Turiano Publishes Most Expensive Guidebook in the World–Review

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 17, 2014      
Turiano's new guidebook. Don't drop it on your foot, and be ready for sticker shock.

Turiano’s new guidebook. Don’t drop it on your foot, and be ready for sticker shock.

It had to happen: just like the thousand dollar ski boot; the hundred dollar ski touring guidebook. With his new tome “Jackson Hole Backcountry Skier’s Guide,” author Thomas Turiano breaks just about every preconceived notion we have of ski touring guides. What’s not to love? Very little. Following, my list of pros and cons regarding that C-note you’ll consider dropping.

1. Scope. After all the hype, the movies, the repetitive verbiage about the Tetons being the “Chamonix of North America,” guess what? This 407 page magnum opus from Wyoming is NOT about the Tetons. Instead, we’re talking a huge area running about 45 miles south of Teton Pass (and a bit to the east). Comprising more than 210 summits and so many ski routes I had to stop counting after four hours and six double espressos. Topping that, many of the detailed routes yield that perfect below timberline terrain that’s made Teton Pass one of the most popular places in the country for human powered glisse. Oh, and also made it one of the most crowded places in our fine land (wait for a parking spot, anyone?).

So, implied here, use this guide and crowds will be a distant memory, like what you had for lunch in second grade.

Some routes are epic, but a quick perusal showed me quite a few options that still had good road access (though most are not “lunchtime attractions” and quite a few require approach marching). As an example of the character building type of access, if you’ve ever been in Jackson you might have gazed at the Gros Ventre mountains. Here is Turiano’s approach info for the southern Gros Ventre:

“…About 10 approach miles are required in winter and early spring — one-day trips are possible with the use of snowmobiles or snow bicycles on packed roads in Little Granite Creek, Granite Creek…”

Area covered is most decidedly NOT the Tetons.

Area covered is most decidedly NOT the Tetons.

2. This hardcover volume is not your backpack guidebook. It’s not even your dashboard guidebook. This compilation of tree wood and ink weighs three and a half pounds and costs nearly a hundred bucks. Fine by me. What you have here is the ultimate reference. No need for a website, no need for a stack of small incomplete guidebooks. Just keep this on your work table at home, mark your maps, program your GPS, and go.

I like the concept. Though I have to wonder: if Tom had simply published this mountain of information and imagery on a website and larded in some advertising, could he do better financially as well as providing a better information source? In a few more years the answer to that will become all too obvious. Ski guidebooks will port over to the web, or people will see value in the physical copy. Or both. Turiano’s book certainly gives us an example of the latter.

3. For a book this huge, natural history and cultural front material are refreshingly brief. You get about a page on wildlife, followed by a negative lecture about snowmobiles. Since snowmobile access appears to be the key for many of the routes, it would have sufficed for Turiano to advocate limiting snowmobiles to pre-used routes, and stating his opposition to “play” ‘biling. When used for access on existing trails, sleds are a tool just like an automobile. No need for panic.

Open the book to nearly any random spread.

Open the book to nearly any random spread. You’ll be astounded at the prolific and nicely marked route photos.

4. I’d argue that the vast majority of ski tourers want moderate to slightly steeper mid-winter powder, not necessarily even close to a windy, cold, breakable crust coated mountain summit. Here in Colorado, our recently published guidebooks indeed have an obvious lack of suggestions for mid-winter powder terrain, that of moderate angles, perhaps with aspects and configurations that help with managing avalanche danger.

So, go to Wyoming, where Turiano delivers the powpow. Page through “Jackson Hole Backcountry Skier’s Guide” and you will experience a hunger of epic proportions for the perfect mid-winter powder skiing depicted in seemingly endless array of well labeled photos. That’s not to say you can’t find gnar within these pages. Yes you can, along with plenty of summit descents. But the winter powder options are obvious.

Check out this classic powder skiing terrain, and it's close to town.

Check out this classic powder skiing terrain, and it’s close to town.

5. Maps. At first glance this book’s maps are stunning. At second glance you’ll notice no truly useful detail maps are provided. That’ll be up to you, perhaps by using a GPS with loaded digital maps, or paper. Interestingly, the word GPS is not even in Turiano’s index, let alone there being any GPS coordinates in his text. Another thing about Turiano’s maps is you’ll notice hundreds of little circles with the letters “SP” or “MP” on a white background. These indicate “snowmobile parking,” and demonstrate that perhaps the way to enjoy many of these routes is to begin with a snowmobile ride.

Snowmobile parking is marked on the maps. More important than contour lines?

Snowmobile parking is marked on the maps. More important than contour lines?

I’ve always been a fan of the unusually good snowpack at Teton Pass. Interesting stuff. Even though Wyoming weather can be frigid, they get a lot less faceting than we do here in Colorado, and overall the pack is a lot more supportive and “bridged.” While I like the snow, I’ve intensely disliked what’s happened to the parking scene at “The Pass.” In my opinion the solution (for Teton Pass as well as other places in the country) is development of additional parking near other zones — along with private sector authors such as Turiano giving complete overviews of the goods, idea being to spread people out instead of concentrate them. I bow to Turiano for his help with this. May all ski touring writers follow his lead.

At this time, “Jackson Hole Backcountry Skier’s Guide: South” is available at selected specialty retailers as well as the author’s website JacksonHoleBackcountry.com. I’d recommend this as a an excellent Christmas gift for that skier who used to have everything.

See our coverage of other Thomas Turiano books etc.

Also, check out Turiano’s books on Amazon. Thomas Turiano at Amazon


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30 Responses to “Turiano Publishes Most Expensive Guidebook in the World–Review”

  1. Jerky Schmilkus November 17th, 2014 9:37 am

    I biked around the Gros Ventre mountain range back in June. It took me 38 hours. Yes its that big.

  2. Douglas November 17th, 2014 9:39 am

    Wow – Epic!

  3. wyomingowen November 17th, 2014 9:56 am

    Remember this is Volume 1. Volume 2 is coming out in the near future, north of Teton Pass!

  4. rob November 17th, 2014 9:57 am

    this book and turiano as a person and author are truly top notch. as a testament, try finding his “select peaks of the greater yellowstone” and you’ll be shelling out upwards of $400.

  5. Mike Marolt November 17th, 2014 10:05 am

    Reading about some of the old legends from that area on those massive ski tours, I wondered about all the terrain compared to the few hot spots that get all the press.

  6. Nick November 17th, 2014 10:14 am

    To reiterate rob’s sentiment, I own and frequently reference Turiano’s “Select Peaks…” and if this new book is anything remotely close in scope/breadth then it’ll be an instant classic. And worth more than the initial benji, too!

  7. ben ellis November 17th, 2014 5:30 pm

    tom’s book is amazing. thanks for the review.

  8. todd chapman November 17th, 2014 7:12 pm

    While I have watched and read Lou Dawsons creed for many years (and have much respect). Im sorry to hear his less than stellar review of Toms well thought out and extensively researched text. I see some of the points, but think it deserves a better rating.

  9. Dave Field November 17th, 2014 9:27 pm

    I thought Lou gave it an excellent rating? It certainly made me wish I lived closer so I could justify the purchase!

  10. gringo November 18th, 2014 2:05 am

    HI Lou,

    I would like to ask you the following in regards to your review:

    1. Why are GPS coordinates seemingly so important for you?
    2. Why do you feel that contour lines ‘missing’ from the overview maps?

    In this age of the nanny state and backcountry travellers whose ‘experience’ translates to three grand worth of gear and reading a few internet forums, don’t you think that a backcountry traveller should have ability to use the (as you described ‘stunning’) overview maps and extrapolate this info onto the appropriate USGS quad?
    Seems like this is still a pretty low bar for entry while not spoon feeding details to the inexperienced who could then get themselves into trouble.

    just a thought.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 November 18th, 2014 4:15 am

    Hi Gringo, GPS coordinates are important to me. I’ve found that as the scope of where I ski increases due to travel, and I end up more in unfamiliar areas, have at least a brief listing of GPS coords is extremely useful. For example, if I want to study the terrain on Google Maps, instead of hunting around for the place, I just enter the coords and quickly zoom to the exact place. On the land in real life, I find having the coords especially useful for obscure trailheads and parking, this especially true in foreign countries where getting verbal directions in English is sometimes difficult. Here in North America, I’m thinking of foreign visitors who may not understand much English but can parse out the facts in a guidebook and use GPS. There are a few reasons.

    As for nanny state and spoon feeding. First, GPS is not all that easy to use for real-wold backcountry. Beyond that, in this case I believe people get as much challenge and difficulty as they want, and that something like having GPS coords might even make it easier to find your challenge, rather than spend your time driving around in the dark looking for a parking spot.

    Believe me, I’m as uncomfortable with the concept of “nanny state” as one can be, and yes that trend can worm its way into all aspects of life. But asking for good details in what is already a guidebook isn’t too nannyish, in my opinion. It’s like wanting understandable road signs.



  12. Carl Pelletier November 18th, 2014 6:42 am

    I’m still trying to ski peaks that Tom unveiled in the “Selected Peaks” book. This is becoming exhausting. This book crushes all of my possible excuses of being bored on any given day this winter….and provides push back to the claims of Tetons becoming too crowded. I only wish that a snowmobile came with the purchase of each book. This will be my Christmas present to myself this year.

  13. Trent November 18th, 2014 7:32 am

    Lou, I appreciate your honest discussion of the ethics of both GPS and sleds. Do you have a recommended GPS unit for the backcountry?

  14. Lou Dawson 2 November 18th, 2014 7:47 am

    Trent, all the consumer GPS units on the market are incredibly bad. Using a smartphone as backcountry GPS is also problematic. Screens are too small. Touchscreens work poorly in bad weather. Firmare is confusing. And on and on.

    Nonetheless, if you want to get started with GPS I’d first recommend simply using a smartphone, with a weatherproof case and a spare battery. You may find it satisfactory. If not, you can say you tried.

    Beyond that, look for a Garmin that doesn’t have a stupid touch screen, or that has a screen lock as well as manual controls.

    The only Garmin I’ve ever found that’s even half way satisfactory is the Garmin 60CSx. In terms of using my phone, due to the near invisibility of the screen in bright light I’ve found it to be somewhat of a joke. Great for finding a restaurant in Munich, not so great for finding a mountain pass at 20 below zero in a bright whiteout.


  15. Lou Dawson 2 November 18th, 2014 7:48 am

    Carl, indeed, one wonders how Tom even got half this information! That and he’s been a musician all that time as well! He must have cloned himself. Lou

  16. Colby November 18th, 2014 10:33 am

    For android phones, I highly recommend orux maps. You can download scanned usgs topos directly through the app as well as the newer digital topos usgs has been assembling (although hydrology features are not labelled in these for some reason). Still doesn’t make for a winter friendly gps, but its as good as you can do with a phone in my experience. It also allows you to manually set how often you want it to collect coordinates if tracking is enabled to help manage the battery life.

  17. Mark Worley November 18th, 2014 10:47 am

    I have Turiano’s “Select Peaks” guidebook, and if this is similar, it will set a new standard. Can’t wait to check this one out.

  18. Michael Pearlman November 18th, 2014 10:52 am

    Thanks for the insightful review Lou, though I would disagree with your choice of headline for this post. Tom’s efforts in producing this book have been a labor of love and represent thousands of hours of personal research and exploration. This is a niche guidebook that is only going to be a truly valued resource for western Wyoming residents who are also avid ski mountaineers. I’m not sure how big the production run is, but I can’t imagine it’s that large.

    Speaking from personal experience, Tom is one of the humblest, most well-respected ski guides and winter explorers in the Teton ski community. If anyone deserves to charge a premium for this vast collection of information, it’s Tom. I believe the book is hardly overpriced for the (admittedly small) segment of readers who will cherish the curated knowledge found between the pages.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 November 18th, 2014 11:23 am

    Michael, I know Tom, he and I have been in communication since my days of writing WildSnow. There is no ill will here or negativity. That’s just a fun headline intended to attract readers, sorry you took it the wrong way. Seems like some of you guys are a bit touchy. It’s a book review, not a PR press release. The idea is to write some opinion and relate a few interesting factoids about a book most of our readers may actually never see in the flesh. What is more, many people equate expense with quality, so the headline could be taken in a positive way, depending on your outlook on life (grin). Lou

  20. Peter November 19th, 2014 8:11 am

    Thanks for letting us know about this book….its style sounds awesome!

    Also, glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks all the consumer handheld GPSs on the market are terrible, specifically the UI design.

  21. Lou Dawson 2 November 19th, 2014 8:36 am

    The thing about handheld outdoor activity GPS units is when you really need them, in a whiteout at 10 below zero in a snowstorm while wearing mittens, you find out what really works. Fooling around with geo caching and fishing are fun ways to use GPS and probably what most are designed for. I get blank looks from most of the GPS booth people at trade shows when I ask about simple concepts such as control lock and visibility in bright light, not to mention battery life. Lou

  22. Graham November 19th, 2014 10:35 am

    Wow! I’m going to have to pick this up. Thanks for the review Lou!

    One note, and Lou, if you want to follow up on this you know how to find me, I think the future is along the lines of what Modernist Cuisine did (yes, really, I just referenced a $700 cookbook) or what Jim Lawyer did with Adirondack Rock. You can put a unique code into each book that allows for a 1 person at a time access to a website where you can download detailed topos, or GPS coordinates or even .pdf’s of things that you can print or leave on an e-reader. Monetize it via a code or provide it free…

  23. chooch November 21st, 2014 4:39 pm

    Is this tome printed/manufactured in the US? I have purchased far too many Chinese-made books that fall apart. It would be a shame if this happened to a book like this.

  24. Galactic Pirate November 23rd, 2014 2:30 pm

    Worth it at twice the price!

    Think about it, you can have one day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or a book filled with a lifetime of skiing . . . and that’s only Jackson Hole: South!

  25. Lou Dawson 2 November 23rd, 2014 4:10 pm

    Pirate, good way to look at it!

  26. Bernhard December 1st, 2014 11:12 am

    Nice review, thanks!

    However, my guess is that Anselmes book for Chamonix might be the most expensive at the moment 😛 :


  27. Lou Dawson 2 December 1st, 2014 11:28 am

    Wow, Turiano should raise his price.

  28. Lou Dawson 2 December 1st, 2014 11:31 am
  29. Phil Gyr December 22nd, 2014 10:55 pm

    I find the urge to fragment the mountains into little red lines and parking spots troubling. Does not such an extensive and exhaustive tome leave little room for personal discovery? Poring over a map/google earth after glimpsing the top third of a run from a distant peak, the willingness to have a bad trip or three before finally figuring out the cherry line and the optimal skin track, scoping out a line from the Hoback Canyon road and then skiing it, then skiing the lines you saw from the top of that one? No Sir, we got a guidebook! That covers that peak to that peak to that one waaay down there on the horizon. Any jemoke, especially one with a sled, can roll south to ski the cream without sweat equity, without a thought. Despoiling what had hence been the realm of the independent, the Pass lemmings will descend.

  30. Blias April 9th, 2015 7:52 am

    youre an arrogant asshole Lou Dawson! Get off your high horse and quit being such a jerk to people in public

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