COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. - *Note, as of 12/21/12, the snowcats were not running yet, but officials said they would start as soon as there was enough snow.**
Many skiers and snowboarders dream of fresh powder and making their own tracks. Often that means a tough hike or paying extra for a helicopter or snowcat ride. But Copper Mountain Ski Resort offers a backcountry snowcat experience for just the price of your lift ticket.
It's called the Tucker Mountain snowcats, because the snowcats take visitors to a series of back bowls between Tucker Mountain and the west ridge. It's a side of the mountain many people never see.
"Most folks just see the front side [of the ski resort] when they drive by on Interstate 70, but there's a whole lot of terrain in the back," said Lauren Pelletreau, then spokesperson for Copper Mountain.
It's a secret that's getting out. Because the only cost is your normal lift ticket, the line fills up quickly at the Tucker Mountain snowcats pickup location. It's first come, first served. Once inside the snowcat, the ride lasts 15 to 20 minutes. Expect a short hike to earn your turns, then it's time to drop in, create a line and enjoy.
"Deep and steep, definitely what I like to see out here," said snowcat rider Shawn.
"When there's fresh snow and its cold outside, you get really nice flow in the snow," said snowcat rider George.
For years, patrollers used the snowcats solely as transportation to do snow control work. Then someone realized the snowcats could also be an amenity for the guests at Copper Mountain. The Tucker Mountain snowcats were born.
Patrollers don't just ride and guide the guests, they still handle snow control and safety. Snowcat riders will often see patrollers working the nearby bowls and chutes, setting off charges to make the terrain safe.
"It's an out of bounds experience well within the bounds of Copper," said Pelletreau.
The Tucker Mountain snowcats at Copper Mountain run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., depending on snow conditions and the weather. Look for green flags at all duty stations when the snowcat is running. The back bowls are for experienced skiers and snowboarders, not beginners. The rides are free with your regular lift ticket.