Cat unload nln590

Loading powder skis into the Tucker cat's hopper for another ride to yet another untracked above-treeline run.

The granddaddy of Summit’s resort snowcat operations can be found perched atop the southernmost point at Copper Mountain. This year will be the 23rd consecutive that the Tucker Mountain Snowcat has picked up adventurous skiers and snowboarders in Copper Bowl and whisked them—still at no charge—up to Tucker’s summit at 12,337 feet. From there, a tasty assortment of legitimate big-mountain terrain beckons in every direction, hence the resort’s Tucker tagline: The closest thing to a backcountry experience that you’ll ever find inside any resort.

Every run on Tucker begins above treeline and plunges through an avalanche chute or well-spaced trees before ending in a gorgeous alpine valley. The zone includes 273 acres, with more options than time in a day, since the cat only runs from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Much like Keystone’s cat operation, all of the terrain on Tucker is also open to hikers—and I’m not here to dissuade anyone from cruising around the western perimeter of Copper Bowl to get there; it’s a fine way to spend a sunny day. 

Once you’ve snapped your summit photos, head west to the Taco, a long, wide ramp with just enough concavity to snatch powder from the wind and enable soft turns in the belly of the run. The best use of your vertical from Tucker’s peak is to ski fall line down a chute named Two. Or stay skier’s right just a hair and begin the descent in Fremont Glades, then select One or Valentine’s for the lower half. Each delivers a long, sustained rush. And chances are, given the north aspect, each will be holding soft snow. 

A run from Tucker’s summit to the valley floor covers more than 1,000 vertical feet in places. Your legs burn near the bottom, and laps take a while to complete. But the best part about the zone is how little traffic it sees, even on a busy day when the cat is full every ride. It’s too remote, too circuitous. But it is also probably the best terrain at Copper. 

That’s why the resort has plans to build a lift up Tucker in the coming decade, part of its multiyear alpine terrain enhancement project, dubbed The 12’s. You will likely see a high-end snowcat operation operating in new terrain as part of the same project. 

Until then, there’s only this classic.

The Details: The Tucker Mountain Snowcat picks up guests above the base of the Mountain Chief chairlift in Copper Bowl. You can get there by riding the American Flyer and Rendezvous lifts. It operates from Friday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

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