is a resort village purpose-built for the hill. As such, the town is not nearly as lively or authentic as nearby Breckenridge or the town of Frisco. Also, while the snowfall is good and the number of bluebird days excellent, the snowfall is not in the monster league of some Utah, Montana and Californian resorts.
Copper is a one and a half hours’ drive west (75 miles) from Denver straight up the I-70 interstate highway and is one of the closest major resorts to Denver International Airport. Copper is a 5 minute drive from Frisco, which has the closest amenities such as supermarkets, and 10 – 15 minutes away from Silverthorne, which is a larger town.
Colorado Mountain Express runs shuttle bus services directly from Denver Airport to resorts in Summit County, and tickets are $66 one way.
Within Summit County, the Summit Stage Bus provides free local transportation. Bus service is available to most ski areas, shopping centers, medical centers, and some residential areas in Summit County. The bus runs between Frisco, Copper Mountain, Keystone Ski Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Arapahoe Ski Resort, Silverthorn, Dillon and Leadville.
The Summit Stage is particularly handy if you need to go shopping in Frisco or if you have a night out in Frisco.
Photo: The American Eagle chairlift
Copper Mountain is a small and cute resort village which is pedestrian friendly. There is a low-key feeling about the village which has a number of retail shops, bars and restaurants.
However, the village was purpose-built, and so has a bit of an artificial vibe compared to mountain towns with more permanent populations given it lacks amenities such as proper supermarkets (there are only small corner shops) and retail other than snow-related gear. Frisco is the nearest town with these services.
Most of the activity at Copper happens at Center Village. Union Creek is the beginner area while East Village is connected by bus but does not have much activity outside of operational hours.
Copper is a very popular mountain with people from Denver and gets a lot of day-trippers given its proximity and its large amount of terrain, but there is usually hardly a wait at all for lifts, bar a few weekends such as Presidents weekend.
While the crowds are bigger than the more holiday destination mountains like Vail, the longest wait would be 20 minutes at the base chair as the American Flyer, American Eagle and Super Bee base chairs are all high-speed.
Staff usually come from Colorado, Florida and California. A lot of South Americans also work at Copper each season.
As you move west to east, the terrain progresses from easiest to most difficult and is therefore known as ‘naturally divided’. The gentle terrain on the west side of Copper Mountain at Union Creek provides a learning environment, while the east side of the mountain at East Village has long, steep on-piste runs. Timberline on the west side has a dedicated intermediate cruising area.
Grooming is big at Copper and large parts of the mountain are cleared of bumps on-piste each day.
The two high speed quads and one high speed 8-seater from the base are very efficient, meaning it doesn't take long to get back on the slopes after a long run. The lifts out the back are slow, but tend to have many less riders using them.
Copper has nice terrain for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders, but truly expert terrain is in shorter supply. The most technical areas are found in Copper Bowl, Spaulding Bowl, and Tucker Mountain via cat-skiing. Union Meadows also has some great tree riding, especially on a powder day.
Photo: Storm King T-bar
Up the back, Spaulding Bowl, off the side of the summit, has the best chutes on the mountain and is very nice on a powder day. It leads down to the Resolution lift where there are always a few bumps to tackle. The back bowls are generally quieter areas given that they are only advanced trails, but get a lot of sun and so can be icy.
Copper does have much in the way of big-mountain terrain or rocky chutes. The top of the mountain is not particularly rocky and, while there are a few mini-cliff hucks to find around the resort, these are not huge nor found in abundance.
There is in-bounds cat skiing on Tucker Mountain, over on the back side. The cat is free with any season pass. Weather permitting during the winter season, snowcats run Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. The Tucker Mountain cat picks you up at the Mountain Chief chairlift and takes you around to the top of Tucker Mountain ridge, from where you need to hike for about 30 minutes to get to the fresh tracks and awesome powder of Tucker.
There are a number of sweet lines to take from the top, which include rocky lines and mini hucks, as well as tree riding in the Freemont Glades.
Copper has a National Forest Service Forest Supervisor Closure which means that the boundaries are closed with no access points to backcountry areas surrounding the resort.
Copper has just over 140 trails, 23 lifts, 2465 acres (985 hectares) of skiable terrain (one of the largest resorts in Colorado) and has a 12,313 peak height.
Of the lifts, there is 1 six-person, high-speed lift; 4 high-speed quads; 5 triple chairlifts; 5 double chairlifts and 7 surface lifts). Longest run is 1.7 miles/2.73 kilometers (Collage)
Woodward Copper is the terrain park at Copper and runs down alongside the American Flyer lift. It’s big and long with a large number of features, hits and rails.
Central Park is the main park at Woodward and it is awesome, one of the best in Colorado. 6 jumps (4 medium and 2 large) 2 large hips, a 22' quarter pipe, a 13' quarter pipe, and usually 30-40 rail/box/jib features. It opens in late December.
You can spend the entire day in Woodward Central and not run out of lines to try. It also includes a foam pit which allows people to practise tricks before moving to snow.
Photo: Copper Mountain's terrain park
Average snowfall is 270 inches/685 centimeters. In the region, this is less than Breckenridge and Vail, but more than Keystone.
Good nights will dump down a foot of snow, and you can expect 5-10 true powder days where even the groomed slopes are covered in knee deep powder.
However, Colorado skiing is probably better known for its sunny climate than its huge snowfall, with around 300 days of sun a year. This means plenty of beautiful bluebird days during the season, even if the snowfall is less than other parts of the country such as Utah and California.
Temperatures are also quite mild in Colorado compared to other States and Canada. It averages between lows of around 0f (-17c) to highs of around 32f (0c) in December and January and then a little warmer in February and March.
This is a good aspect of working at Copper - more time to ride in nice conditions without frost-bite inducing conditions such as those found in Canada.
The season differs from year to year depending on the snow, but usually mid-November to mid-April.
Staff get ride breaks during the day but ride time will depend on the job. Most jobs work 5 days a week with opportunities to ride on days off. Three days a week on the slopes would be normal, while other jobs such as lift operators would get onto the hill everyday, if only for their hour lunch break. See Jobs Available at Mountain Resorts for more information on types of jobs at ski resorts.
One of the advantages of working at Copper was the possibility of taking time off to travel to other mountains. The hill also offers trips to other mountains during the season. Everyone speaks English in Colorado, while Spanish is also quite prevalent. A basic level of English is required for most jobs.
Copper is a relatively big operation which means you are more likely to hang out with employees in the same department as you (lift operations, retail, food and beverage etc.).
The job application process is all online through www.coppercolorado.com/jobs. The best time to apply for winter jobs at Copper Mountain is early fall (June or July). This will allow you to apply to multiple positions with the earliest winter start dates.
There are various entry-level positions that pay minimum wage which include Rental/Retail, Guest Services, Base Operations, Lift Operations, Grooming/Slopes, Transportation, Human Resources and Ski/Ride. There is full-time, part-time, seasonal, and year-round employment.
Full operations with all the lifts going usually start in December, so there may be less work until this time, or you may not be on the roster until then.
Copper Mountain does employ J-1 visa holders. See Work a Snow Season in the USA for information on these visas, how to get one and sponsor agencies for you to get one.
Copper works with Universal Student Exchange to hire J-1 applicants directly which is a program for students overseas in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.
If you have arranged an independent J-1 visa, you could apply through the usual jobs page, but you will need to interview before getting a job. Copper will hire anyone that has valid working documents, but international applicants will be required to pay for the visa as well as traveling expenses.
International Applicants will need to have their visa valid through at least April 20th as March and April are a busy time and all staff are expected to stay the season.
Copper does not accept H2B visa employment applications.
Interviews can be conducted in-person, phone, and Skype for US applicants as well as international applicants.
Staff at Copper get a free winter season pass and can purchase dependents a winter season pass for only $10. Copper is also part of the Real Deal exchange program meaning you can ski free at 19 resorts around Colorado including: Arapahoe Basin, Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk, Highlands, Winter Park, Steamboat, Loveland, Eldora, Telluride, Durango, Monarch, Sol Vista, Sunlight, Crested Butte, Ski Cooper, Echo Mountain and Angel Fire. Dependents can use the program and receive a 50% discount.
Other perks include free ski Lessons (where there is a paying customer in the lesson), discounts on food, rental and retail, gas discount at Wheeler Flats Conoco, lodging discounts, direct deposit of pay checks. Copper also has a comprehensive insurance plan to all full time employees. Benefits include medical, dental, vision, paid time off, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), 401(k) Plan (eligibility rules apply).
There are plenty of restaurants, bars and shops that look for seasonal employees in Frisco. Season passes are cheap to Copper, Keystone and Breckenridge, so you could just get a job in town and buy a season pass.
Other businesses at the Copper villages may need seasonal workers during the season which are not Copper owned or managed. These include Casa Sanchez, Tucker’s Tavern, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Sharp Shooters. These positions will not be listed on the Copper Colorado employment website, so you should contact directly.
Staff accommodation is offered at the EDGE which is conveniently located about 60 yards from the American Flyer chair in the Center Village.
Living at staff housing is great for the fact that you can easily walk to work in the morning. The rooms are very basic dorm-style rooms with a TV and a shared bathroom. Most staff will share with at least one other person, although there are single rooms available if you pay a little extra.
The EDGE has a living area downstairs where employees hang out with a pool table, computers, ping pong and NetFlix. There are always people to hang out with which is nice. However, being a bigger resort you won’t get to know everyone, and will often hang out with people in your department.
There is no proper kitchen at the EDGE which means you need to eat out quite a lot during the season. On the other hand, staff are able to come into the EDGE for a cheap lunch each day.
All staff at Copper are eligible for staff housing. Applicants are also accepted from non-Copper owned/managed establishments, within Summit County Colorado, and reviewed up to 80% occupancy. Non-Copper employed applicants must be 18+ years of age, have confirmed employment within Summit County Colorado, and provide consent to a background check.
For Copper Staff
Double or Couple Rooms:
Economy Single Rooms:
For non-Copper employees
Double or Couple Rooms:
Economy Single Rooms:
Living in Frisco is an option that many staff take up. It is accessible because of the free bus to Copper Mountain to get to work. Expect to pay a lot more than the staff housing prices, more than double; at $600 or more a month or even higher.
However, Frisco is a lot more fun than Copper because it has many more bars, restaurants and specials throughout the season. It is also more convenient as it has proper shops and cheap groceries compared to Copper village.
The best option if you choose to live outside staff housing is to find a share house for the winter months through Craigslist or Easyroommate. The Frisco chamber of commerce might have apartment postings if you are lucky.
If you have a car, Leadville is about 30 mins away and has much cheaper housing. There is a bus service to summit county from Leadville, but it takes a while as you have to get connecting buses.
The best place to shop for groceries is in Frisco which has a Safeway and a Walmart. The Summit Stage bus into Frisco is very handy for this and takes around 10 -15 minute. It stops right outside the EDGE.
Silverthorne and Dillon are the places to go if you’re after cheaper gear during the season. During the winter season, the EDGE staff housing café opens for lunch and is a good option when working. Staff and their guests get discounted food. Favorites include home-style meatloaf, lasagna, BBQ brisket, pizza, soups, and a fresh salad bar.
There is no kitchen in the staff housing rooms. For dinner, it's usually a case of eating take-out. After rent, it was usual to end up with around $150 for two weeks to live from.
Nightlife is fairly limited within the village at Copper Mountain with just a few bars to choose from and a low-key après–ski which often revolves around nachos with a few workmates or a few quieter drinks.
As a result, there are a lot of social activities at the staff residence.
Frisco, on the other hand, has a lot of nightlife. Popular bars in town include Johnny G’s, Moosejaw, and Ollie’s. The last Summit Stage bus comes back at around midnight.
Throughout the season, there are quite a lot of events including the USSA Grand Prix Freestyle event (usually attracting the best park riders going around), the USASA Slopestyle Nationals, the Special Olympics, New Year's Eve celebrations, the Winterfest and Sunsation.
There are various events for employees throughout the season including: Employee Appreciation Week, East Village Celebration, free dinners, Holiday Party and the Cardboard Derby.
Buses to other mountains such as Vail and Beaver Creek do not exist unless you want to pay for a charter. To get to other hills you will need to hire a car or go with friends who have cars.
There are secret liftie huts all over the mountain, built in the woods. Find a liftie who knows and they might take you.