Young Copper Mountain Resort snowmaker wins Ski Country award

Pierce impresses at Copper after learning trade at small New York hill

Madeline Pierce of Piseco, New York, won the 2021 Colorado Ski Country USA Double Diamond Award for Snowmaker of the Year at just 22 years old.
Photo from Copper Mountain Resort

Despite her youth, Madeline Pierce’s passion and dedication for snowmaking helped the 22-year-old Copper Mountain Resort snowmaker win the 2021 Colorado Ski Country Double Diamond Snowmaker of the Year award.

“I’m honored, and I’m really excited, and I think it’s very special because as snowmakers, being behind the scenes, we don’t receive a lot of recognition,” Pierce said.

A native of the tiny town of Piseco in the heart of New York’s Adirondack State Park, Pierce has been drawn to snowmaking since, at the age of 11, she saw the craft for the first time at Oak Mountain Ski Center in Speculator, New York.

It was at Oak Mountain’s family-friendly, 650-vertical drop ski hill where Pierce learned how to ski before working her first volunteer job as a pre-teen helping children put on their ski boots. Just a few years later, she was a part of the ski area’s snowmaking team running and operating snow guns on a property Pierce said was a fiftieth the size of Copper Mountain.

But it was a start.

“I saw them making snow all the time, and I wanted to know what it was all about,” Pierce said. “I kept asking and pressuring them, and then when I was 15, they finally let me make snow with them. And to see all that it is, I was amazed by it. It’s incredible to see the process, the things people don’t see.”

On the recommendation of Oak Mountain owners Matt and Laura O’Brien, Pierce made the move out to Copper to study ski area management and operations at Colorado Mountain College Leadville. Pierce didn’t expect to be signed on to work as a snowmaker at Copper at 18, but she was, thanks in part to her unique snowmaking experience at Oak Mountain.

“I would help out when I could at the mountain back home between school, and I think that helped a little that I was willing to do that,” Pierce said.

At Oak Mountain, Piece experienced the late-night grind snowmakers in Summit County are well versed in. When she would depart school, she’d then head to the hill to make snow as late as 2 a.m. When she wasn’t making snow, she’d weed-whack and mow the grass on the ski slopes or perform chairlift maintenance — whatever Oak Mountain needed.

At Copper Mountain’s operation, one much larger in scale, Pierce doesn’t have too much time for anything outside of snowmaking. She helps oversee anywhere from 50 to 100 guns at a time at Copper, while at Oak Mountain that never went above 20.

“I’ve been into it since day one,” Pierce said. “I’m here for the success of the mountain and to make as much snow as possible. And I encourage everyone else to be as excited as I am. The more people that know stuff the better.”

Pierce made snow all over the resort this season, including early on for the U.S. Ski Team’s official tech venue near the top of the Super Bee lift. Later in winter, she was responsible for some of the resort’s most trafficked runs, including the likes of Main Vein underneath the American Eagle chairlift.

In that time, Pierce said Copper Mountain snowmaking mechanic Michael Ostrout helped her to learn “just about everything.”

“He’s an excellent resource and probably the person that nominated me and pushed me to being able to win this award,” Pierce said. “I try to learn as much as I can from Michael, and he’s a wealth of knowledge.”

In the awards presentation, Colorado Ski Country USA said Pierce sees the big picture while focusing on the important details of the job. They added she is a “natural leader who elevates her co-workers to a higher level of performance with a calm and confident energy,” the association wrote.

“Her work ethic is astonishing,” Copper Mountain Snowmaking Supervisor Ned Sims said. “She meets challenges head on, never straying from safe practice or protocol. There can be no doubt Maddy will be in charge someday, and we are honored to see her recognized.”

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