Rachael Horne TVN staff
Easily recognized by his cowboy hat, he was most famous for his hugs, smile and sincere kindness. Leon “Slim” Weston, passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
On Tuesday, he was transported from Idaho Falls back home by ambulance to Teton Valley where he was born and raised. He was surrounded by close family and friends.
Wednesday morning brought heavy snow showers. Grand Targhee’s slogan has always been, “snow from heaven, not hoses,” so it was hard for many not to think Slim had something to do with the snowflakes falling from the sky.
Widely known as the face of Targhee, he was an original employee of Grand Targhee Resort since it opened in December 1969. Slim has worked the lift lines for all 45 seasons. He was even there on Friday, Kristin, daughter-in-law, said, spending his last good day on the hill.
More than Targhee’s most beloved employee, though, Slim was a father to his two children, Troy and Chandra, grandchildren Olyvia and Bridger and husband to his lovely wife Cindy. He was born on Sept. 18, 1941 and raised in Teton Valley. His sisters Norma Hansen and Ilene Hammond live in Teton Valley and his brother Roy lives near Idaho Falls.
For the last 45 years he has worked at Targhee, but in the summers, he was a farmer, raising animals and growing various crops.
Not just a cowboy though, Slim took up snowboarding and loved finding the steeps and deeps on his snow machine. He even qualified and competed in the World Championship Jackson Hill Climb several times. He passed that passion on to his children and grandchildren.
Troy traveled around on the hill climb circuit for five years and his wife, Kristin didn’t think Slim missed a race. He taught Chandra how to snowmobile and the art of side hilling. Olyvia, his granddaughter, competes competitively in snowboarding, and she said, that’s because of her grandpa. She spent every weekend with him on the hill, using a walkie-talkie to check in. Bridger, his grandson, spent hours with him on his tractor or just talking with him while he assisted him with his physical therapy exercises. Both grandchildren are extremely grateful for their close relationship with their grandpa. Kristin said so many people have commented that his grandchildren have a lot of Slim’s same qualities. She said it’s seen too, in Troy and Chandra. They can walk into a room and hold a conversation with anyone and make them feel comfortable.
He never met a stranger, Kristin said, and was able to talk to anyone and treated everyone the same. A testament to that was the range of people who showed their support at a benefit organized in 2011.
There was an outpouring of support. It raised over $30,000 and over 1,500 people gathered at the community center in Driggs, hoping to help in his fight. And fight he did. He battled for 34 months.
“He was genuinely a friendly, wonderful person,” said Ken Rider, director of marketing for the resort. “He just made everyone feel special. It takes a special person to be able to do that and that was him.” The resort already has dedicated a run to him with “Slim’s Shot.”
Now known as Slim, Weston didn’t get the name until the late 80s when Warren Miller was shooting “Extreme Winter” at the resort. Weston rode up on horseback in the opening segment of the film, and Miller gave him the nickname “Ole Slim.” The name stuck and a celebrity was born. He’s been featured in ski movies, magazines and newspaper articles from the East coast to the West.
“But I haven’t moved very far,” he said in an interview with the TVN in 2011.
For a lot of people, Slim was the first person in the Valley they met. Some have said he was the first one to put them on the chairlift as a child. Now some of them have their own children and Slim has done the same.
He also might quite possibly hold the world record for giving the most hugs. Kristin said he never met a stranger, but he also never met an animal that was a stranger either. If he was near any kind of animal, they were drawn to him. “They came to him skinny and left fat,” she said. He farmed all summer long and Kristin said he enjoyed every minute of the time spent at Grand Targhee in the winter with his family and friends.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Slim said he knew he would have some bad days, but he always remained optimistic and still planned to be at the resort.
“You always meet so many nice, neat people,” he said.
Before he passed, Slim picked out a burial plot at the Alta Cemetery. It sits on the hillside facing the road to Targhee, “so he could wave to the skiers.”
A memorial service is tentatively being planned for Saturday, Feb. 22, but more details will be released at a later time.