Wagner Ambassador: Benni Solomon
Wagner team ambassador, Telluride native, and former mogul competitor Benni Solomon just launched a new film.
Called “Recess,” it is about a continuous line at his home resort that Solomon has been dreaming about skiing for years.
Growing up in Telluride, Solomon competed in moguls, became nationally ranked, and won the Junior National Championships in 2014. Though he retired from competition at the age of 17, Solomon continued to find endless inspiration in the other aspects of skiing, from discovering hidden spots on the mountain to big-mountain objectives. “Recess” is his first ski film, and you can stream it on his YouTube channel.
To celebrate his release, we caught up with Solomon at his home in Telluride to ask him a million questions. Here’s (some of) what he had to say.
Wagner: How has growing up and skiing in Telluride shaped your skiing ability and style?
Solomon: It’s been a huge factor. We have lots of long and steep bump runs that drew me in to that side of the sport at a young age. I competed in moguls from age 6 to 17 and was pretty focused on that for most of my childhood. After quitting competition, I realized how much I enjoyed all the other aspects of skiing as well. I’m always looking for new spots to jib or shape features on with friends. The hike-to’s here are sick, too, lots of hits you can link together, which definitely plays into why I was inspired to make a nonstop line. I feel like this mountain creates some really well-rounded skiers because of the diversity of terrain.
Wagner: What memory stands out to you the most from competing at such a young age?
Solomon: I’d have to say the local mogul course when it used to be on Lower Plunge on Chair 9. It was the steepest course on tour and had a way of eating people alive. I remember my first comp run on it when I was about 9 or 10. It was gnarly, unkempt, definitely not to “specs,” but that’s what I loved about it. The other courses were, for the most part, all the same; this one gave skiers a chance to showcase their style and skills in a different way.
Wagner: What is it about Wagner that drew you to the brand?
Solomon: I think everyone’s ski preference and style is super personal. There are a ton of mainstream brands that I’ve skied on and really enjoyed, but there was always something I’d change about a ski if I could. Getting to fully customize everything is wild—I love to nerd out on all that stuff. Plus, they’re a local brand, so it aligns with me really well.
Wagner: What’s your favorite stock Wagner topsheet?
Solomon: Some of my favorite topsheets are in the artist series, especially the ones Jack Plantz made last year.
Benni's skis rock a custom graphic by Wagner's own Sherwood Smith.
Wagner: What topsheets do you have on your skis?
Solomon: Last year was my first year on the Wagner team, so I wanted to pay homage to Telluride and create graphics with my favorite local mountain range, the Wilsons and Lizard Head. I drew a rough draft, gave it to Woody, who then killed it on the design. Got some fun stuff in the works for next season, and I’m excited to see how they turn out.
Wagner: Since Wagner Skis are designed 100% for you and totally customizable, what are the specs of your skis, and why?
Solomon: Last year, the goal was to make the ultimate, everyday Telluride ski, and I think we nailed it. They’re 186 cm in length, 137 mm in the tip, 108 mm in the waist, and 127 mm in the tail. They have some rocker in the tip and a little bit in the tail, which makes initiating the turn seamless and adds some float in powder. They have a 22.9 m sidecut, which lets me get a wide range of turn shapes out of them. The core is made from aspen with some fiberglass layers and a carbon fiber torsion wrap. That basically makes them sturdy and predictable at high speeds, but also super playful. Those two elements were key for me because I want the ski to hold up in chop but also be able to slash and bounce around a bit. We threw a Cast touring setup on them as well.
Once the lifts have closed, you can do a lot more to get the shot.
This year, the plan is to create the “little brother” version of the ski, something a little nimbler. I still plan to hold on to last year’s pair for bigger snow days and touring.
Wagner Skis are really tough and made to last. Trusting my skis is huge for me, they’ve helped me keep my confidence high by being sturdy and maneuverable at the same time. I feel like I can get out of any situation with them—straight-line out of something or make a quick turn on the fly.
Wagner: Where did the inspiration for your recent film edit come from?
Solomon: I’ve always loved the idea of a continuous line. I remember watching the JP Auclair segment from “All I Can” and being super inspired. The tricks were simple, but he had tons of style and creativity both with the skiing and cinematography. I had the matching Armada JP kit when I was, like, 8, too. More recently, the continuous line Bobby [Brown] did at the end of “Dynamic Medium” really stood out to me. Also, the Cascade event he created in Winter Park is pretty much that idea just on a way, way bigger scale.
Although the cut looks easy, it took a bunch of work to build all the necessary features.
Wagner: What was the most challenging feature?
Solomon: Definitely the North Chute/Telluride Trail road gap. There were a lot of unknowns going into it—it’s not really something you can just try to hit mid-season because the landing is a mogul field and coming up short would be pretty consequential. So, we chopped down what we thought were enough moguls to make a sniper landing spot, probably a 10-ish square-foot pad. The gap itself wasn’t the biggest thing ever, but the speed had to be perfect. The first hit was just a straight air to test the speed. It felt good, so I tried a 3 with a little less speed. Somehow, I managed to go farther, probably because I had more pop, and came down at the end of the landing on the front-side of a mogul and immediately tomahawked. Luckily the soft slush bumps broke my fall, and I was fine. A couple of our friends happened to be touring up past us right when that happened. So, I got up, asked if I could jump over them, then was able to get a shot. Little bit of trial and error with that one but glad it worked out.
Benni jumps over Telluride Trail and onto Kids' Hill.
Wagner: How many times did you have to hike each feature to get the shot you were envisioning?
Solomon: For the smaller features, we would ski down to the spot, build it really quick, hike back up, and get it in one take. We also built a couple smaller hits between the main ones that I would hit in one take on the way down. For the main ones, it took anywhere from 2 to 3 hits. Without a lift, that was a lot of hiking. When we were building the jump, Cedar Palmer would be scheming the best places to shoot from so we’d be dialed by the time it was ready. Building took around an hour for each one, then I would hike it once to test the speed, hike up again, throw the trick I wanted, do it one more time to get a different angle, then move on to the next one.
Benni Solomon gets upside down in "Recess."
Wagner: Any plans for this season?
Solomon: A few weeks after filming “Recess,” I dislocated my shoulder which then needed surgery. Got the surgery in May and should be 100% by the time ski season rolls around. My focus this year is going to be on getting the shoulder right, building strength and confidence back up, then take it from there. I have a couple of ideas for edits that are more focused on storytelling and showcasing the mountain though! Stoked for a solid recovery and another season with Wagner.
Skiing by Benni Solomon. Still photos by Orion Willits. Interview questions by Quinn Chody. "Recess" by Cedar Palmer.
Benni is a born and raised Telluride local. He went to college at CU Boulder and moved back home in 2019 to work for Telski full-time in Group Sales. He joined the Wagner team in 2022 and is stoked to represent the brand in his skiing endeavors.