On the fourth day of a weeklong Tahoe storm cycle last March that dumped some six feet of snow, former ski racer Jeremy Benson bumped into Salt Lake City photographer Will Wissman at a parking lot in town. It was a fortuitous encounter for Benson, one of many pro skiers who call Squallywood home. An East Coast transplant who's logged roughly 85 days a year in the backcountry for the past five years, Benson avoids the resort, opting instead to master big mountains and surf undisturbed snow. He and Wissman ditched the crowds and found untracked fluff near Donner Pass. They made a few laps before setting up this shot, so Wissman masked their tracks with the hill in the foreground.
Despite being one of the area's premier big-mountain specialists, low-key, 26-year-old Benson does his best work away from the buzz of people, competitions, and, until very recently, cameras. And even with a sponsorship deal from Elan, and some half-dozen magazine appearances last year, his reason for earning his turns hasn't changed. "I've spent plenty of time just wandering around," he says. "But mostly I ski there because I like smooth snow."
THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR
WEIGHT: 175 lb.
HOME MOUNTAIN: Alpine Meadows, CA
SECOND OPINION: "Jeremy is the kind of backcountry lover a photographer is all over-he's in superb physical condition and is always willing to hike for a shot. He can drop heart-stopping, 50-degree spines with fluid grace." -Will Wissman, Skiing contributing photographer