Extreme skier Jimmy Zell passes in Jackson
Extreme skiing legend William James Zell died Tuesday morning at St. John's Living Center in Jackson Hole, Wyo. He was 48 years old.
Confined to a wheelchair ever since a 1996 paragliding accident in Mexico, Jimmy Zell also was battling Lou Gehrig's disease and lyme disease.
Prior to his accident, he was a forefather of extreme skiing and mentioned in the same breath as men like Doug Coombs, Dean Cummings and Dean Conway. He is said to have pioneered many of the popular backcountry lines in and around Jackson Hole, where he lived. He was an original member of the infamous ski fraternity known as the Jackson Hole Air Force. In 1993, he was runner-up to Coombs in a disputed World Extreme Skiing Championship.
Zell had many friends in Aspen and Colorado, where he also skied.
"In my view a star has fallen. The sky is darker tonight. Like a supernova it's gone," said Theo Meiners, an Aspen native who lives in Jackson and operates Alaska Rendezvous, a heli operation in Valdez. "We are all super upset about his passing. We just wanted our brothers and sisters to know in Aspen that a great man is gone. He wanted to live but not die. He fought for every breath to the end. 'It's not every day that's a blessing. Every breath is a blessing.' Those are Jimmy Zell's words."
A little over a year ago, Zell's health worsened and a benefit was thrown in his honor.
“I’ve had a pretty good life,” he told the Jackson Hole Weekly at the time.
“I can look back at the stuff I did and it gives me strength," he said.
He will certainly be missed.
"Jimmy Zell was one of the great ones," said Meiners.
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