Over the past couple of seasons, urban and park skiing has become more segmented and specialized. Every year, a fresh crop of skiers pushes the envelope in specific aspects of the wide-reaching sport. There's a new rail guy, a new pipe jock, a new tight-pants kid, blasting into the ranks of ski stardom, heralded for their mastery of our ever-refining sport.
And then there is Jonah Williams.
At 20 years old, Williams is not simply the pre-pubescent, triple-corking phenom, nor the older guy inventing new, awkward ways to slide rails. He's not singularly an urban specialist or a fixture on podiums the world around. A respectful, driven skier originally from Ogden, Williams is reminiscent of the generation before him, when skiers like Pep Fujas, C.R. Johnson, and others were at the pinnacle of park skiing because they excelled at everything. Like the luminaries before him, Williams splits his time between competing and filming equally, and with his recent alignment with Level 1 Productions as the latest Superunknown winner, Williams will soon be adding film skier to his already well-rounded resume.
Williams recently moved out of his mom's house to live closer to Park City. If you see him this summer at Mount Hood (he works at Windells), he'll resemble any other park rat camping at Govy in the rain with nothing but a tarp and a pair of beat-to-shit rail skis. We caught up with Williams to learn more about the Park City disciple, who is quietly laying claim to a life of skiing.
I didn't start skiing park until I was fourteen. I grew up in Ogden, so I spent most of my time ripping around Powder Mountain, and I actually snowboarded for two years before getting back into skiing. I watched some friends mess around on some rails on their skis, and thought, "Whoa, that looks sick." So I got back on skis.
By the time I started high school, I was hooked. I bought twintips and started trekking over to Park City when I was a freshman.
My mom would drive me down to South Ogden to my good friend Jacob Callaghan's house every Friday night. He and some buddies—they were a bit older—would drive us out to PC. I would stay with Jacob until my mom came and picked me back up again Sunday evenings.
By the time I was 16 or 17, I had pretty much moved to Park City.
I owe Dustin Linker, founder of The Wasatch Project, a lot. He took me under his wing and offered me a place to stay, and free travel to competitions provided I helped take care of the kids that were paying to be a part of the program.
Many of the kids enrolled in the Wasatch Project were a year or two younger at most—some of them were even the same age. But I don't think they realized it. I would help cook dinner for them and keep them occupied when Dustin needed to take care of the business end of things. But then they would find out how old I was, and ask, "Wait, we're the same age? I thought you were older."
I work at a place called Aloha Ski Shop in Park City. My boss understands what I'm trying to do, and I'm afforded the time off whenever I need it. Competitions, film trips…whatever. It's the best of both worlds. I have a job that pays the bills when I'm home, but I can push out whenever the opportunity arises.
Level 1's Superunkown was a crazy week. There were probably 20 of us—skiers, filmers, and the Newschoolers.com crew—working hard all week. I had never experienced a session like that before in my life. It was a week of hard work building features with the Carinthia Park Crew: shoveling, designing, and tweaking features. And then we'd hike and session each feature. We became a really tight group of friends in short period of time.
I had never been to the East Coast before the Superunknown Finals. Vermont was beautiful. It seemed pretty similar to the scene in Utah, but with obviously different terrain.
Boston was super overwhelming, though. It just seemed like there were too many people crammed into too small of a place. It can’t be good to live in such tight places. It's bad for the soul.
We spent our whole trip in Hokkaido just skiing deep pow, building features, and enjoying the time in a new, completely foreign place. We had a few days that I can honestly say were some of the deepest turns of my life.
It's kind of like Utah Champagne, but somehow totally unique. It's light and dry, and you ski in the snow rather than on top of it. The terrain in Hokkaido is pretty rolling, so you get to surf and blast around without hesitation.
Competing keeps your mind sharp, and it forces you to keep your tricks on lock. I was invited to the Mammoth Grand Prix competition for slopestyle, but it was cancelled due to weather. I managed to win the Revolution Tour, though, so I'm going to go to the Grand Prix events this upcoming winter. Other than that, I'll be focusing on filming with Level 1.
Hopefully, I'll have a few clips in this fall's movie, a few from Mount Snow during Superunknown, and a few from the Brighton shoot. But next year, I want to put in a lot of time with them if I can. I'd love to put together a full segment.
It seems like there's been a big shift. It used to be that kids wanted to learn every trick; they would build a backyard setup and crank out all eight over and over again before even thinking about making it look good. Now, it's the opposite; the style comes first, and then the tricks.
That's probably the best part about working at Windells. You get to meet all of these rad kids that are so hyped on skiing. Plus, I get a summer pass and room and board.
And the biking is pretty awesome. There are great trails all over Mount Hood. You can have these sweet ascents to flowy descents.
This will be my fourth summer at Mount Hood. I started coming here when I was 16 and would car camp in the woods with all my friends. It's just great vibes all around. All the interesting people you meet throughout the year seem to show up in May, and everyone just hangs out, camps, and skis. Doesn't get much better.