From the Alps to the Tetons

15 Jan 2018

Former army ski patroller embraces teaching at Snow King

Winter 2017/2018

Written By: Kate Hull | Images: David Bowers


If you ask Jim “Slim” Wilson what he does, you’re bound to hear an assortment of vocations and skill sets. What might lead to a better answer, however, is asking, “What don’t you do?”

A professional ski instructor, talented musician, dancing aficionado, ski patroller, U.S. Army veteran, postal worker, locksmith—the list goes on and on. He’ll tell you he’s most proud of his role as “Dad” to three. And he lights up when he dives into stories from his time as a ski patroller for the U.S. Army in the early ‘70s. The now 65-year-old has some stories to tell. As a young man just out of high school, the typical collegiate route wasn’t leading Wilson on the path he had hoped. Working three jobs and balancing classes proved taxing. He decided to join the Army to get out of town and put his skills to use. He excelled on aptitude tests, and ended up as an infantry medic stationed at a remote outpost in Germany, about three miles from the border with East Germany. About a year into his service, Wilson discovered an Armed Forces Recreation Center in southern Germany called Garmisch where troops from all over Europe could visit and enjoy the outdoors. The haven in the Bavarian Alps gave soldiers a way to relax and feel a bit more at home. “My interest was sparked,” he says. “I applied and got accepted. I went down for the summer and was a mountain guide, kayaking instructor, swimming instructor, all while being in the Army.” That winter, the center was looking for medics to become ski patrollers, and the Michigan native took on the task. “The camaraderie that developed out of all these young kids in Germany was lasting,” he says. “We were skiing and living in Germany. It was like a dream come true. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Our unit was termed ‘adventure trainers.’ When we weren’t helping people, we were in the mountains climbing. It was my introduction to the mountains.” "Having been at Snow King now for 41 years, more than half of its life as a ski area, when I am on that mountain, I am home." Jim "Slim" Wilson After his service ended, Wilson sought out the challenge of the mountains again. He followed friends from the service out West and eventually made a home in Jackson, where he took a job as a ski instructor at Snow King Mountain. Wilson spent 18 years as a locksmith and is going on 22 years with the postal service, where he is in charge of maintenance. But throughout the decades, he has always worked at Snow King where he is now the Alpine trainer. Under the tutelage of legendary ski pioneer Bill Briggs, Wilson developed a love for teaching and furthering the sport by way of training other instructors. For him, it’s a way to further his passion for skiing. “Having been at Snow King now for 41 years, more than half of its life as a ski area, when I am on that mountain, I am home,” he says. Every year, Wilson and his Army pals from Garmisch meet for a reunion. This year, for their 44th, they will gather at Snow King Resort. Looking back, a lot has come from 20-year-old Wilson’s decision to join the service. He carved a niche in the service that led to a lifelong friends and love of the snow-covered mountains.
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