Remembering One of the Greatest Skiers in the History of the Sport | Hilaree Nelson

No matter how hard I try to let them flow, the words still don’t come easy. It’s beyond heartbreaking. She was so much more than an exceptional athlete. Then again, she was one of greatest to ever strap on a pair of skis. I think about talking to her in the hospital when her partner Jim’s brother was in critical condition. Her support for Jim, for John, for their family was absolute. I think about the last time we spoke, and went skiing with a great group of friends after she gave yet another awe-inspiring talk about her life in the mountains. It was a casual, fun ski day. We talked about the Arctic Refuge, Baffin Island, and why she was so enamored with the film, Don’t Look Up. I hadn’t seen it yet, but after our talk I watched it that night, and decided it needed to be brought into the climate change course I was teaching at the time.  I think about long before I had the fortune of knowing Hilaree, she was truly living the dream. As a teenager who constantly fantasied about skiing the world, and constantly got laughed at or looked past for thinking “too big”, Hilaree was off doing it. And she had already been doing it for some time. Her photos, expeditions, and style set the bar for what the dream might actually look like.

Jim and Hilaree from @jimwmorrison on Instagram

Hilaree was larger than life. She meant more than words can do justice to many people, and as I learned more and more over the years, she especially meant something profound to women. If I remember back to the 90’s and early 2000’s, Hilaree was essentially surrounded by male counterpoints doing whatever they were doing, and more often than not, doing it in better style. She didn’t just climb hard, ski well, and follow the leader. She was the leader, and that model has influenced countless women to see themselves in the mountains as leaders too. She spoke out for and acted on behalf of the climate. She used her platform to get the attention of others to care. She was gracious, she was humble, and as much as she was a bonafide superhero, she was real too. There are very few people that have had the impact on the global backcountry community like Hilaree. As a world class athlete, as a world class mother, and as a world class human, Hilaree and her spirit will live on for generations to come. As backcountry people, we wouldn’t be who we are without her influence. She truly lived. My respect and love will remain with her family and friends, Jim and his family and friends, and with our greater community of skiers and riders. Love is real, Not Fade Away.

Party skiing above Emerald Bay, February 2022. Hil is the fired up one with her arm raised, ready to go!
After ski hang at “the cabin”. This and the above photo were taken by Ming Poon who also shared some beautiful shots of Jim and Hilaree on his instagram feed (@ming.t.poon). Left-to-Right: Jim Zellers, John Morrison, Jim Morrsion, Bonnie Zellers, Michelle Parker, Hilaree Nelson, Wilson the dog, Brennan Lagasse, Toby Schwindt

A nice memory here by Nat Geo