Although most renowned for its world-class skiing, Copper Mountain also sits right in the heart of truly world-class biking, both on the road and on the dirt.
Whether riding the lifts for gentle (or not-so-gentle) mountain-bike descents on buffed trails down the ski hill or testing your skinny-tire mettle against the ambitious Copper Triangle road ride (covering 87 miles from Copper Mountain to Leadville to Minturn to Vail to Copper, over four major climbs, including three passes), there is no shortage of two-wheeled fun.
For validation, consider that the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge – which features the world’s top riders including, typically, the newly minted Tour de France champion – has conducted a time trial up Vail Pass from Vail twice already and will host its third stage there in the four years of the race’s history on Aug. 23. (Don’t miss this spectacle. Join thousands of fans in Summit County riding up and over Vail Pass from Copper Mountain and halfway down to the finish line to cheer on the racers, then make the return climb and descent back to Copper after you’re hoarse from yelling.)
Copper Mountain also plays host to some of the region’s biggest bike events that are open to public participation, including the Courage Classic, a three-day fundraiser for Denver’s Children’s Hospital from July 19-21, and Colorado Cyclist’s Copper Triangle on Aug. 2, which raises money for the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s research.
One doesn’t need an organized, supported tour like those, however, to experience some great rides.
An inexpensive haul pass allows you to take your mountain bike on the American Eagle ski lift, where you can enjoy lunch at Solitude Station and a zippy downhill run on marked beginner, intermediate and expert single-track trails that require virtually no pedaling.
Or, for the hard core types, try riding a mountain bike along the Colorado Trail across Copper Mountain ski area and up the Guller Creek valley. A challenging, technical ride enjoyed by locals in mid- to late summer follows that single-track up and over Searle Pass, then over Kokomo Pass and finally over Ptarmigan Pass and down to the Vail Pass bike path for an easy downhill cruise to Copper. Warning: It requires a full day, includes some hike-a-bike sections and should be attempted only by the most experienced, fittest bikers.
For roadies, the trip up and over to Vail on the paved, dedicated bike path is a fantastic day trip. Have a light lunch in Vail before taking on the lung-searing, quadriceps-burning climb back to Copper.
The family-friendly bike path also can be enjoyed by the far more casual rider either just to the top of Vail Pass and back (it’s a far easier trip from Copper than it is from Vail) or downhill to Frisco, and from there, Summit County’s fantastic network of bike paths branch off to Breckenridge, Dillon/Silverthorne and around the Dillon Reservoir.
Depending on your motivation, fitness and the weather, destinations such as Loveland Pass, the mining town of Montezuma and Ute Pass north of Silverthorne all make for terrific long rides from Copper.
High-quality bikes are available for rental all over Summit County and at Copper Mountain if you don’t bring your own, and most places also offer pull-along trailers or latch-on kids’ platforms to allow the youngsters to enjoy the trip, too.
Both young riders and old alike should remember to stay as far right on the bike paths as possible – some of Summit County’s uber-athletes train on these same trails and will go whizzing by at impressive speeds, even on the uphills – and remember that the polite “on your left” warning means you should continue looking and pedaling straight ahead, without veering into the path of the person trying to pass.
Other than that, yelling “whee!” as you coast downhill is still perfectly acceptable.