Two Days Of Adventure At Copper Mountain

Copper Mountain is known for providing an array of activities for adventure seeking vacationers and locals.

By AJ Johnson
Explore Ambassador

When my daughter Emma was entering first grade, I decided to take a day just to ourselves as one last hurrah before she ventured back to school. It was a small outing just around town and culminated with a few hours at a local pool with fun slides. From that one day, a tradition was born. I’ve continued our “daddy/daughter date” every year. 

This year, I planned a two-day trip to our favorite place to ski, Copper Mountain. Known as “The Athlete’s Mountain,” Copper is the place that X Games-type athletes go to build the skills needed to jump, flip and twist their way through the air. Through a partnership with Woodward, Copper has unique facilities, both indoors and outdoors, that cater to this type of athlete. There are other Woodward facilities around the country, but Copper is one of the largest and most comprehensive facilities in the Woodward collection. In addition to the Woodward facilities dedicated to adrenaline athletes, during the summer Copper also sets up several fun activities and rides that even the most uncoordinated person can enjoy. 

Day 1: Indoors At The Barn

Our journey began on Sunday, mainly because The Barn was only open Friday through Sunday. Having trekked up to Copper, fighting the hordes of other people trying to get to the high country on a weekend in the winter, this time the drive was actually pleasant and had zero cursing. We chatted about our previous adventures, the upcoming school year and how much fun we’d already had this summer. An hour and a half later, we were making the exit with the ski runs, lifts and, most importantly, The Barn in view. 

If you’ve ever wondered where skiers, skateboarders, bikers and snowboarders learn to land their amazing tricks without causing major injuries, The Barn is it. With nearly 20,000 square feet, this massive building has Olympic-level trampolines, different-sized ramps, foam pits, a skate bowl, pump track and more that allow athletes to build their skills while greatly reducing the risk of injury. They even have indoor ParkSkis and ParkBoards, which are essentially skis and snowboards with small wheels on them, so you can drop down a ramp and launch into the foam pit. 

(Photo: AJ Johnson)

Each session runs for two hours (12 to 2 p.m., 2 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.), and you can either drop in or reserve your slot in advance. If you are visiting during the winter, I would highly recommend making a reservation, as The Barn is absolutely packed during the ski season. Note: If it is your first time at The Barn, you must take an introduction course first. You don’t need to be an excellent athlete or have any experience at all to have a great time at The Barn. Kids (and adults) of all ages and abilities are free to jump, ride or throw themselves into the foam pits. 

Having already completed the intro course a few years back, Emma was immediately off and running to the trampolines while I made my way up to the observation area. Sitting down on the couch, I could see the huge smile on Emma’s face as she got back into the groove of being able to go as big as she wanted and push her limits. 

(Photo: AJ Johnson)

About halfway through the session, Emma began to do the precursor moves for a backflip. She climbed up two stacked mats at the edge of a foam pit, laid down with her head over the edge and rolled off backwards, a move she had learned from her coach during her time in Park Rats, a wintertime freestyle ski-oriented program that splits time on the snow with time in The Barn. 

After a few aborted attempts, Emma went for the full backflip, landing somewhat on her feet, somewhat on her backside — a successful jump. Her surprised smile as she climbed out of the pit turned into a confident grin, and she gave me a double thumbs-up as she climbed back up to do it again. With her newfound confidence, Emma set her sights on doing a backflip on a trampoline. Jumping up and down a few times to get some height, she threw her legs over her head, rotated over and landed squarely on her feet. Her face lit up again, knowing that in less than 20 minutes she had conquered her fear and accomplished her goal. 

After our session was over, it was time to head to the hotel. Copper has a lot of condos in the village and one hotel, but as with any ski resort, the closer you stay, the more expensive it gets. So rather than spend an extra $150 for a room, we opted to head 15 minutes back east down the road. 

Surrounding Lake Dillon, the towns of Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne give visitors many options for lodging, food, shopping and more adventures. Frisco is closest to Copper and features a small downtown and beach area, along with SUP and kayak rentals. Dillon and Silverthorne are just one more exit down the road. Dillon also borders the lake and has a small marina, along with more shopping and restaurants. If you want to be extra adventurous and save even more money, there are several campgrounds around the lake that offer amazing views of the Tenmile Range. 

We stayed at a budget hotel in Silverthorne that, while not fancy, had the key features of a pool and hot tub. After checking in, we both agreed that pizza was in order and found a great pizza spot in Dillon called Secret Stash. A dip in the pool and hot tub after dinner, and it was time to end the day. 

Day 2: So Many Activities 

While The Barn has you covered for indoor fun, there’s plenty to do on the mountain. Free activities include hiking, mountain biking (no bike haul), disc golf and yoga. While I do enjoy a good hike or trail ride, we were at Copper for more pulse-raising activities. We took advantage of the free parking in the Beeler lot, which seemed like a luxury since during the winter it can cost $30 per day to park that close. 

Set up like a mini adventure park around the Center and West villages, activities include a mountain coaster, bumper boats, chairlift rides, a zipline, the Woodward Wrecktangle, go-karts, a climbing wall and a bungee trampoline. Copper sells two passes with different levels of access to each activity. For just us, we were able to get by with the less-expensive day pass option at $79 per person. This gave us each unlimited rides on the bumper boats and attempts on the climbing wall and chairlift rides. It also gave us each two runs through the Wrecktangle, sessions on the bungee trampoline and zip-line rides and one ride on the go-karts and mountain coaster. Tickets are available for a single activity, as well. We walked up right as they opened at 10 a.m. to get our tickets, and the next four hours were spent going from one fun activity to the next. 

With it being a Monday, there were no crowds or lines to speak of. We started with the bungee trampoline for no other reason than it was the first activity we saw. I watched as Emma bounced and flipped through the air, trying without success to get a double backflip. Our next stop was the zip line, located over the small pond in Center Village. It’s a fast ride with a late stop, and it gets your heart racing. Walking back to the starting point to return the helmets and harnesses, we both wondered if we could drag a fishing line in the water while ziplining. When I jokingly asked the attendant, she said there were some pretty big trout in the water and she would look the other way if we brought a line and lure. 

(Photo: AJ Johnson)

The only line we encountered was for the mountain coaster, which is always a main attraction. If you haven’t been on a mountain coaster before, it’s worth the wait. A single-car track that hits speeds of 20-plus miles per hour (which seems a lot faster when you’re totally exposed) while you wind through the trees; alpine coasters are a different type of thrill. Two handles let you control your speed, so you can determine how far you want to push it. Smaller kids do have to ride with a parent, and there is a minimum height of 36 inches to ride. Emma asked if we could ride together, which was good since she is just under the 52-inch requirement to ride solo. She instructed me not to hit the brakes at any point, a challenge I accepted. For the full 5,800 feet of the track, I kept on the gas, not pulling back once. Emma screamed and laughed the whole way down, partially from the ride and partially because I was tickling her as we careened along the tracks. At the end, we both agreed that it was one of the better, if not the best alpine coaster ride we had been on.  

(Photo: AJ Johnson)

Giving our hearts a break from the adrenaline-spiking activities, we walked the three minutes over to West Village to take a ride up the Woodward Express Lift. In the winter, this lift serves the Woodward Terrain Park. Having been up this lift over 50 times during the past two ski seasons, we wanted to see what it looked like without the snow (mostly), jumps, rails and boxes. One unique feature of Copper is that it has weeklong summer camps that include lessons outside on the snow, even in August. How do they do this? At the end of the season, the snowcats pile as much snow as they can onto one area, and they make a smaller version of a terrain park. Through the summer, the pile does melt down, but there is enough snow to last through the season. We got a good look at what this actually looks like as we ascended to the top. About 50 kids on skis and snowboards were riding down the park, then riding back up on the magic carpet to take another run. There was even a food truck there to provide some midsession snacks. In late winter, we had asked Emma if she wanted to attend the summer camp, but she said she wasn’t sure about being away from home for a full week. After seeing the campers on the snow, she was 100% in for next year. 

Back at Center Village, Emma took a run through the Woodward Wrecktangle, which is essentially a Ninja Warrior course. The obstacles are well designed and allow for multiple people to be on the course at once. It even includes a mini zip line with a drop onto an airbag. 

(Photo: AJ Johnson)

After being at it for almost two hours and with both of us needing food at this point, we took a break to grab a bite. The food court that is open during the winter was shut down, but there were several restaurants and food trucks to choose from. Lodging, food and drinks are more expensive on the mountain, so be prepared for a bill that’s a bit higher than you might expect. You could also bring your own lunch and have a nice picnic. 

(Photo: AJ Johnson)

Fueled up again, we took our last trip on the zip line before heading to the rock wall. I was impressed to see that the wall really did resemble something you would climb outside. Most outdoor walls we’ve been on have large holds bolted on to make the climb a safe, quick scamper up for any kid, and I understand why. But this wall had no artificial holds and instead had pockets, cracks and underclings. In her first attempt, Emma could barely find any purchase on the wall, so we moved to an easier side. The guide working the wall mentioned that no one, not even him, had gotten more than halfway up that particular side of the wall. The other side was easier, and Emma made her way to the top with relative ease. 

Another run through the Wrecktangle and our time was nearly up as we had to be back home by 4 p.m. for Emma’s soccer practice. She wanted to do one last jump on the bungee trampoline and asked me to jump with her. Having never been on a bungee trampoline before, I figured why not try it out. We both flipped and bounced, and I found out just how tiring it is to try to do even basic maneuvers. 

Tired and in need of water, we made our way back to the car to start the drive home. As we walked through the village, Emma holding my hand, she told me how much she enjoyed spending time with me, not just this particular adventure, but all the things we do together. At the age of 9, she understands how precious time together is, and that it won’t last forever. While that has a bit of a sad tone to it, it also means she is not taking the simple things for granted.

(Photo: AJ Johnson)

Our third “daddy/daughter date” was a complete success from start to finish. On the drive back home, we chatted about which activity we liked the most (we both said the alpine coaster), the best part of the trip overall (Emma said nailing the backflip; I said it was just seeing her have a blast) and how excited we were to come back for ski season. As she drifted into reading a book, I thought of the great memories we had made in a short time. Twenty years from now, Emma may not remember the specifics of exactly what we did, but she will remember that we were together, laughing and enjoying our adventures. 

If you are planning a trip to Copper, there are a few key things to remember. First, be mindful of the fact that you are above 9,000 feet in elevation. At that altitude, you dehydrate quickly, so staying hydrated is critical. Also, the sun is much more intense at higher altitudes, so sunscreen and lip balm are must-haves. Second, the weather can change quickly, and there is always a chance of thunderstorms, usually in the late afternoon. Look at the weather, plan accordingly and always bring a rain jacket just in case. Every mountain has a different weather policy regarding refunds on your activity pass, so read that policy carefully. Third, bring a small backpack with drinks, layers, sunscreen, snacks, etc. Finally, try to avoid returning home or heading to the airport on Sunday. What should be a two-hour drive can easily turn into a traffic nightmare, even on a sunny day. This is especially true around major summer holidays. 

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