A Hotbed for Talent: How six of Utah’s best skiers made it to the spotlight
As seen in the February 2012 issue of Freeskier. This article is drawn from a five-part feature story on the Utah ski scene. Compiled by Shay Williams.
Whether they grew up in Utah or migrated to the state, these six skiers are shining examples of the diverse personalities and skills that find root in the area. Freestyle, big mountain. Classic, new school. Family man, young buck. All this and more is found thriving in Utah.
Tanner Hall—Age 28, 10 years in Utah
“Tanner and I have a mutual love: skiing. I admire anyone who is as passionate about skiing as he is. Because of it, he goes full steam ahead into his endeavors. He loves what he does, and it shows in his performance. Part of what makes Tanner such a great skier is his natural skill, but that skill is fueled by his drive and energy, and that is what sets him apart. That energy is part of what has made him outspoken, too. Sometimes his passion is so strong that it bubbles out and can be taken the wrong way, but the root of any outburst has always been about his love and passion for skiing."
“Tanner’s ability to stay at the top of the game for so long is also a testament to his commitment and passion. His amazing skill and love of sport has allowed him to continue to progress and change over time. This has allowed and will continue to allow him to stay in the game for years to come.” —Sage Cattabriga-Alosa
Photo by Chris O'Connell
Sage Cattabriga-Alosa—Age 31, 11 years in Utah
“Sage is one of the best at going out and skiing every different terrain, no matter if it’s the park or rails or jumps or backcountry jumps or a gnarly line. It’s pretty apparent through the years of his TGR segments that he isn’t getting worse. Every year he steps up the level of how gnarly he is. What really separates Sage is how fluid and smooth he is on his skis. There aren’t many people who can make turns look like he does. It’s like he’s floating three or four inches above a spine. The way he engages the turn from his waist down and keeps his upper body so silent. When I watch him ski, it’s like watching water in motion. It flows right. When you watch him, it makes your heart feel good. Skiing is something we all enjoy, and he does it to the fullest.” —Tanner Hall
Photo by Erik Seo
Grete Eliassen—Age 25, six years in Utah
“Grete established herself more in the park scene, but her move to Utah wasn’t focused on that. She took advantage of everything it had to offer. I’ve witnessed her skiing evolve from park to getting involved in snowmobiling into the backcountry and riding at Alta and Snowbird. She covers all facets of what this place has to offer."
[Photo left by Nevins_Red Bull Content Pool]
“It’s great to have someone like Grete in Utah. She’s a great ambassador, especially for women. She’s won and medaled in major events like X Games and Red Bull Cold Rush. She got a world record, produced her own movie and was named to the US ski team. And that’s only the past couple years. I think it’s safe to say Grete is a pioneer for women’s skiing. She’s doing it right.” —Blake Nyman
Blake Nyman—Age 27, 27 years in Utah
“I met Blake at the Jon Olsson Invitational in Sweden years ago. When I watched him practice I was like, “Whoa.” I saw him spinning a 1080 while doing shifties. I was blown away. I’d never seen anything like his skiing."
[Photo right by Adam Clark]
“What’s cool and refreshing about Blake’s skiing is that he creates this image that makes it seem so fun. Even people that only ski during Christmas or whatever, they can look at Blake and know that’s what they want to look like. What he’s doing is incredibly hard, but he still makes it appeal to a broad audience. His style is so different from any other skier on the mountain, but it totally fits. We’ll be at Park City and then go to Snowbird, yet he fits in at both places no problem. Sometimes that doesn’t work with other skiers. Blake combines both worlds so easily.” —Grete Eliassen
McRae Williams—Age 21, 21 years in Utah
“He’s a quiet kid—not really super crazy, and he won’t be the life of the party. But when he sets his mind on something, a trick or a run he wants to land at a contest, he zones in and gets so focused. It’s crazy to see. He skis so well just by putting his mind to it. He doesn’t say much until he gets out there and lets his skiing say it all."
[Photo left by Nate Abbott]
“McRae and kids like Alex Schlopy and Joss Christensen that are doing well at contests are bringing a lot of respect back to the area. The higher ups at Park City are starting to see these local kids—that have grown up and learned to ski here—are winning X Games and traveling all over. If they continue to put resources into the parks, they will see kids that learn to ski here end up in the Olympics and other big contests. People like McRae are showing them that they can create that sort of community here.” —Tom Wallisch
Tom Wallisch—Age 24, six years in Utah
“It seems like I was getting my career going before Tom even started skiing. Then bam, he blew up and began changing the sport. I remember years ago shredding Park City with the usual homies and thinking, 'Who is this guy rolling around without poles?' Then his Level 1 Superunknown video came out and everything changed."
[Photo right by Nate Abbott]
“There are a lot of good park skiers and a lot of dudes that can do tricks, but when Wallisch skis, it is something else. He’s got all the tricks and his style is beyond fluid. He makes it look absolutely effortless."
“To this day, I look up to Tom as the inhuman being that he his. He works harder than anyone, earning straight As as a student on top of traveling the world to be a skier. That takes some serious dedication, and I’m inspired.” —McRae Williams
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