Skier of the Decade: Wayne Pierce, 1950s

The father of snowmaking.
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The father of snowmaking.
wayne pierce

Sixty years ago, winter was either a powder heaven or a cold, snowless hell. Drought winters presented a real environmental barrier to creating a popular mass recreation sport.

In 1949–50, three aircraft-engineersturned- ski-makers in Connecticut were almost out of business, their metal skis unsellable. Arthur Hunt, Wayne Pierce and Dave richey of TEy Manufacturing were trying to figure out what to do next in another snowless winter.

Pierce had an idea. The men connected a garden hose to a 10-horsepower compressor and spray-gun nozzle they’d been using to paint skis outside their factory. The weather had turned cold. They put the apparatus inside a plywood box, mounted it on a stand, and turned on the mixture of water and air.

Eureka! Pierce had been right. Th e mist fl ying out of the paint-spray nozzle turned into hexagonal crystals. By morning the men had produced a 20-inch pile of “snow.” Within days, they were covering a barren slope with manmade snow at Mohawk Mountain in the Berkshires.

Soon dozens of areas across the country installed compressors and water lines to make snow. The ski season instantly got 25 percent longer as snowmaking rewrote the winter calendar. —J.F.