skier Zell dies after lengthy illness

By Jim Stanford on December 14, 2010

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William James Zell

Jimmy Zell, the former extreme skier confined to a wheelchair since a 1996 paragliding accident, died this morning at St. John’s Living Center. He was 48 years old.

Once regarded as one of the top free skiers in America, Zell had been battling ALS and lyme disease. His health had deteriorated in recent years, after he had adapted to life in a wheelchair. The 2009 Goatstock benefit was held in his honor to help pay for care.

“Jimmy Zell is one of the best skiers to ever hit this area,” the late Big Wally, Goatstock host and ski patroller, told Jackson Hole Skier last year. “He created the ‘Silent’ part of the “Swift, Silent, Deep” credo of the Jackson Hole Air Force and pioneered many of the routes that people now ski in the Jackson Hole backcountry.”

A website to remember Zell has been set up at Caring Bridge. Family and friends are planning a celebration of his life.

I never knew Zell in the mountains, but he was a fixture at concerts around Jackson Hole, wheeling his chair to get a good view of the band. We shared more than a few musical moments together, and I always found his presence inspiring.

(Photo by Cameron Neilson)

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Posted under Deaths, Music, Sports

5 Comments so far

  1. Jojo:1013 December 15, 2010 1:18 pm
  2. js December 15, 2010 1:42 pm

    1992 World Extreme Skiing Championships, Valdez, AK:
    http://www.facebook.com/alaskarendezvous/posts/174595669229198

  3. dave hood December 16, 2010 6:52 pm

    everywhere i’ve been in the teats, someone always points out a line, saying, “jimmy z did that.” seemed like we were just following the guy around. T.M. alley house, blacktail butte {almost grounded me}, avalanche cy, my front room – always smiling, always chill. true grit, no boasts. so sorry. peace

  4. tom December 17, 2010 1:52 pm

    One of Jackson’s biggest music lovers and supporters, he saw my bands every time we played JH from 1984-present. And then there’s the powder days….
    Peace Jimmy

  5. js December 19, 2010 11:12 pm

    from Julie:

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 … solstice tribute to Jimmy Zell

    Torchlight riders load chair at Snow King at 6:30 p.m.
    Followed by music and speeches at the base or in the lodge (temperature dependent).

    Potential further plans TBA.

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