Copper Mountain Resort has announced a slate of new infrastructure improvements to be completed this summer, including replacing the Kokomo chairlift with a longer, high-speed chair, installing new gate-access pass scanners and adding several family-oriented summertime activity offerings.
The announcement of the new upgrades comes shortly after the U.S. Forest Service granted final approval earlier this month to an expansion that includes upgrades for both winter and summer activities.
The biggest-ticket item on that list was an alpine coaster that will now be built on the west side of the American Flyer chairlift. At 5,800 feet, the coaster will be the longest of its kind in North America and operate during both the summer and winter months.
"The future is extremely bright for Copper," resort president and general manager Gary Rodgers said in a news release. "These strategic capital improvements will enhance our product offerings and truly elevate the year-round guest experience at Copper."
“The future is extremely bright for Copper. These strategic capital improvements will enhance our product offerings and truly elevate the year-round guest experience at Copper.”Gary RodgersCopper Mountain Resort president and general manager
The new improvements will be replicating some of the investments made at Killington Resort in Vermont, Copper's sister mountain that is owned by the same parent company, POWDR.
Killington, for instance, installed gated scanners and opened an alpine coaster in 2015. The same company that built Killington's, the Aquatic Design Group, will also build Copper's, and the new attraction will be about 1,000 feet longer.
Copper Mountain communications manager Stephanie Sweeney said the new projects are geared toward improving access for beginner skiing and riding while also providing alternatives to those activities.
That reflects a general trend at ski resorts that have been jockeying for market share in the rapidly expanding summertime market after a 2011 change in federal regulations opened the door for resorts to pursue recreation activities beyond skiing.
"The idea behind the Kokomo lift is to improve that beginner experience and get more people into the sport," Sweeney said. "The mountain coaster adds another activity for folks to do other than skiing and riding, and it will run in both the summer and winter months, which is pretty exciting."
The Kokomo lift — which services a handful of beginner trails on the western edge of the ski area — will be replaced with the Kokomo Express, a high-speed chair that will follow the same footprint as the old lift but extend more than 200 feet further downhill to provide access from Copper's West Village.
For the 2017-18 ski season, the Kokomo Express and all other mountain access lifts will feature gated terminals that automatically scan passes using radio-frequency identification technology, allowing them to be checked without manually scanning each individual pass holder.
The company that builds those machines, Mountain Pass Systems, boasts on its website that they provide easier access for skiers while also preventing pass frauds through biometric technology.
The gates, the website says, use cameras to create a physical profile of the person using each pass to verify whether or not it might have been transferred to someone else during the day.
If the system detects that a person using a pass has a substantially different physical profile, it flags them for further scrutiny from lift operators.
In addition to the Rocky Mountain Coaster, which is expected to be complete by September, the resort will also be looking to add to its non-skiing offerings with a summertime family snow zone and the Woodward Copper WreckTangle, an obstacle course that will be erected in Copper's Center Village.
"It will essentially be a 'ninja course' with foam pits, cargo nets and things like that," Sweeney said.
The family snow zone, meanwhile, will be an addition to the resort's annually built Big Island terrain park, which consolidates remaining snow near the base and rebuilds freestyle features as the snow melts.
The new section will be an area for kids and their families to play in the snow separately from the skiers and riders hitting terrain features in Big Island.