William Peter Nelson
A snow white as the sea.

Living in the heart of natural surroundings and thanks to nature, William Peter Nelson, alias Willie, has made this his daily life. Hunter of snow-flakes during the winter and fish in the summer, insatiable for the beauty and wonders of the world, this skier originally from Maine and based in Utah and Montana conveyed his spirit of wild and free skiing which has been won by sheer will-power.

Sam Watson

US 9 Longwoods Road, Maine, never ending woods, villages dating from the first British colonies and, white churches under infinite skies. It was here that William grew up among his parents and two brothers. “I grew up in North Yarmouth, Maine just outside of Portland. I have two brothers were all two years apart and I’m right slap in the middle. We always caused trouble growing up and spent a lot of time outside, catching frogs, throwing rocks at each other or snowballs at passing cars in the winter.. I guess just being kids? I’ve grown up at least…”

Jay Dash

Although not rolling in gold, the family took advantage of any opportunity to take their children skiing. William started skiing at the age of three with the first and only lesson as his baggage. “We weren’t all that well off but my parents always made every effort possible to get us on the hill. My dad was very passionate about skiing and wanted us to appreciate it the way he did. I didn’t always agree with getting up at 6am to make it to the mountain 30 minutes before the lifts were spinning but we needed to take advantage of every ski hour if we were going to buy a day pass. Or he would make us lie about our ages to get a free or discounted child pass.”

The birth of a passion

Arriving in high school, he signed up for downhill and continued timed skiing until his last few years there. It was good to do any form of skiing. “It was mostly for the opportunity to just be on the hill. I guess I liked it too. I would take a few laps through the park every day at practice, and warrantied a few pairs of skis breaking them on backseat landings.” Equally passionate about fishing and notably fly fishing, William went to University in Montana so as to combine his two passions with marketing studies. A golden period where he both skied a lot in the winter and fished a lot in the summer. “It was a great time and had a lot of like minded friends. We would set up rails in peoples yards or lug one out in the woods. Then I started doing local rail jams and Slopestyle competitions in the northwest and did pretty good. We filmed quite a bit in school too, I wish I could find some of that footage.” Once his studies ended, he followed several friends who were going to spend the winter in Utah. “I found myself a job folding laundry at Alta at night with some good people. It was just about perfect.”

Eric Seo

School of the vagabond

After having profited from university,to become an experienced skier, Willie took maximum advantage of this new period dedicated to skiing. “I put a lot of effort into skiing as much as I could through college and that hasn’t really stopped. I had some good connections in Utah when I moved there and skied with some very inspirational, talented skiers who helped show me the way; Dylan Natale, Kyler Cooley, Tim Durtschi and Wiley Miller… kids I watched in movies. I started meeting some photographers when I started hurling myself off cliffs to flat landings. My team won a Salt Lake City ski photo competition in 2011. I took 1st place in a sub category and got my photo in Powder magazine. Shortly after I signed my first ski contract from 4FRNT. I had been riding and working for Saga Outerwear since their beginning as well, and got some face time through them.”

The fishing game

Incapable of sacrificing skiing to the altar of a career, Willie looked for a means of financing winter freedom. “A friend told me 10 years ago about commercial fishing in Alaska and how it was only a few months in the summer, it sounded perfect. I went up on my own in 2010 and found a job on a boat. Since then I’ve worked on 5 boats, and finally found a comfortable boat where I get treated well.” By adding some harvesting work during the autumn, William was able to finance his winters, chasing fish in order to chase snow-flakes. “Typically I go up north to in mid May to Homer, AK. The season starts the first week of June When we travel for a day from Homer to The Prince William Sound in the Valdez area and stay out until the first week of September or when our cannery stops buying fish from us. I’ll go down to Montana after that and get a breather and enjoy some nice weather and friends and get a taste of summer/fall. I’ve been going to Oregon for a couple months to do some farm/harvesting work the past 8 years, it helps me not spend money, make some and takes me right up to ski season. I’ll typically be in Montana again for the last week of November to pack up and head down to Utah and get ready to ski! I base out of Salt Lake, but travel for a month or two typically… Japan lately, Canada, and Northwest (Montana/Washington/Idaho). I try to leave the start of the winter open to chase some snow, then have more concrete plans later in the year. I also try to be in Utah for the last month of the season and enjoy the spring. I’ll go up to Montana again before fishing starts all over. Brand some cows, enjoy some heat then cruise up north.”

Noah Wetzel

Three months at sea

The prospect of summer on a boat in order to profit from the snow in the winter might seem like a good idea, but to spend three months on a skiff working 16 hours a day with four guys smelling of fish, you have to have a real faith in your passion. “I’m on a 52 foot (17m) purse seiner and have been on the same boat for the past three summers. We fish all around the 25,000 square mile area (65,000 square kilometers) and rarely go to town. Tender boats take our fish and re supply us with fuel and groceries if we need it, so we can stay out and fish. Most fishing days we’ll wake up at 4am and look for fish and listen to our pilot as he flies around giving us an idea of where the fish are. We’ll fish until 8pm then deliver our fish and have dinner and get to bed around 10pm-midnight. In our area we get 16 hour openings from 6am-8pm.

Unknown

Some years its open everyday if there are enough fish getting up the streams to spawn, most years there are staggered fishing days. Its a well managed fishery and helps ensure there are fish in the future. Its pretty tight quarters with 4 of us on the boat. The cabin is fairly small and its mostly deck space for fishing. You get used to always being in someones way. The most important thing is to be able to get a long with your crew. Its a long 3 months on the boat and keeping your mind in the right place almost seems harder than the manual labor most of the time. We have some partner boats as well and have a tight group of friends that we screw around on off days once we finish whatever projects/net fixing/things break all the time on any boat. We’ll put wetsuits on and go cliff jumping, surfing behind our skiff, look for other surf breaks, go shrimping, sport fishing for halibut and whatever is down there. We do have a good time, its not tough like crabbing in the winter too.”

A crow in Utah

Noah Wetzel

While he was still at university, Willie discovered the Black Crows label thanks to one of his flat-mates who had lived in Chamonix and who gave him a contact. Eager to find a new sponsor. One thing led to another, he found the right contacts and managed to join the squadron. “I had always been curious about their skis they had some very intriguing shapes and design. I really hadn’t seen many if any in Utah and I figured it could be a good opportunity to get some more exposure for the brand. With some convincing it worked out after I found the right contact in the US. I couldn’t be more happy that it worked out. Black Crows makes some phenomenal skis and they are crushing it as an overall brand. I’m more than happy to be involved.” Armed either with the Nocta or the Anima, Willie continues to benefit from the marvels that Utah has to offer and this life of a wanderer dedicated to skiing and freedom“I’m based out of Utah in the winter. It’s an interesting city but the group of friends in the ski community and the easy access to great skiing is hard to beat. I keep saying I’m going to move away as the crowds get bigger, but its hard to leave. I’ll spend couple months in Montana too, I just like the pace of life and the people up there, it’s easy to relax and soak it in… Maybe I’m just a wannabe cowboy that never was too.”

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