Ski Cooper wraps up another successful season |

Ski Cooper wraps up another successful season

Crowds enjoy the Closing Day festivities at Cooper ski area on Sunday.
Ski Cooper/Courtesy photo

It was another successful season for Cooper ski area, located on the border of Eagle County and Lake County near Tennessee Pass. The community-owned ski hill closed for the season on Sunday.

General Manager Dan Torsell said Cooper broke its attendance record again this season for the third consecutive year, exemplifying that skiers and snowboarders are continuing to enjoy the alternative experience the small ski area offers.

Cooper ski area is owned by Lake County and run by Torsell and his son, Director of Mountain Operations Patrick Torsell. To many, it’s still known as “Ski Cooper” in the 80s-era tradition of adding the verb to the beginning of the mountain’s name in an effort to showcase the hallmark activity offered there.

Located near the Epic and Ikon Pass giants of Vail, Beaver Creek and Copper Mountain, Cooper is a fraction of the size of those ski areas at 480 acres. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in character, offering something for everyone, Torsell said.

“I’ve been talking to more people from over the hill – whatever hill that might be – who have come here to give us a try,” Torsell said. “Usually it’s families or older folks, but now with Tennessee Creek Basin, we’re getting some upper-level skiers coming just out of curiosity.”

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Tennessee Creek Basin is an expansion project which Ski Cooper opened during the 2019-20 season, offering an expert-level experience including steep faces and tree runs which preserve the snow quality on shaded slopes.

During Tennessee Creek Basin’s opening day this season, Kyle Scoby – a former competitive moguls skier – took laps through the deep powder while his mother and son skied the more gentle front side of the mountain.

“It was perfect for what we’re looking for,” Scoby said. “I feel really lucky to have caught (Tennessee Creek Basin) on its opening day; absolutely bottomless powder.”

Torsell said Scoby’s family, with three generations enjoying different parts of Cooper, exemplified what the ski area can offer for families.

“When I first got here 11 years ago, I recognized that this always has been an awesome lower-level and intermediate ski area, with maybe a few challenges here and there, but I would hear people saying that Mom and the kids were going to hang out at Cooper, but Dad was going to Copper or A-Basin for a little more challenge, and it was splitting things up, breaking the family up,” Torsell said. “So that’s when we decided, one way or the other, we’ve got to get something to keep people here a few more days. And I think it’s worked so far.”

When the T-bar at Tennessee Creek Basin first opened, Torsell said he never saw anyone waiting to use the lift.

“Now I’m starting to see some 1-minute waits,” he said with a laugh. “So there are more people skiing that area now.”

A view of Cooper ski area on Closing Day. The ski area celebrated another successful season on Sunday, April 16.
Ski Cooper/Courtesy photo

Another advantage Ski Cooper provides, Torsell said, is the fact that “you can buy a burger for less than $20.”

Torsell said this was the first season since the COVID-19 pandemic in which food and drink service returned to full-service levels. He said Cooper saw good employee retention in food and beverage, which helped get things back to normal.

“Katie O’Rourke’s pub has an Irish-based pub menu, and we hit it out of the park there this season,” Torsell said. “And the cafeteria has been doing very well, as well.”

And while employee retention was good in food and beverage, patrol, ski school and the rental shop, Cooper is not unlike many businesses in the high country, where staffing has been difficult to maintain. Lift ops, in particular, saw high turnover this year, Torsell said.

“All year we’ve been right on the edge of having enough people but not a lot of extras,” Torsell said. “We have enough people to do this, but it’s a little bit nerve-racking. We had the usual early January bouts of cold and flu, and if you lose a couple people in a small department, it’s tough … I spent a lot of time in the kitchen.”

Torsell said it has become apparent to him that times have changed when it comes to staffing.

“When I was a young ski bum, I would have paid a place like this to let me come here to work,” he said. “And that is not the going attitude anymore. That’s why I’m very proud of the people that are here; it’s tough finding people.”

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