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Elbow Grease for Elbow Room: How Riley Copeland Keeps a Mountain Moving

Snowy Range Ski Area

For a day of skiing to go smoothly, a mountain’s lifts, plows, snowmakers and groomers need to run smoothly. Which is where Riley Copeland comes in.

“Growing up, I was very hands-on. I worked at a small engine shop for years.” So, years ago, when he heard Snowy Range Ski Area needed help in their machine shop, he didn’t pass up the opportunity.

Today, Riley is the Lift Manager and the Assistant Mountain Manager at Snowy Range. When a lift needs maintenance, when a Sno-Cat needs to get moving, or when any other machine on the mountain needs a helping hand, he’s the one to lend it. Riley and his team ensure everything is up and running every day of the week, so visitors can make the most of their time on the slopes.

And when something does go awry? Well, he loves the challenge. “I kind of get that adrenaline rush from a lift down. It’s like, alright, it’s up to me to get this fixed.”

It’s that love of a challenge that he believes is most crucial to his success on—or off—the mountain. “Just like any job, you have to have the motivation. And a big part of it is learning. Right now, I’m getting better at the electrical side—electrical schematics and electrical flow. And same with the mechanical side. I’m still learning more about how everything works, and how I can make it better.”

He might even consider that ongoing education an unofficial perk of the job. But there are plenty of official perks, too, like living on the mountain, and enjoying the free ski pass at Snowy Range and other major resorts in the West.

Riley grew up in Dubois, a hideaway often called the most remote town in the lower 48, so maybe it’s no surprise that part of the appeal, for him, of living and working in Wyoming—the least populated state in America—is all that room to roam. “The space,” Riley says, “there’s just so much of it.” So, when he wants to get out to hunt, fish, dirt bike, snowmobile, or rope, he has no problem finding more than a little elbow room.

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