It feels surreal to be writing this, but Nelson Pratt – one of the most talented and popular snowboarders in the UK – has died.
I first met "Nelly" in Tignes, during the winter of 1997/98. He and I had both just left school and were embarking on our first season in the Alps, working for Crystal Holidays. While I was scrubbing toilets in a chalet, Nelson and his new best pal Marcus Chapman were mastering the art of dish pigging in the bowels of the Curling Hotel. Until that December, Nelson had only enjoyed about eight weeks on snow, but he was already pretty handy on a skateboard and took to snowboarding like the proverbial duck. He had a relaxed style and managed to make any trick look simple. Although he returned home and enrolled at uni the following year, the call of the mountains proved too strong and he rejoined our gang in Tignes early in the 1998/99 season, where we enjoyed one of the most epic powder winters on record.
For a long time, he was that seasonaire mate you always thought deserved to be sponsored but who had somehow failed to be spotted. The truth is he was just too shy and polite a chap to go hassling for free kit, and he was always really in it for the love. Soon enough, however, word got out of his ability, and Nelson became one of the most respected riders in the UK scene, enjoying a long partnership with K2 snowboards.
Beyond the riding, Nelson was quite simply one of the nicest guys I have ever met in my life. People always say things like that after a death of course, but in Nelly's case I honestly don't know anyone that didn't love him to bits. How could you not? He was friendly, funny, loyal and above all humble. While he now rode with the elite, he never forgot his original seasonaire buddies; there just was not an arrogant bone in his body. Years later, when I got this job at Whitelines, I was lucky enough to hook up with Nelson on magazine trips to Kashmir, Mt Baker and Canada, and he remained as smiley and positive as ever.
Nelson's grounded perspective perhaps came from his upbringing on an arable farm in Hampshire. He hated technology (famously rocking a trusty brick of a mobile phone) and seemed profoundly connected to nature. Indeed he was only truly at home outdoors, where he could spend his immense physical energy digging jumps or helping his family with the harvest. Nelson was a man with giant strength, a giant appetite and a giant heart. A true gentleman.
Recently, Nelson had been passing on his knowledge to other riders through his work with the Army and the British Snowboard Team. His technical ability and natural charm made him the ideal coach. He will be sorely missed by everyone he touched in the snowboard community, but most of all by his family back in Hampshire. Our thoughts go out to them at this tragic time.
- Ed Blomfield, Editor