Would Trevor Do It? Book Review – Edge of Never

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Heart and Soul of a Ski Bum

Ever since first being contacted by the guys making the now legendary movie “Steep,” I wondered where they got their point of departure.

Principles at PJ Productions (the movie makers) told me they’d studied my “WildSnow” history book and used my online chronology extensively (server stats seemed to back that up). Yet from day one of meeting those guys I wondered how the movie was birthed, as my involvement was peripheral and it was obvious they knew nothing about ski mountaineering.

Enter Bill Kerig and his new book, “The Edge of Never.” Under the covers you’ll not only find Kerig’s foundational role in the origins of “Steep,” but excruciating details on the life and death of Canadian extreme skier Trevor Peterson, and the subsequent entry of Peterson’s teenage son Kye into the world of real extreme skiing.

Why excruciating? For starters, it is heart breaking how Trevor became such a master of mountains and skis, only to die in an avalanche at his prime — leaving a family behind. Reading the details of that is something I find to be tough because the scenario is close to home. More, for a variety of reasons author Bill Kerig, along with ski celebrities Glen Plake and Mike Hattrup, hatch a plan to take Trevor’s son Kye down the same run where Trevor perished — only Kye is 15 years old and has no experience with extreme skiing or alpinism.

If you’re thinking WOW, you’re right.

Kerig begins his tale by relating how “Steep” began with his own idea for a movie about the “tribe,” and extreme skiing. Relatively clueless at the start, he phones Glen Plake and suggests filming a “seminal set piece” in Alaska. Plake responds by pointing out that movie making and most skiing in Alaska is about helicopters and thousand dollar days, while “real and true big mountain skiing is Chamonix. Period…ski mountaineers…pay for your turns in sweat…it’s not Alaska, it’s freakin’ Chamonix.” (So perhaps Plake is actually the originator of what we finally saw in “Steep” ?)

The pair speak about getting up-and-coming skiers involved. One name stops the conversation. Kye Peterson.

From there the story diverges a bit. We’re treated to excellent biographical material about Trevor. As for the movie, we read about Kerig’s involvement with Steep and how the flick became something much different than the story of Kye Peterson going to Chamonix, or a basic documentary of ski alpinism. But still, Kerig and Plake’s “madman’s scheme” is what drive’s the book: “A daring young man, aided by the elders of his tribe, faces the demon that destroyed his father and either dies or becomes a man.”

After convincing PJ Productions to buy the the idea of taking Kye Peterson extreme skiing in Chamonix, Kerig realizes they may be proposing risking the young man’s life for the sake of a film, and can he ask Kye’s mother to support such a scheme? So Kerig and others from PJ Productions go to Canada, where they get Kye and his mother on board. Even so, while reading the book I got the impression no one involved in that initial decision knew what they were really getting the kid into.

The story twists and turns. We eventually find out how the the movie evolves into what became the “Steep” we saw in theaters. But not before Kerig, Plake and Hattrup (along with the “best guide in Chamonix”) have a gripping epic guiding Kye down the same run his father died on, Exit Couloir on the Glacier Rond, Aguille du Midi.

After reading the account of how poor conditions were for their day on the Glacier Rond, how Kye was belayed down much of the run, and how they ended up skiing hours too late and nearly getting taken out by an avalanche (just as happened to Trevor), I had to wonder: Was all this worth it — or even borderline appropriate?

The book implies yes, Kye being rafted through a gnarly big-mountain extreme ski was somehow valuable because the “community” and “tribe” are what it’s about. Kye is a member of that tribe because of his budding pro ski career as well as his father Trevor, so being initiated into tribal manhood was just, well, the right thing to do.

But with all the associated hype, cameras, movie making and etcetera, my mind kept coming back to the question. So I asked Hattrup the other day if he honestly thought what they did was good, and honoring of the sport and Trevor’s family. Hat said “yeah, I totally feel it was.”

So I thought about it some more and asked myself: Would Trevor Do It? Or, more clearly, would Trevor support it? If what happened to Trevor had happened to me, and Trevor, Plake and Hattrup wanted to take my 15-year-old son down a run like that, as a ski mountaineer I’d think that was a beautiful thing. Though I’d have questioned safety being compromised by wrong timing due to too many participants and cameras. And my wife would have to approve.

So yes, Trevor would do it. And that’s good enough for me.

Good book, check it out.

Shop for this book.

Comments

33 Responses to “Would Trevor Do It? Book Review – Edge of Never”

  1. Dongshow November 21st, 2008 3:45 pm

    I don’t have a family, but I think I’d feel the same. Especially with the Midi. If “the tribe” was to have a few certain holy sites worthy of pilgrimages it’d have to be near the top of the list. It sits like a star over that awesome valley, and the site of it running in the morning on a powder day can lift the heart like little else.

  2. Dave B. November 21st, 2008 6:32 pm

    I’m not a ski mountaineer. I’m just an average skier who likes to make backcountry turns when he gets the chance. So maybe I’ve got no credibility here. That said, I remain unconvinced that this adventure was right, justifiable, or appropriate. Had the idea originated with Kye in the private unfolding of his own coming to terms with the loss of his father, and had he and his mother worked out the idea on their own, and then after that he had sought the assistance of the “tribe” to help him do it, I might be more willing to see the value of this exercise. Instead I remain skeptical of the motives, all the moreso when I read that they pushed the boundaries of risk well into the realm of the same bad decisions that may have gotten his father killed. It smacks of a version of summit fever where the desire to accomplish the goal compromises good judgment. I suspect that in actuality it all made for good drama, they needed the shot, and “the tribe” members were willing to risk an adolescent’s life to get what they wanted. Saying after the fact that it “totally” felt right is just rationalization.

  3. Lou November 21st, 2008 6:47 pm

    Dave, I definitely had some of the same feeling you do, but after talking to Hattrup and reading the book I got more comfortable with it. I do totally agree that if the idea had sourced from Kye and his mother it would have a better ring to it. When I first wrote the review I had some zingers in there about ski media hype, but I took those out because Kye was already part of that scene, so my bringing it up seemed hollow. And Trevor’s friends seemed to have approached the whole thing with quite a bit of sensitivity.

    It’s just too bad the idea originated as a movie hook, but that’s my old-school take. Seems like everything these days has to be some sort of movie…

  4. Mike M November 21st, 2008 9:07 pm

    If the tribe would have asked that 15 year old to eat glass in the name of his father, he probably would have. As parents, as fans of the sport, readers of the rags, viewers of the ski movies, and even ski partners pushing each other, we are directly supporting the concept of “pushing the sport” at all levels, at all ages. The notion that there are actually “FREE riders”, guys and gals out there referring to themselves as “professional” skiers just because they are sponsored, fuels the fire to get young people out farming the next great stunt because there is an element of CASH, a cool title, and even a career out of it.. Unfortunately, compared to old school professionalism IE athletes good enough to have pro licenses or ability to consistently be invited or hired to compete at venues where actual quantifiable talent allows for it and economic gain is available for it, kodac courage and money will continue to let people rationalize doing, for lack of better description, stupid things. In this case, in the sport of “extreme skiing”, far to often then not, the only thing that separates the living from the dead is luck. Look at the hit list of guys getting killed around the world in the past 24 months while skiing and riding, almost always in front of a film crew, and we see things reaching a level of no return. We justify it as for love of the game, and doing what we were born to do. But what else can we say? If only for respect for the dead, we don’t have much of a choice.

    That said, the only rational basis for what is happening is that from the time we are born, we are dying. It would be great if we could just ski for the sake of skiing, say no to camera crews, money, and fame. But in all honesty, as long as we are breathing, a thing called ego will always force us to push the sport. More often than not, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But it seems lately, far more often than not, we are pushing a bit too hard.

    There is an ad out lately by K2 where a straight line ski track is captioned “every turn is a sign of fear”. This is the perfect signature of how far the sport has been pushed and in what direction it is going. And to think some people have spent their entire lives trying to learn how to turn on these things. Seems kind of silly if you think of it.

    M

  5. Lou November 22nd, 2008 9:21 am

    Interestingly, the book ends with the “best guide in Chamonix” miscalculating while skiing for the camera and breaking his neck in a fall off an ice cliff. After that JP productions freaks out and says they’re not shooting any more “action.” This was in March 2005. But then they go on to shoot Andrew McLean and his group getting avalanched in Iceland in May, 2006. I guess they changed their minds.

    In all, very interesting getting more backstory on all this.

  6. Utard November 22nd, 2008 10:12 am

    The “getting avalanched in Iceland” part was not scripted.

    I think it is important to realize that these two projects, Steep and The Edge of Never, are completely, totally, 99.9% different projects.

  7. mikem November 22nd, 2008 10:29 am

    the avy wasn’t scripted, but i guarantee they were “stoked” to get that footage. It definitely made that scene; otherwise you have three guys climbing and then making typical AT turns. Not hugely exciting as ski films go. Definitely a minor part of the film compared to the million dollar heli ski shots without the unscripted part.

    While the projects were 99% different, they both involved cock dogs on skis in front of a camera; that’s a powerful drug, on both sides of the lens, pushing the sport.

  8. Lou November 22nd, 2008 10:43 am

    I didn’t mean to imply that any of the unfortunate incidents were scripted. They most certainly were not. Nonetheless, the cameras and situation were there by intent, none of it was totally random…

    As for Steep and Edge of Never being totally different projects, they are now, but they didn’t start that way according to Kerig’s book. Since I’m writing about origins and backstory, I’m talking about both projects.

  9. John Gloor November 22nd, 2008 11:22 am

    Excellent posting Mike M. In the aftermath of the deaths of three local skiers last year there was a good column discussing filming and responsibility in this forum also. Until I see a film shot from a hidden pit blind like they do with African wild life specials, I will presume the skiers are amping it up for the camera since they know it is there. I do not think cameramen are exempted from some responsibility (maybe only morally and not legally?) by saying their subjects are “Pros”. I would like to see the W2′s of some of these pros. My guess is that most still have a day job or two and the professional title comes from some ski or garment sponsorship. Todays cliff jumps have definitely crossed into the realm of stunts, but no professional stuntman in Hollywood would presume landing areas are rock free and safe, or that slopes are avy safe. There would be a lot of assessment of the jump/ski, and not one athletes opinion that he/she can make it. This argument by is only for commercial shooting. If someone wants to push it personally or in a competition, that is their choice

  10. Matt Kinney November 22nd, 2008 11:57 am

    Good right up Lou. Interesting perspective. Really its all about survival, that is being very lucky until you get beyond 30 years of age. After that a natural sense of survival sets in and you realize how dumb you were, but perhaps it was worth the rush and luck of those kodak moments in the past. Survival of the strongest/wisest works and weakness comes as a sign of poor decisions regardless of your so-called self proclaimed professionalism and or sponsorship. The mountains will chew you up and spit you out if you screw up. There is no such thing as professional backcountry skiers as far as I can see. Stuntskiers are something different and perhaps best documented in Warren Miller cines.

  11. Matt Kinney November 22nd, 2008 12:03 pm

    BTW I wrote up a review of the movie STEEP about a month ago for my web site since it had so much about the local stuff. May interest some.

    http://www.thompsonpass.com/pages/steep.html

  12. Kirk November 22nd, 2008 1:48 pm

    I didn’t get the impression that Kye was exactly stoked about any of this, from reading the book. He’s just a kid that likes to ski, not someone whose life’s dream has been to ski the Exit Couloir to finish what his father started or honor his legacy.

    Compare this to John Harlin climbing the Eiger because he has spent his entire life trying to live up to what he thought his father’s expectations might have been, and living in the enormity of his father’s shadow. That shadow obscured everything in his life for 40 years and you can feel it in his book.

    It would’ve been a better read had Kye come to the Exit Couloir on his own accord years from now, rather than being invited for commercial purposes before he was old enough to have a drivers license. As Anselme Baud says about his own dead son, “Better to lose yourself to your passion than to lose your passion.” I can say that about Trevor, not so sure I could’ve said that about Kye had he perished in the Exit Couloir, as I never got the impression skiing it was his passion but rather projected on him by someone else.

    Nevertheless, I thought it was a good read.

  13. Frank K November 22nd, 2008 7:00 pm

    Mike M- “There is an ad out lately by K2 where a straight line ski track is captioned “every turn is a sign of fear”. This is the perfect signature of how far the sport has been pushed and in what direction it is going.”

    Meanwhile, 15 or 20 years ago there was an ad campaign with the caption “To turn is to admit defeat”. I can’t remember who the ad was for, maybe Marker.

    The more times change, the more they remain the same. Skiing has gone through times before where people are asking why? and What are we doing?– For me the last point in time like that was 1993?, when Paul Ruff died trying to re-take his cliff jump record.

    I’ll be getting this book soon, seems like a good read either way.

  14. rob stokes November 23rd, 2008 4:59 am

    One thing that stood out in your review Lou, is that you claim Kye had ‘no extreme skiing or alpinism’ experience.
    He may have no alpinism (for all i know), but he has had a lot of extreme skiing experience. Not ski mountaineering, but defiantly freeride/off piste/freestyle (whatever you wish to call it). He skied with very competent guides in Chamonix. Thus making up for his lack of, tech alpine skills-this is what guides are for. There is no doubt that this kid can ski.
    However, it’s hard to fathom why they skied the route when Kye had to be on belay most of the way. This suggests the snow conditions were not how they should have been, and that also suggests they should have waited. Were they under pressure from film crews, deadlines……money?
    Its shame that this whole trip was the idea of a film crew….it would hold much more meaning if it was Kye’s idea. As Mike m points out above, you could get a 15year old kid to do anything, if he thinks it’s going to help him come to terms, and honour his father’s death. But none-the-less, who are we to speculate on if it was good for Kye to do this?
    If Kye were to die in cham, it would have been awful. It would have been even worse if he was there for the wrong reasons. I don’t think his dad would have been happy with that, from fathers, or an alpinist’s view.
    We all go into the mountains to ski and climb, we all take risks and we all try to minimise those risks that are inherent to what we do, but, whenever we find ourselves in these dangerous situations we should be able to take a step back and know we are there for the right reasons.

  15. Dave N. November 23rd, 2008 10:20 am

    Good write up Lou. And Matt’s review on Steep is also on track. IMO, if Hattrup felt the moment was honoring of Trevor’s memory then I defer; afterall, he was involved and probably felt the emotions of the moment were worthy. Will read the book

  16. Lou November 23rd, 2008 11:52 am

    Rob, when I use the phrase “extreme skiing” I mean as the words are used in Chamonix.

    Dave, if I’d just read the book without talking with Hattrup I would have been much more skeptical of the whole deal, as I’m not a big fan of the endless media hype that seems to surround this sort of thing.

    The peak of my own extreme skiing career was just before and during the start of the “video” era, and I remember seeing it coming on and being very uncomfortable with it and the re-definition of extreme skiing at the time. Thankfully guys like Plake and Hattrup really pushed for true ski mountaineering and core extreme skiing once they got their eyes opened, and their doing this thing with Kye was an extension of that, but I agree with you guys in that if Kye’s descent had not involved so much movie making and media emphasis I’d like it even better. I wold also have liked to seen much more of a learning progression, over the space of years. That would have given it a more authentic feel.

    The book makes it clear that Kye is/was a good skier, but it also makes it clear he new little about handling steep, no-fall terrain, nor did he have any climbing or mountaineering skills to speak of.

    In the end, it sounds like Kye liked it. I’ll defer to that as well as Hattrup’s take.

  17. Marko Pyhajarvi November 24th, 2008 6:11 am

    Very interesting post, Lou! I ordered the book few days ago and I’m really eager to read it. It’s interesting to see Trevor’s son getting into the world of big mountain skiing. Good review, thanks!

  18. Mark W November 24th, 2008 6:48 pm

    This movie trailer/link is a good one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVkfMthGthg. I think I want both Steep and On the Edge of Never. My video collection is so small, that would about double it.

  19. Bill Kerig November 26th, 2008 7:45 pm

    Well, what a lot of thoughtful conversation about The Edge of Never and Steep. Thank you all for your cogent musings. And I’m especially grateful to you, Lou. You really read the book carefully.

    And yes, the beginning of Steep was based on a 150-page treatment that I wrote about modern ski mountaineering/extreme skiing/big-mountain skiing that I sold to Tom Yellin at Peter Jennings company. Buried deep in the credits of Steep is my credit for that: “Based on a factual story by…” My original contract was as writer/director/producer, but as you know, things changed.

    I am disappointed to hear that no one mentioned my involvement when they came to talk to you, especially since my good friend and ski buddy Brian Beck and I were behind raising all the money for the project. Still, I am nothing but proud to be associated with Steep, even though, as you noted, it is not the movie I envisioned and worked very hard to make.

    BTW, I very much liked your contribution to Steep. Your John Muir quote opens the movie quite lyrically.

    I am now doing a series of events to promote The Edge of Never book and at each of them I’ve been asked the same question that you and your readers so aptly pose: Could it ever be the “right thing” to do to take a 15 year old into this environment? My answer: I don’t pretend to know the “right” thing to do in every circumstance, but I do feel that we did a good thing in this one instance. Some of my reasons are outlined in the book. Some are not.

    Though it is well argued that Hattrup and I and the rest of us who were involved are hardly objective, I think we all felt that our shared adventure was a positive contribution to Kye’s life, one that was undertaken in the spirit of honoring our sport and passion, as well as his father’s memory.

    I tried to write an honest book and leave it up to the reader to determine whether or not this adventure, or any other dangerous activities, are worth the risk. I always hoped to inspire just the kind of conversation that I’ve found here.

    Also, your link to my book goes to a hardcover version of The Edge of Never, which does not exist. Amazon has the paperback on its site.

    Or, better yet, buy it from me here (www.theedgeofnever.com) before Christmas and I’ll sign copies for anyone.

    I’m going to send a link to this thread to Kye’s grandmother (with whom he is very close) to Kye himself, and to his mother. I’ll also send it to Kye’s Rossignol team manager, Paddy Kaye, who has been close to Kye for many years.

    I’m sure they can offer opinions on all of the above that are far more relevant than what I think.

    Cheers,
    Bill Kerig

  20. Lou November 26th, 2008 9:46 pm

    Thanks for dropping by Bill. The Jennings folks might have mentioned something when I spoke with them, but they didn’t put much emphasis on it. They seemed to be a mix of East Coast tight and West Coast mellow, and you never knew which side you’d be dealing with. After using my voice over and source material I thought they’d at least spring for a plane ticket to the premier, but that didn’t happen so I wasn’t able to attend. I’ve always regretted that. Probably should have sprung for a ticket myself…

  21. Bill Kerig November 27th, 2008 11:56 am

    Lou,
    Don’t feel bad, I ended up being a co-producer on the movie and they didn’t offer me a plane ticket either. To be fair, by that point they were far over budget and didn’t have any cash for anything. That, combined with other factors, made me decide to go skiing with my wife and kids instead of attending the premier.

    I’m happy with that decision. For me, I got to have a much more special premier experience with Steep in your town. Last spring the International Skiing History Association asked me to speak before and after a screening of the film that it hosted at the Belly Up. Dedicated mountain-town people sitting in the aisles, quietly with their cell phones turned off, listening, appreciating … It was the best audience for that film that I can ever imagine.

    BTW, I’m doing a book event at Explore Books on Jan. 23rd. If you’re around, drop by. I’d enjoy the opportunity to meet you in the real world.
    Cheers and Happy Turkey.
    BK

  22. Beth Stewart November 28th, 2008 1:01 am

    Was the experience for Kye worth it? Did I not fear, as his grandmother, the same mountain that shrugged her shoulders and carried my son Trevor to his death, the worst experience a parent can endure?
    Trevor never skiied with any heart for his sponsors; he hated the poser aspect of his ski mountaineering. He was happiest skiing free of sponsor entrapment, skiing for the sheer challenge and joy of it. At the time of his death, Steve Casamiro captured Trev’s last hours and his joy most eloquently. Look up the copy of Powder 1996 to capture the true essence of Trevor, the ski mountaineer. He was a purist at heart. He died during a mountan descent, doing exactly what he loved doing the best.
    \Kye very much wanted to see what his father saw on his last trip down the slopes of Chamonix. He was neither coerced nor drawn in by prospects of improving his reputation as a skier. Bill Kerig spent many hours with Kye and with his family ensuring that Kye would make this trip for the right reasons.
    Kye returned home, no longer a young teenager, but now a man. He found answers to his questions about his dad’s last ski and in the process, gained great respect for the big mountain community. His eyes shine in anticipation of more hours meeting the challenge of big mountain skiing in the future..
    Sure, his mother and I were anxious but also confident that the fellows would keep young Kye safe, at the same time offering Kye the singular oppotunity to answer his questions about the last hours of his dad.
    I think Bill Kerig has written his book honestly and with sensitivity, accurately recording events both magnificent and tragic. I believe that Trevor would have been very proud of his son’s accomplishment. I know that I am. And Trev would have said “Way t’go” to Bill for The Edge of Never.

  23. Lou November 28th, 2008 8:19 am

    Nice Beth, thanks!

  24. Bill Kerig December 1st, 2008 11:04 am

    Beautiful, Beth. Thanks for your continued faith and support.

  25. Bill Kerig December 1st, 2008 11:07 am

    BTW, if anyone’s interested in getting books for Christmas gifts I’ll sign and write a customized gift message on every copy that you buy directly from me at
    http://www.theedgeofnever.com.

    You tell me what sort of thing to write by filling in a new field that we created on the checkout form.

    Cheers!
    BK

  26. Adam January 1st, 2009 3:26 pm

    Re. “Every turn is a sign of fear” K2 ad: that’s me in the pic. I’m skiing like I normally do when I am confident in my ability relative to terrain and conditions, etc. I’m assuming those Suisse Rando-geeks (that pic was taken in Evolene) were skiing on skis that had the surface area of one of my skis. So what? They were ripping the Scheißßßßß in their own way. Good for them.

    Re. Kye: I’m almost twice as old as Kye, but I look up to him. When I grow up I would love to be half the skier he is today.

    BTW, if you actually care to look at that ad for more than half a second, you’ll notice I am actually making turns. They’re big, but they’re turns.

    Happy new year from bluebird pow day Verbier!!

  27. Bill Kerig August 22nd, 2009 9:26 am

    Hi Lou,

    Just thought I’d drop a line to say that the movie version of my book is coming out.

    We start touring with it on Sept. 16th.

    I’d be happy to send a copy to you, if you’d like to review it.

    Here’s the trailer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viQRxxJoeFo

    Cheers,
    BK

  28. Randonnee August 22nd, 2009 10:37 am

    The “Edge Of Never” trailer on Youtube is fantastic! I am touched, that kid is quite the little man. It is understandable for me, my 10 year old daughter is quite capable, in a few years I am sure she will routinely surpass her dad’s accomplishments almost casually. I am looking forward to seeing the movie.

  29. Roger August 24th, 2009 11:21 am

    found a longer (and excellent) trailer on the EON website:

    http://www.theedgeofnever.com/movie.html

    check it out!

  30. Patty February 6th, 2010 10:03 am

    I saw the movie last night. I do not have kids & I have never been skiing. The movie was AWESOME! I cried when Kai was shook the ashes. I thought those guys are crazy! They live life to the max.

  31. jzoutdoors February 16th, 2011 5:26 am

    Kye’s point of view some weeks ago as seen on the freerideworldtour website:

    “Kye: Well, it was a good experience because that was my first time going to Cham but it was pretty … I’ve just never done anything like that. It was a big production and really, the movie wasn’t made for the core market. The guy who made the movie wasn’t really one of us, a skier, so… I’ve just kind of put that behind me now. It was definitely a junk show and I’d never do a trip like that in a place like Cham again, that’s for sure.”

    That should answer it. I liked the movie, but I feel gutted knowing that it wasn’t made in his best interest.

  32. Lou February 16th, 2011 7:23 am

    Jz, I wouldn’t feel so bad. What goes into any creative endeavor is never perfect. The end result and message of the movie, though a bit contrived, do work. Kye might not have had the best experience, but it goes beyond that.

  33. Stella October 3rd, 2012 5:25 am

    I have never read the book but will definitely be purchasing it after seeing the film. Kye is a very noble and grounded young man and the presence of family values in the film really spoke to me.
    Very interesting thread, all of your views and back story illuminations make for an engaging read.
    Stella @ Dynamic Lives

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