Photograph by Adam Barker

Parker Cook

Words by Julian Carr 

He is drenched. Taking a knee, wiping away the sweat, he tips over. Exhausted—not quite sure what’s happening—he’s dizzy, dry heaving, and finally, he passes out.

When he wakes up, Parker Cook removes his welding mask, gloves, apron, and quickly realizes that he’s logged 70 hours of work each week for the past five months. He’s low on sleep, water, and food with a deadline of over 65 custom tables for a client looming in a week. Add to that mix the dozens of bid requests, the materials to source, and the accounting and payroll systems to figure out for his young business. Parker has been in enough high-pressure situations to know it’s time to step back, evaluate, and recognize the breaking point. He will not be taking new clients for the next two months. Firm. And it’s time to raise prices.

What a challenge. What a reward.

Parker Cook is a legend in the ski community with countless features about him in magazines such as The Ski Journal and POWDER.

He scored the holy grail of advertisements: the Alta Ski area ad—Parker in face-deep powder shot by photographer Lee Cohen. He’s one of a very small handful to jump the rarely-hit 180-foot Leviathan Gap. He has also been around the globe competing in video competitions and reached finals in multiple World Freeskiing Championships. The man loves to ski and he has a damn good time along the way. I know this because I’m usually right there next to him on many of these adventures. It’s often said that big-mountain skiers of today are like the Wild West cowboys of the past. And with his memorable name, Parker Cook is like today’s Billy the Kid. But Billy would have been wise to steer clear of Parker Cook.

What’s separating Parker from other big-mountain skiers chasing the powder and the next big storm is the in-demand furniture company that he started just one year ago. His client list reads like a well-established business, already outfitting the entire new Armada Skis headquarters in Park City, Ruth’s Chris, Barclay Butera, on and on. And it’s all been word-of-mouth. His pieces go for north of $5,000, and he has a long waiting list for his work. His work crew consists of childhood friends Ky Bitner and Dustin Swan, who says, “Parker is meticulous and engineered to the nth degree; his work ethic is relentless—something like a steroid-abusing T-rex.” No one ever accused Swan of resorting to clichés.

Prior to founding Parker Cook Designs, Parker was a dedicated employee at his dad’s company, Salt Lake Cement Cutting. He found a back room in his dad’s shop to call his own and got to work. One of his first projects came from his mom Linda, an interior designer who asked Parker to replicate some flower planters he’d built for her. Turns out, some of her clients had asked about them and wanted the same planters for their home. That was the humble beginning of what Parker quickly took advantage of—he just knew how to make killer stuff.

“I would describe my work as sophisticated industrial,” says Parker. “I believe in the integrity of raw materials and I believe that integrity should be maintained.” There’s a beautiful simplicity in his work—it’s a simplicity born of trust—trust in himself and trust in the materials. “I like working with raw wood and raw metals,” Parker says. “The imperfections of natural materials are what make them unique. If it’s Douglas fir, it’s Douglas fir. If it’s rustic white oak, I want to keep it that way. Because of this, no two pieces will ever be exactly the same.”

Those of us who have skied with Parker understand it-—he’s an artist, a natural, out there in the elements. It’s no surprise that he appreciates the raw materials that he uses. “My background is heavy in metal work, but wood brings a certain softness and elegance that will complete a piece. Bringing these two materials together just makes sense.” An artist on and off the snow.

In addition to being talented, he is also a stand-up human. And one of the funniest people I know. And high- energy. He’s a Tasmanian cloud—if you’re in his path, be ready.

Introducing Parker’s cousin, Walker Willey, who has grown up with Parker. Walker, who is living an equally big life, says, “You definitely want him with you on any adventure. His skills are legendary. He’s full-throttle—on skis, on his feet, at work. He is the definition of good times.”

And because the gods didn’t hand out gifts equally, Parker is also lucky in love. He met his wife, Kate, in Alaska five years ago. I remember him coming home from that trip. All he said was, “I met someone,” but he had the look in his eye. She is an absolute sweetheart, but she is also a ski beast. She’s one of the most capable skiers at Alta. When I ask Kate what Parker means to her, she simply replies, “Kind of cheesy, but the truth is, he means everything—so clichéd but true. He reminds me of how good life is every day.”

I’ve known Parker for a long time. Skiing is what brought us together, and I’ve had countless memorable days with him on skis. It’s hard, though, to beat the few magical days we had skiing in Utah during a big snow cycle. Graced with three to four feet of snowfall in two days, Parker and I met up with friend and photographer Will Wissman. In two days we jumped four cliffs together, each over 80 feet.

It was the picture of perfection—knowing we had put in the right amount of safety protocol and studied the cliffs perfectly and standing on top of these monsters together just before dropping in. And it’s a thing of beauty to watch Parker do his thing—to get airborne—and even with 100 feet of air between him and the ground, he can keep a tight body and not budge an inch. I’ll never forget those moments on top of those beautiful cliffs. We put 100% trust in each other and we tackled those monsters together.

Maybe that’s how he keeps his weld hand so steady and why his business is also soaring. He doesn’t shy away from pressure or commitment. He seeks out challenges and nails the landing with signature Parker Cook style.
And the others who have tackled those monsters with him only have praise. It’s a funny thing, putting yourself out there in the elements, risking life and limb for a shared passion. The bonds that you create are solid and you learn whom to count on in sticky situations and who will push you.

Willey, the cousin, is no slouch of a skier; he says, “Following Parker on snow is a guaranteed noble and potentially dangerous goal. You’ll definitely send something you don’t want to, probably go a little faster than you planned on, and you sure as shit better try your damndest to keep your style as smooth as his.”
One of Parker’s best friends is one of skiing’s most recognizable names, Dash Longe. Longe says, “After years of filming, I’ve found the most important aspect to enjoying your day is laughing and having fun. It’s constant good times with Parker; he’ll punt a cliff and then swap your water bottle for whiskey just for a laugh. But, Parker, I will get you back someday.”

All of these character testimonies about Parker lead back to one thing—he is an amazing guy operating on so many levels. When I sit back and observe him, I see a guy who is cloaked in fun, but who is very dedicated to the people in his life and his craft. He seems to be happy to be “growing up,” but he says that growing up doesn’t mean you need to let relationships dissolve or spend any less energy with your friends living life to the fullest. And for Parker, living life to the fullest now means that he puts something creative out there in the world.

When I ask him about what inspires him, he gives it to me straight, “I am constantly observing my surroundings. Everywhere you go there are things to observe, but only if you are interested. Luckily, I am entirely interested and I absolutely notice. I will stop, and look, and wonder, and design. I feel fortunate that I have not yet run into the problem of lacking inspiration.”

So what is next for Parker Cook, the come-from-nowhere all-star custom furniture builder? He’s looking at how to scale up his business; he has a roster of protocol products his team can catalog; and he is focusing on creating new and cutting-edge pieces.

For Parker, it’s a matter of balance. “I love my wife and family, I love skiing, and I love creating furniture for people,” he says. “It’s simple and all will continue.”