Ski Cooper to open Nov. 30; new expansion will add extreme terrain
New ski area, serviced by a T-bar lift, will be called Tennessee Creek Basin
TENNESSEE PASS – Ski Cooper is a ski area, not to be confused with a ski resort.
Known as an affordable option for families, with a $39 full-day kids pass and $62 adult pass, the Eagle County/Lake County ski area is anything but extreme.
In fact, the slopes are so gradual, so long and sweeping, so easy to learn on, that the ski area has long felt a lack of more difficult terrain has been its only fault.
“We’ve been asked many times by our customers, our skiers, could we ever have higher-level, steeper terrain,” said General Manager Dan Torsell. “This plan has been in place for a long time, and fortunately we’re now able to pull it off.”
The plan to add steeper, more extreme terrain to Ski Cooper contemplated the east-facing, back side of the ski area, which directly faces Chicago Ridge, where the 10th Mountain Division trained for WWII. The area, known as Tennessee Creek Basin, was selected as an ideal option to add 19 trails of double black terrain with one, 800-vertical foot T-bar-style surface lift.
For most ski areas, the next part of the plan would be to find a good interest rate on a loan to finance the construction of the new lift. But not at Ski Cooper.
Instead, the family ski area approached the project like a family planning a vacation and started saving.
“It was quite a long process,” said Torsell. “Unlike almost every other ski area in the state and around the country, we fund everything that we do – the major projects – just from revenues. We don’t incur debt, so it takes a while to save up for a project of this magnitude.”
Torsell said while the approach is uncommon, it’s less stressful.
“We saved up, probably, for the last three years, really, to have enough put away to do this project,” Torsell said. “It’s kind of old fashioned, probably not a real popular way to go these days, to fund a project, but one thing I’ll say is it allows me to sleep at night, without having to worry about debt service.”
Needs more snow
The expansion will add about 20 percent more terrain to the ski area, bringing Ski Cooper’s total terrain to about 475 acres.
Currently, the resort is on pace for a Nov. 30 opening, but it does not look like the Tennessee Creek bowl will be quite ready for skiing on Opening Day, although that’s still to be determined.
“This area needs to have a little more snow, because it’s steeper terrain,” Dana Johnson with Ski Cooper said from Tennessee Creek Basin last week. “So it may not be opening on Opening Day, like the rest of our terrain normally does, but we’re excited that we’ll be getting it open within a couple of weeks.”