Just before he moved to Jackson Hole in the winter of 1994-1995, Rick Wilson came home to find his mountain bike lodged in the doorway, still locked to the cast iron stove. His Nederland, Colorado, cabin had been ransacked. Thieves had taken his skis, motorcycle helmet, stereo, and leather jackets. But he didn’t let the burglar deter him from his dream of living in the Tetons.
With an iguana, four salamanders, a pool table, and an old futon in tow, Wilson moved to Wyoming after finishing college at the University of Colorado. He rented an old place on Hansen Avenue, and at one point had 10 roommates. He quickly acquired new skis to replace the ones the burglars had stolen.
“I bought a pair of skis from a friend for $10, and they were horrible,” he says. “I scored another pair for 20 bucks that were equally as bad, but that’s how I limped through my first few months until I saved up enough money to order a pair of K2 SL racers.”
Though Wilson grew up on the ocean in Rhode Island, the mountains define his life and work. Beginning his 25th year as Jackson Hole Sports ski repair shop manager this season, he still banks at least 60 days on snow each year. Several of Wilson’s shop mates have been there for 10 to 20 years. “The core crew has over 100 years of ski tuning among us,” he says. “The pursuit of fun is the reason we are all still here.”
On a typical day, Wilson sets up the shop by 7:30 a.m. for rentals and demos. Business peaks again in the afternoon before his team settles in to tune skis into the evening. But skiing always has its place. “We stipulate that every employee take a three-hour ski break each day,” he says. Wilson’s pick is normally Granite Canyon, just beyond resort boundaries, the beloved Elysian Fields of steep faces with never-ending fresh snow.
Now a proud father to a two-year-old daughter, Wilson has relocated to the Idaho side of Teton Pass to spread out on 25 acres with his wife and daughter as well as a diverse collection of amphibians, Juanita the cat, and Rizzo the beagle. On his property he also collects cars, including the late ski legend Doug Coombs’ van. “He was a hero of mine,” he says.
Wilson is eager to hand down his love of the mountains to his daughter, who will stand up on skis for her first time this winter. “To be on the inside of a mountain that is so big and so respected is amazing,” he says. “If you do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life.”