Although the mountains still wait for big snow, skiers and snowboarders are making the best of what’s already down. While some of the biggest resorts are only partially opened and making up the difference with manmade snow, up at Lake County’s premier resort, it’s open season – and without an artificial flake.
Ski Cooper/Chicago Ridge is known for its proximity to Leadville, a low-key and laid back atmosphere, affordable lifts and live music during “après ski” on Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
In the coming weeks, great acts are slated for your post-ride entertainment at Katie O’Rourke’s Irish Pub at the base of the mountain, including an appearance from Leadville’s local sax prodigy, Christian Torsell.
This Saturday, Jan. 6, jazz band Trading Fours will close out the day on the slopes from 3 to 5 p.m. Guitarist Peter Taylor started the band 10 years ago in Summit County. It’s now formed into a core of four talents: saxophonist Sean O’Connor, bassist Dennis Boyd, percussionist Joshua Cohen and Taylor himself. In jazz tradition, the amorphous group swaps guest players in and out, including Christian Torsell, who first caught Leadville’s attention as a student at Lake County High School and who will be playing in a trio version of Trading Fours on Saturday.
Taylor found Torsell at a concert at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, in a clump of kids hanging around and talking to some performers. “I was curious why a bunch of high schoolers would be interested in jazz,” said Taylor. So he went over and asked. After talking, Taylor discovered they were the LCHS Jazz Band. He invited them to one of his weekly shows at Silverheels in Frisco, but when the time came to show up, only one proved his dedication.
“The only kid who called back was Christian,” said Taylor. And even better, he already had 40 songs in Taylor’s playbook memorized. “And he had just amazing jazz chops on the saxophone.” Since then, Torsell has played with Trading Fours on-and-off between his time in Leadville and his time studying at Loyola University in New Orleans.
More information about Trading Fours is at TradingFoursBand.com or on Facebook. It’s the cool, mellow kind of music that goes well with sore legs and a beer after the lifts close at four o’ clock.
On Saturday, Jan. 15, at Ski Cooper, Leon Joseph Littlebird will perform traditional Native American music on the flute and guitar. Littlebird has played all over the country, telling stories and sharing the traditions of his indigenous Navajo heritage, but his roots remain in Colorado. He’s most recently performed at the new Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, Georgetown Heritage Center and the Tabor Opera House in Leadville. Littlebird, whose music is available at LittleBirdMusic.com, will play from 3 to 5 p.m.
Also on Thursdays, Jan. 4 and 11, Dennis Reifsteck of Wisconsin’s The Swing Crew will perform a solo show on the mountain après ski. Fiddler and singer from Wisconsin Dells, Reifsteck makes his home in Summit County for nearly half the year, playing a lot at Keystone. For the other half, he’s performing with The Swing Crew, an old timey jug band that stomps around the Great Lakes region.
And Thursdays bear another special quality up at Ski Cooper: $30 lift tickets. When the big name prices are nearly $200 – and that extra cost buys more time spent waiting in line and elbowing tourists – it’s Ski Cooper that locals pick. The mountain, originally used to train the 10th Mountain Division’s skiing infantry of the U.S. Army, is located at 232 C.R. 29, about 10 miles west of Leadville on the way to Minturn.
Hit the slopes and get a little live entertainment afterward. The first chair is 20 minutes from Leadville and five minutes from parking. No crowds – just familiar faces, acres of snow and good tunes. Call 800-707-6114 or visit SkiCooper.com for more about Lake County’s best kept secret.