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Tennessee Creek Basin

Tennessee Creek Basin is now open! Lifts start running daily at 9:30am and close at 3pm. This double black diamond tree and glade skiing area is lift -accessed by the Little Horse T-Bar. The terrain is steep so it is advised that only experts access this area. More information in this week’s “What’s Cookin’ at Cooper”.

New Terrain for the 2019-20 Winter Season

Tennessee Creek Basin Trail Map
Dan Torsell cooking cheesesteaks on the grill
Dan Torsell

Ski Cooper President & General Manager

What’s Cookin’ at Cooper

Report from the President

January 10, 2020

As you have probably heard by now, the new Tennessee Creek Basin Area with its Little Horse T-Bar is up and running!  After considering all the details and coordination involved in opening what is basically an entire new Ski Area, we opted to perform a “soft opening” so we could assess and address any challenges and deal with them without disrupting the days with huge numbers of Cooper skiers.  Well, after a week of operation, we identified a few kinks which we addressed and now feel solid about the TCB and Little Horse.

The most important note to pass on is that we have decided to CLOSE the High Road (rated a Blue Square) trail, as we learned that many folks were not heeding the warnings about the steep terrain which the Little Horse T-Bar ascends to return skiers and riders back up the Mountain……and it is THE ONLY WAY OUT!!!  So, the message is that you must possess the ability to descend TCB on Double Black Diamond Terrain in order to get to the bottom terminal of the Little Horse.  If you have questions in your mind about your ability to handle this type of terrain, DON’T GO THERE – work on your skiing, or better yet take a few higher level lessons until you feel proficient in handling this extreme terrain.

One other important message:  When riding up the Little Horse T-Bar, you must stay in the uphill track (directly under the haul cable).  Like any other surface lift, skiing or riding outside this straight track could cause the haul cable to be pulled from the sheave wheels and create a maintenance issue which takes some time to rectify. (e.g. the lift is down and you might have to hike up…..and if you do that, many of your friends there with you will not be happy with you!!!)

So please heed these cautions, respect this terrain and lift, and keep yourself as safe as possible.  This is truly an exciting addition to the already amazing terrain at Cooper – so when you feel ready for it, come and get it!

Enjoy the weekend!


Report from the President

December 27, 2019

Before the update on the Tennessee Creek Basin Area, I must first address another new facet at Cooper – our new RFID selling and access system.  I would like to begin by extending my deepest apologies to those of you who were upset with the long Ticket Line wait time.  More importantly, I would like to thank those of you who were exceptionally patient, kind and understanding as we struggled to work some bugs out of the system.  As is often the case when deploying a new system, there are kinks to be corrected and there is a learning curve for our staff.  That however is not an excuse for the long wait.  We are working diligently on measures to mitigate this issue.  Please remember that once you have received your personal RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Cooper Key Card, you will be able to go online and purchase Tickets, Lessons, etc. and never stand in the ticket line again – just proceed directly to the lift with your loaded Card.  So basically, this is a one-time deal getting your card at the Ticket Window.  You can find information on how the Card works, how to create your profile before coming to Cooper the first time, and the procedure for reloading it (purchasing products) on your computer or phone by going to and clicking on the “Save Time and Money” page.  Gathering and entering your information at the Ticket Window on that first visit is the time-consuming part of the process that can be eliminated by entering it online prior to coming.  Like everything else in life, we will strive to learn and improve every day.

Now a quick note on the TCB progress.  We are days (3-5 we hope) from opening the new Lift and Terrain!  This past week the Little Horse T-Bar underwent acceptance testing procedures as prescribed by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board (CPTSB), which went well but required remedies in a few areas, as is usually the case with new ski lifts.  Most things have been corrected and we are now submitting all required paperwork to CPTSB and waiting for the issuance of the Lift License which is required before loading members of the general public.

We’ll let you know when a definite date for the TCB Grand Opening is set!

Enjoy the weekend!


Report from the President

November 15, 2019

The sight of shiny new lift towers now standing erect from top to bottom on Maverick (the lift line trail) is truly awe-inspiring to me!  It is gratifying to see the diligent work of so many people taking shape to become part of a new era here at Cooper, and eventually part of its ever evolving heritage to future generations.

Work now continues with the stringing of the haul rope and communications cable, which carries the signals controlling the lift and senses any issues that may occur along the tower line.  The high-voltage electrical feed control is also being tied in, which will provide the current to power the drive motor of the lift.  Finishing touches are also being completed on both the top and bottom lift operator houses.

Next week the Cooper Patrol will begin installing boundary ropes and signage in the Tennessee Creek Basin Area in preparation for opening the new area, which should occur sometime mid-December, pending all lift inspections and appropriate snow conditions.

I would really like to give a specific opening date for Cooper, but the weatherman is simply not certain enough in the forecast to make that determination with any certainty………however there appears to be a stormier period returning to the mountains later next week!

Enjoy the weekend!


Report from the President

November 7, 2019

Activities in the parking lot resemble a huge erector set project……..tower tubes, cross-arms, sheaves, ladders, deflectors, etc., all being bolted together and prepared for helicopter transport next week!  Some of the Drive Terminal components are beyond the lift capacity of the helicopter (the price of being located at extreme elevation) and will be hauled to the top of the mountain via snow cat-assisted rough terrain forklift.  Fortunately, Old Man Winter has backed off at just the right time to allow for this phase on the project to be completed.  Once all the tower assemblies and terminal components are bolted to their foundations, final phases of the installation will begin including pulling and splicing the haul rope, electrical connections and many others.  Wire rope splicing is an artform and is quite fascinating and I will provide pictures and a bit of information on the process in my next post.

Enjoy the blue skies and comfortable temperatures while you can!  Looks like just a bit of snow next week with things potentially turning stormier later in the month.

Look for an update this time next week!


Report from the President

October 30, 2019

First order of business: my apologies for the delay in getting this post written!

As you probably know, Old Man Winter arrived a bit early this year here at the mountain.  Seeing appreciable snow this early is always exciting; however, it makes for a challenging environment in which to install a ski lift and prepare a new pod of ski trails.  Despite the challenging—yet welcome—snowfall, things continue to move forward.

The construction of the Bottom Lift Operator’s House has been completed and work continues on the Top House.  Concurrently, improvements to the Mountaintop Ski Patrol Headquarters are underway.  Each of the trail signs for the new area, all of which were completely fabricated in-house, has been installed in its proper place within the 19-trail network.  Xcel Energy crews have completed the installation of a new and upgraded underground electrical distribution network at the top of the mountain, including new transformers providing capacity for current as well as future developments.  The Lift Tower tubes, communication cable and operator control cabinets arrived last week and are staged for deployment.

We eagerly await the final two shipments of lift components: one from Salt Lake City and the other from Leitner in Italy.  Once all shipments have been delivered, final assembly of the lift towers will take place in the parking lot staging area prior to flying each to its permanent base on the hill.  Components for the Drive (top) Terminal and the Return (bottom) Terminal will be moved into place at the same time.  Then the real fun begins and I’ll provide more on that in my next post!

Until Then……….


Report from the President

September 6, 2019

Preliminary sketch of the trail layout

Wow, time is flying……….and next week concrete will also be flying!  All Lift Terminal and Tower foundations for the Little Horse T-Bar have been formed and reinforced and are now fully prepared for the arrival of helicopter-delivered concrete.  We will have videos and pictures of that action posted sometime later next week.

Now on to the new trails.  There will be three basic types of terrain in the Tennessee Creek Basin, all of which are very steep.  The first type is narrow, cleared, New England-style trails and would include the lift line trail (Maverick) and the trail to the immediate skier’s left of the lift line (Viper) as well as the maintenance access trail on far skier’s left (High Road and Low Road).  While these trails are completely cleared, caution is advised due to pitch and width.  The second type consists of a number of trails that are classic Glade-style trails where there has been significant, but by no means complete tree clearing, providing areas open enough for comfortable maneuvering among the trees for seasoned skiers (when I use the term “skiers”, I refer to both skiers and snowboarders).  However, please note that there are always hazards present in areas like these, so make sure you are prepared to venture there!  The third type is what would be considered natural tree skiing areas which have had no tree clearing, thus are completely untouched areas.  These areas require top-notch, well-honed skills, but should provide the adventurous soul with a truly exhilarating experience!

We are thrilled to be able to add this demanding new terrain to Cooper’s downhill offerings and hope it will provide a welcome challenge to our guests who feel they are ready for the test!

More to come next week.  Thanks for reading!


Report from the President

August 7, 2019

Things continue to progress on-schedule in the new “Tennessee Creek Basin” Improvement Area at Cooper!  All larger trees that were felled have been processed and transported from the parking lot staging area.  Smaller trees have been cut up and spread on the forest floor in what is referred to as “Lop and Scatter,” which ensures a supply of nutrients for the soil in the cutting area.  We were very careful in selecting tree-cutting and removal methods in an effort to minimize effects on the forest and the environment in general.  The ground crews who cut every tree by hand (on some very steep terrain, by the way!) and the helicopter transport team left virtually no imprint on the forest floor.

Most of the Tennessee Creek Basin area will be glade-type skiing, although there will be a few classic ski trails with more clearing.  This entire area is quite steep with formidable drops (much steeper than anything else at Cooper) and as such will be rated “Double Black Diamond,” with the exception of the transport access trail, which will be rated “Blue Square.”  With the high-speed “Little Horse” T-Bar (more on the name in a future post) for uphill transportation, this area will provide the long-awaited missing element: expert skiing terrain at Cooper!

Next time we’ll take look at individual trails and discuss the unique characteristics of each one.

Until then…………….standby!


Report from the President

July 30, 2019

There is a buzz of excitement in the air at Ski Cooper!  The Way Back Project, culminating in the creation of our new skiing terrain in the “Tennessee Creek Basin,” is taking shape before our eyes.

As a long-time veteran of the Ski Resort Industry, I have been around and involved in my fair share of development and expansion projects, both small and large.  While all have been fun and interesting, none has created the sheer thrill and sense of anticipation that I have felt with this one!  Whether I’m walking the streets of Leadville, attending events, or leaving Church on Sunday mornings, there is one common question: “how is the project coming?”  After many years in the planning and a thorough vetting process with USFS Permitting, it is both a relief and a joy to say we are on schedule and well underway!

Given the level of curiosity about this much anticipated development, I have decided to begin a blog with periodic entries updating progress and highlights of the project.  This initial post is simply an introduction, and I will follow-up in a few days with details of where we are and how the schedule looks moving forward. I’m excited to share with you many photos and details as we work diligently on trail/glade clearing, tree removal, lift installation, and more.

Stay Tuned!


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