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'Extreme' ski star Billy Poole dies after jump goes terribly wrong

Published January 23, 2008 2:14 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Billy Poole's daily phone calls with his mother reliably ended with the kind of dialogue that becomes well-rehearsed after a son leaves his nascent career in engineering to become a professional extreme skier.

"He'd say that this was his life, and this was what he had chosen to do," Phyllis Erck said late Tuesday. "Of course I was terrified . . . but I respected his choice. I know he died doing what he loved."

Poole, 28, was performing a jump earlier Tuesday in Big Cottonwood Canyon, between Solitude and Brighton ski resorts, when a bad landing left him with fatal injuries. He was flown by helicopter to University Hospital, where he died at about 1:30 p.m., said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Paul Jaroscak.

Poole was filming in the area with Boulder, Colo.-based Warren Miller Entertainment. A spokesman said the company is trying to learn more details about the accident before commenting.

"He had wanted to ski in a Warren Miller film his whole life," Erck said.

Pennie Thompson, Poole's sister, said her brother had been a "cautious" skier since they were children in Missoula, Mont.

"I skied with him my entire life," Thompson said. "He takes risks, but they're always calculated risks. He doesn't usually do something so insane that nobody else would do it. When he'd come home and say, 'I've been jumping off cliffs,' we'd say, 'Oh, great,' but we knew he was smart about it.''

Poole took up skiing at age 4 and hasn't looked back, Erck said.

After completing a degree in civil engineering at the University of New Hampshire, he returned west to launch a career on the slopes. He has appeared in magazines, on billboards and in films shot internationally, relatives said.

He co-owned a ski-headware company, called Discrete, and was sponsored by Black Diamond, a ski-and-climbing-equipment distributor in Salt Lake City.

Black Diamond spokesman Penn Newhard called Poole "a hard-working" athlete who was well-liked on the ski circuit.

"He was highly regarded as an up-and-coming and talented young athlete," said Newhard, noting Poole was a "superpersonable young man."

Poole was making a name for himself on the slopes and was an ambassador for Utah's ski scene, said Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah - the state's ski and snowboard association.

"It's really sad news," Rafferty said. "He was a phenomenal athlete and a great representative of Utah's ski community."

According to Black Diamond's Web site, Pool skied and filmed in Argentina this summer with the Levitation Project, a Utah-based skiwear and production company. Last year, he traveled to Alaska for "Respect," a film by Wink Inc.

"It was always his life dream to go and ski in Alaska," said Thompson, Poole's sister. "That was one of the big things that he was so happy about - the ability to go skiing in Alaska, . . . where nobody else goes."

Poole also filmed in Japan, said his grandmother, Ruby Erck.

"It always scared us anytime we watched any of the movies," she said. "From the day he learned to ski, he was always looking for jumps he could learn to jump over. He's made his profession skiing because he loved it so.

"Anything he did he put his heart into."








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