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Conventional wisdom among Denver’s ski crowd has long been this: You go to Keystone to eat and Breckenridge to drink. But if you want to ski, head to Copper. A straight 90-minute shot from downtown or Denver International Airport, Copper Mountain covers 2,433 acres, making it the largest ski area in a county that includes the aforementioned resorts, as well as Arapahoe Basin. No fewer than 125 trails knife through Copper’s four bowls, with the contours of the mountain naturally separating the terrain for beginner, intermediate, and expert skiers and snowboarders. Few, if any of the runs at Vail, Steamboat, or Aspen compare to those at Copper. The 1999 World Cup was held here. But unlike Colorado’s more famous resort areas, Copper had never had an apr�s-ski scene. The minute the sun dropped behind Jacque Peak, the eastbound exodus would begin. Not anymore. Thanks to an enormous investment by Intrawest — a Canadian company that counts among its resorts Stratton in Vermont, Mammoth in California, and Canada’s Whistler/Blackcomb and Tremblant — Copper finally boasts a base lodge and village that live up to its slopes. Intrawest bought Copper in 1997, and it can’t finish the buildings fast enough. Mercifully, none of the structures attempts to recreate “historic Copper.” Contrary to the image suggested by its name, Copper never was a mining town, nor was it ever a town. Most of the lodges, shops, restaurants, and gathering spaces that now comprise Copper Village just went up. Yet there’s none of that prefab ersatz Alpine feeling. Rather, the open, streamlined architecture and impeccable finishes give Copper an identity that’s hip enough to draw the local shredders and sufficiently sophisticated to attract an international crowd. Sunlight plays an enormous role in creating this atmosphere. It drenches practically every inch of the village even on the shortest days and saturates the interior at Jack’s Slopeside Grill, the main food court. Located in the Copper One Lodge, Jack’s has stations for pizzas, wraps, sandwiches, salads and smoothies. It also features a bar defined by a tree branch that doubles as a liquor shelf, with the multicolored bottles arranged to refract the sun streaming through the enormous windows behind them. An outdoor patio faces the mountain, the surface of its railing wide enough to set up your lunch as you watch people finish their runs. Copper One Lodge also houses all manner of ski gear and attire in a refreshingly uncluttered area. An evening stroll around the village — cars are prohibited — reveals such sights as flame-spouting stone monoliths ringing an open-air performance area, heat-paved sidewalks, and America’s first Indian Motorcycle Caf� & Lounge — a 12,000-square-foot dealership-boutique-restaurant-lounge. Behind the Camp One building stands a 360-degrees climbing wall. And around the corner at Endo’s Adrenaline Caf� there’s another one — mounted horizontally over the bar. Drink enough “Copper Quaalude” and you may just decide to scale it. The biggest rushes at Copper, of course, come on the slopes. And with a high-speed lift system that includes the six-person Super Bee, you’re guaranteed to spend more time on the piste than being pissed off in line. Favorite intermediate runs include Andy’s Encore and Collage, while freestylers and the double black-diamond crowd should seek out the sequestered Cabin Chute and the appropriately anointed Oh No. Copper also accommodates cross-country skiers and snow-shoers, with 15 miles of trails along the western end of the resort. This area also houses Union Creek Lodge, where beginning adult skiers and snowboarders can learn, and The Schoolhouse, a building devoted exclusively to the care, feeding, and instruction of children between the ages of 3 and 13. Dining options include Beachside Pizza Pasta, Molly B’s, and the Indian Motorcycle Caf�, which serves a surprisingly good lobster tail. Perched over the Copper Beach, the store-lined center square where heated sidewalks have cleared the snow, you’ll notice that there aren’t too many “snow bunnies” ambling about. That’s because, for all its trappings, Copper remains decidedly real — a place, as the radio advertisements blare, “where the skiers ski and the boarders ride.”

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