Copper Mountain Resort has long been regarded as the locals mountain in Colorado. But what really makes Copper Mountain special is the people who call it home. Copper has seen locals and employees return year after year, and we sat down with two long-standing employees to find out where they like to ski, how to escape the crowds currently skiing in Colorado and what keeps bringing them back.

Mike Looney, slope maintenance and snowmaking, 21 years

Mike Looney. Photo courtesy of Copper Mountain on Facebook.

Mike Looney has been working at Copper Mountain Resort for over 21 years. Prior to working there, he skied the mountain a few times, then knew he had to make the move.

303 Magazine: What is your relationship to Copper Mountain?                                                     

Looney: In LOVE ;). [I am also a] slope maintenance and snowmaking manager

303: What keeps you coming back each year?

ML: This is my life. I love every day I’m here (even the hard days are good). The people I work with on a daily basis help Copper be the best version of its self. This sounds corny but all the employees that love this place as much as I do.  How would you not love being on your favorite mountain 250+ days a year?

303: What is your favorite area to ski/snowboard at Copper?

ML: It’s all great but my 2 favorite spots are Pucker point (Copper Bowl) and Skiers left on Gold Digger

303: What is the most underrated area to ski at Copper Mountain?

ML: UCQ zone.  Scooter and easy Feelin’ are two of the best rollie pollie trails on the mountain.

303: Where do you to get away from the crowds when you ski?

ML: It’s pretty easy to make laps with short lift lines and a ton of skiing.  Resolution and Copper bowl are quick lift lines and beautiful views.   If you want to hike, Tucker is Coppers big mountain experience.

303: What is the one thing everyone who visits Copper needs to try or know?

ML: Copper Mountain Resort Has GREAT FOOD.  The green bean fries are to die for.  Mahi Taco’s, Toast and Co. have great simple food.  Our NEW 10 Mile Tavern is a great upgrade to an old friend (ENDO’S) Our F & B division does a great job.

Janie Merickel, ski patrol, 20 years

“Copper is a soulful place. People who work here are characters, legends even.”

Janie Merickel (right). Photo courtesy of

Janie Merickel is currently the assistant director for Copper Mountain Ski Patrol and has been on patrol for over 20 years.

303 Magazine: What keeps you coming back each year?

Janie Merickel: The mountain is special for some of us, and we’re the ones that stick around, choose to make this our lifestyle. I don’t think there’s anything better. For example, the job of ski patrolling – it’s so varied, so fun, so wonderful, it’s hard to stop. I just love getting up early, before dawn, getting up the mountain early, taking care of it – from rope and boo, to snow work – with dozens of your co-workers (who are really your friends, some more like family). There’s never a day I don’t feel grateful on that first chairlift ride.

And Copper is a soulful place. People who work here are characters, legends even – lots have also been here for years, and they readily invite you into their vibe, support your stoke. There is likely nothing better. We are all lucky here at Copper.

303: What’s your favorite thing about Copper?

JM: My favorite thing about Copper is that I can find good turns every single day; that I feel like a kid every day, coming to work. My heart sings a happy song, as I walk into the LPR (lower patrol room) and greet my co-workers and boss. There’s no drudgery, there’s always the expectation that something awesome is going to happen, and it always does. This morning I skied the most beautiful corduroy … “rip the roy!” I think, as I so effortless sail down the mountainside … hard to beat.

303: What is your favorite area to ski/snowboard at Copper?

JM: I love the Enchanted Forest (how do you not love a name like that?) on a powder day. I always take a solo walk out the West Ridge – all the way to the end – on a bluebird day (I often think of that special blue our sky gets in the spring as “Copper Bowl Blue”), and then the amazing journey out to the Freemonts. It’s special.

Is it too cheesy to say, “I love the run I’m skiing?” regardless of where it is, or how much snow is on it. A day with a chairlift ride to work, and the mountain tops as your office is a great day.

303: What is your favorite run at Copper?

JM: I love several special little lines out in the Freemonts, and I am fond of Collage on the front-side. But I really love the little shots, that are always there and awesome, and I can always include in my workday.

Here’s one, and now you’ll know my secret – “the best four turns at Copper” are on what we call Vanity, which you access from Sierra. Seems like that is a patrol name, and not a map name, so here’s how you get there: at the top of Sierra, ski north on Timber Ridge into the second Little Trees gate, and you’ll stand on top of a sweet line looking down at the top of the American Flyer lift. With fresh snow, scoot out to the skiers left … ohhhh, so good. There are many of these little awesome lines, and I always smile and think “I’ve just skied the best four turns at Copper.” I often say to folks I ski around with “hey, ya wanna ski something fun?” And they join me for a smash. There are several sweet lines in the Sierra area, so there’s good reason locals love the area so much.

Ok, I’ll share another stand-by – Gold Digger to Jacque’s Pique. Take Timberline Express back over to Sierra and do laps. Some mornings you can snug up to your own turns, how cool is that?

303: What is the most underrated area to ski at Copper Mountain?

JM: The walk out the West Ridge – I always seem to be alone on that little hike, which I appreciate, but even if you’re not feeling brave, the Lalarookn area is generally a friend.

While Union Meadows sees plenty of guests, most drop in early, but I love to traverse all the way out, it’s quiet and beautiful out there – a nice journey.

And, even for the newest of riders, I feel like West Ten Mile is a fantastic saunter through the woods! It’s a green run, folks always dismiss it as too easy, but it’s refreshing and happy, and if you’re lucky enough to have some fresh snow it is a dream. And, there’s a cool new Hut we’re building at the top of the new Kokomo Express. Can’t wait to have a hot chocolate and check out the great views.

303: Where do you to get away from the crowds when you ski?

JM: Drain pipe and the whole Resolution area is a nice warm area, and it’s not ever all that crowded. It’s a place you can be alone, but also get back to the crowd and have a chat. However, if I really want to have some moments alone, I go into Spaulding Glades, which you can access from Spaulding Bowl – stay over in the Park Place or Marvin Garden part of Spaulding to get into the south gate … drop into your skiers left, a steep little shot, and then lollygag around the woods, until you meet Hodson’s Cut and back down to Reso.

303: What is the one thing everyone who visits Copper needs to try or know?

JM: Definitely the brand new Rocky Mountain Coaster! I spent the summer working on the project, so I feel like we’re friends, or family, actually. It took me about 12 rides before I could give it the curry (no brakes, all the gas) the whole way down. It’s so fun. I love that Copper has opted to try new things, opening the mountain up to new groups of people, and helping families enjoy some time together. Very cool.

Photo by Tripp Fay courtesy of Copper Mountain Resort