By Tim Mutrie
Photos and video by Brent Benson
Even before the big Hail Mary, the 255-foot leap from a Wyoming cliff in 2006, Jamie Pierre had been labelled “skiing’s most dangerous man” (Powder, February 2004). But Pierre was something of a study in incongruity—devout Christian, husband and father and hard-charging skier whose particular chi drove him to become one of skiing’s foremost airmen.
“He wasn’t in it just to get his photo taken,” said photographer Brent Benson of his friend Pierre, who was killed Sunday in an avalanche at Snowbird in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon.
“His skiing was all about honoring God,” Naomi Pierre, Jamie’s sister, told the AP today. “He was incredibly passionate about getting that word out to youth. So he did that through jumping off cliffs and skiing down dangerous chutes.”
While not one much for self promotion, Pierre was “by far the hardest working guy I ever shot with,” Benson said in an interview today with Powder.com. He added, “That’s what made him probably one of the top five most-published skiers out there.”
Pierre is survived by his wife, Amee, and their two children, Royal and Clementine, ages about 3 and 5, respectively. After 10-plus years in the Salt Lake area, the Pierres had recently relocated to Big Sky, Montana. It was a family trip to Hawaii that had brought Pierre back to Salt Lake this week, and fresh powder that drew him and his snowboard up Little Cottonwood Canyon for Sunday’s outing.
Today, in the aftermath of the accident, Pierre’s legacy and memory is reverberating around the ski world and beyond. Overwhelmed with grief, Benson, a Salt Lake-based ski photographer who befriended Pierre in the late ’90s, said he was up all night last night. At 11 p.m., he set about scanning and editing his catalog of images of Pierre. The resulting video slideshow—”I put it to AC/DC because that’s what Jamie would want,” he said—features 80-plus images spanning 10-plus years.
“He would ski from sun up to sun down, on the coldest days, no matter. Jamie was always skiing,” Benson said. “He’d just ski and ski and ski. He’d wear out photographers. He’d start with one, then get on the phone to find out who else was out there, then hook up with them.”
“Everyone in Little Cottonwood Canyon just can’t even believe the stuff he’s done over the years,” he added. “Not a lot of people know this, but he was a really good snowboarder and really good tele skier too—he did the Pyramid Gap on all three. He was also one of those persons who was sometimes misunderstood. He spoke his mind. And when he said something he meant it. But he always helped out everyone who needed help, and he was always into encouraging people. A lot of people have said this, but it’s true: He had a huge heart.”