Olympic skier Jeremy Nobis, ‘The Icon,’ dies in a Utah jail

Nobis, 52, was being held in the Iron County jail as he awaited sentencing in a DUI case.

(Craig Hansell | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jeremy Nobis competes in Park City, January 1991.

Olympic skier Jeremy Nobis, who became known as “The Icon” for his fearless feats on skis, was found dead in his cell Wednesday morning at the Iron County Jail in Cedar City.

Nobis, 52, was being held at the jail while awaiting sentencing in a DUI case, according to a news release from the Iron/Garfield/Beaver Critical Incident Task Force. He had been incarcerated since Feb. 11. His sentencing was scheduled for Tuesday.

He was found alone and unresponsive, the news release said, and was pronounced dead at the jail.

“Life-saving efforts were attempted by Iron County Jail staff,” the release said.

(Craig Hansell | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jeremy Nobis in Park City, January 1991.

A Wisconsin native who later attended the ski-centric Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont, Nobis made the United States Ski and Snowboard team at age 16. He was a World Junior Champion (giant slalom) at age 17 and won another (super giant slalom) at age 18, when he also began racing World Cup events.

In 1994, Nobis competed for Team USA in the slalom and giant slalom at the Lillehammer Olympics in Norway, taking ninth in the latter.

Shortly after those Winter Games, Nobis began skiing professionally. He appeared in films by Warren Miller Entertainment, Teton Gravity Research and Matchstick Productions. TGR co-founders Todd and Steve Jones named his descent of a steep Alaskan mountain face one of their top 21 moments of the first 21 years of the now ubiquitous action-sports media company. The descent ended up on the February 1998 cover of Powder magazine under the headline: “Jeremy Nobis: The Next Rock Star?”

Todd Jones, in a video about the moment, described Nobis as “this long-haired, fiery ex-racer. Just a crazy ball of intensity and energy.”

Skiing with intensity and abandon became Nobis’ calling card. His fast descent of steep slopes earned nicknames like “The Icon” and “PsychoNobi.” Nobis, who had his own pro model of Dynastar skis, is perhaps best known for his run down Harvest on Alaska’s Pyramid Peak. It is a 52-degree slope with a 2,000-foot vertical drop.

“I was always completely blown away with how you attacked the mountain full throttle,” photographer Tony Harrington wrote on Nobis’s Facebook page. “And crikey, what about that line you dropped into when we were in Greenland when filming with TGR! probably the most I’ve feared for any athlete I’ve photographed in such a hair balled situation where falling was not an option.”

He appeared to live his life in a similar manner. He had been caught driving while impaired no fewer than five times. One of those was in Park City in 2006, when, after leading police on a chase through town, Nobis struck a tree, collided with an officer’s SUV and tried to run away. No one was injured in the event. At that time, according to the Park Record, he had already been convicted of drunk driving twice, in 1999 and 2005. In 2011, Nobis led police in Jackson, Wyo., on another chase, this one reaching speeds of up to 100 mph according to a Ski magazine article published in January.

He also had been charged with a DUI in Mesa County, Colo., the Ski article said.

Utah court records show Nobis was arrested on March 25, 2019, following a rollover crash on Interstate 15 near mile-marker 42. His blood-alcohol level at that time was .42 — more than eight times the state limit — and he had open alcohol containers in his vehicle, according to a probable-cause statement issued in support of his arrest. He was released three days later and required to appear before the court at a later date. Nobis did not appear for an August 2021 video conference related to that case and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He was taken into custody on Feb. 23. On March 7 in a 5th District Court, he pled guilty to a single count of DUI, which is a third-degree felony. Nobis was facing a maximum of five years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

No foul play is suspected in his death, according to the news release.

Nobis’s younger sister, Shannon, also competed in the 1994 Olympics and was a member of the Park City Ski Team.

A message on the USSA’s website said the organization’s “thoughts and condolences are with his family, friends and ski community.” It also included a link to the organization’s mental health resources.