New Book Of N. American Ski Alpinism Is A Stunner

Post by blogger | September 10, 2010      

Rumors about this book have swirled like wind blasted powder over the past year. I’ve seen it, and am here to tell you it is amazing. Author/publishers Chris Davenport, Penn Newhard and Art Burrows scoured North America for images and stories that best communicate the state of the ski alpinism art on our continent. They succeeded.

New book, backcountry skiing in North America

New book, backcountry skiing in North America

The wealth of backcountry skiing options we have in North America is indeed incredible. Nonetheless, due to a number of factors many people look to Europe for the ultimate in ski alpinism options. That’s understandable, since western EU has about 100 times more huts and 100 times easier access. But things have changed. We’ve got more backcountry lodges. Aviation and snowmobile access have solved much of the access problem. It is time to show our stuff.

Organized around a variety of carefully selected peaks and routes, “50 Classic Ski Descents” is actually a compilation of several dozen author’s writing (including yours truly). Contributor’s were asked to pick a “classic” and write up something experiential about it. The stories are brief, but edited well and flow nicely with a variety of mind blowing photos, processed for paper/ink presentation by Art Burrows, who was using Photoshop back when most of us were still drawing on cave walls. I’m not kidding about the photos — make sure you haven’t skipped your hypertension meds when you crack this tome, otherwise you could stroke out.

Now all that said, the question has already been asked, “didn’t Lou already write that book?” Indeed, when these guys (who are all friends and supporters) first came up with the concept I was wondering if they were just updating “Wild Snow,”.

“50 Classics” does include some of the same backcountry skiing routes as “Wild Snow.” But that’s where the similarities end. WildSnow is a deep history book with a bit of bonus material in the form of guidebook type information. “50 Classics” is a coffee table photo book, decorated by text from a variety of authors who provide a wide view of North American ski alpinism’s current state of art. Yes folks, you will need both books!

Publisher’s press release follows. We’ll publish a review just as soon as is appropriate for their production schedule.

The book is a large-format compilation of iconic and aesthetic ski descents from Alaska to Mount Washington. Created by ski mountaineers Chris Davenport, Art Burrows and Penn Newhard, Fifty Classic Ski Descents taps into the local knowledge of contributors such as Andrew McLean, Glen Plake, Lowell Skoog, Chic Scott and Ptor Spricenieks with first person descriptions of their favorite ski descents and insightful perspectives on ski mountaineering past, present and future. The book features 208 pages of gorgeous action and mountain images from many of North America’s top photographers. Whether you are planning an expedition to Baffin Island¹s Polar Star Couloir or heading out for dawn patrol on Mount Superior, Fifty Classic Ski Descents is a visual and inspirational feast of ski mountaineering in North America.

Books will be distributed by Wolverine Publishing beginning November 10, 2010, and available to pre-order at a 10% discount until November 1, 2010.

The book brings in many accomplished skiers including Hilaree O’Neill, Lou Dawson, Jimmy Chin, Chic Scott, Pete Patterson, Kristoffer Erickson, Lowell Skoog, Mark Synnott, Greg Hill, Kevin Quinn, Eric Pehota and others. Photographers include Christian Pondella, Will Wissman, Brad Washburn, Chris Figenshau, Keoki Flagg, Ruedi Homberger, Whit Richardson and Jonathan Selkowitz to name a few.


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23 Responses to “New Book Of N. American Ski Alpinism Is A Stunner”

  1. Mark September 10th, 2010 11:52 pm

    Fantastic. Might be the ticket for my fortieth b-day–both this new book and yours Lou.

  2. Adam September 11th, 2010 11:45 am

    oh man this is going right on the b-day list. any chance we can get a list of the 50? I would love to know they picked out and hopefully I’ve skied one or two. I wonder if this could become a new “to do” list for my life

  3. Kevin September 12th, 2010 10:31 am

    So, can this book be uesd as a guide book, or more as a motivatating factor, to get the pertinent route beta and go do it.

  4. Lou September 12th, 2010 11:13 am

    It’s a stoke (stroke?grin) book, no real guidebook style detail but each route includes map cords and first person descriptions of doing it. One reason they were able to d this book so fast is they didn’t have to find and verify guidebook style details. Again, that’s where it and “Wild Snow” differ greatly.

    The first person stoke stories are really great, take my word for it! Mouth watering trips that are simply the stuff of fantasy for most of us, but good dreaming is a healthy pursuit.

  5. Matt Kinney September 12th, 2010 8:34 pm

    Interesting title. How much of it is the same ole heli ski descents in Alaska, or is it a book about skiers climbing and then skiing great routes. I would be more interested in a book purely about ski alpinism. A seperate book on heli descents would seem appropriate.

  6. Lou September 13th, 2010 6:41 am

    Matt, it’s mostly ski alpinism, more on the extreme side (though my contribution is a mellow classic couloir). I think you’ll be happy with it.

  7. chris davenport September 13th, 2010 9:11 am

    Hi Matt,
    While there are a couple heli-descents in the book because of their incredible aesthetic value, the book focuses on ski-alpinism on some of North America’s most beautiful lines. all the contributors are noted ski-mountaineers. The cover shot tells the story- climb up and earn the reward of a great ski down. And to Lou’s point there are many “blue-runs” in the book, not all extreme stuff. The list of 50 runs the gammut from lines skied by hundreds every season to lines only skied once-ever.

    You’ll enjoy it.


  8. Matt Kinney September 13th, 2010 10:17 am

    I’m waiting for a book of pure ski mountaineering and this one appears to compromise that ethic. Thanks for responding Chris. Sure there are aesthetic lines, but I would rather see Cordova Peak climbed and then skied. Sounds like more from the “its all good” ski club. I have never been impressed with buying rotor time for first (or any) descents when a bit of hard work would have brought about the same result with a longer day or an overnight camping trip. From what I can tell about this book so far, that may be the case on a few of the routes.

    At ONE barrel of crude oil per hour, I am not sure a helicopter assist to get a l ski picture is ethical on many fronts.

    Would it really have been that hard to leave the mechanized assist routes out of this book project? Would that not have enhanced the project? Gosh when you apparently have the financial resources for a “coffee table” book, why not give it a shot and put out a book solely on ski alpinism?

    I’m not sure you do justice to many out there bagging big lines without the star name recognition, sponsors, etc..(or rotor assist) on the list of contributor for the book. I certainly am not included, but I can think of a small handful of no-names in Alaska and around the world who are really pushing the limits because of their passion and love of ski alpinism. Fortunately they are much humbler than many of us and we will never hear their stories. They are amazing skiers just like you. They do this without compromise and get it done with out the modern trappings of mechanized access.

    Some ask what would Jesus do. I ask what would Messner do. 🙂

  9. Art September 13th, 2010 12:25 pm

    Matt, thanks for your feedback. The few heli drops are included because they are located in commercial permit areas. We agree with you and prefer climbing the route to get to the skiing.

    When you finally see the book you will see that 90% of the descents are about ski mountaineering. I think you will find almost every one of those 90+% worthy, as they all require skill, knowledge and plenty of effort to complete. However we’ll let you be the judge when you see the book.

  10. chris davenport September 14th, 2010 8:58 am

    This is a book solely about ski alpinism. the routes that are included, which are only three, that can be heli-skied, have also been climbed and skied by some local AK skiers- so there you go. It’s all about beautiful mountains and skiing, and if that’s not good enough for you then there is not much we can do. And BTW Mr. Messner has taken plenty of rides in the helicopter- paid for by his sponsors. If you can not find inspiration in a book of beautiful mountain photography I feel bad for you.

  11. Matt Kinney September 14th, 2010 9:42 am

    You misrepresent Messner with that assumption. I have read Messner writings and philosophy about alpinism.

    Books featuring beautiful pictures of mountains are a dime a dozen.

    Flying around Alaska bagging descents with a helicopter does little to inspire me. I am as passionate about skiing as you. Sorry you feel sorry for me, but I am kinda of a purist in regards to my skiing. Some respect that commitment.

    Good luck with your new tome.

  12. Lou September 14th, 2010 10:51 am

    Matt, speaking more as an impartial observer of the book and having seen it, I think you might like it, and I’d sure like you to review it as guest blog! Any helicopter stuff is minimal to pretty much not there. I didn’t notice any in my quick read of it. I’ll look back through it. For sure, ski alpinism or ski mountaineering is not flying to the top in a helicopter!

  13. Greydon Clark September 14th, 2010 1:55 pm

    I enjoy long walks in the woods and people who critique books they haven’t read.

  14. Frank K September 14th, 2010 3:43 pm

    Matt, I assume your humble purist friends ski everything from their front door, right- because if they’re driving to the trailhead it sounds like some serious mechanical assistance if you ask me…

    Meanwhile, I’m psyched to see the book…

  15. Matt Kinney September 14th, 2010 4:45 pm

    Frank.. I appreciate your slant on access to trailheads. The issue is beyond the trailhead and what is fair, ethical and respectable in the pursuit of untracked, first ascents.. and descents. For instance I have no such issue with a ski plane for base access. The National Park Service in Alaska recognized these differences in 1977 with ANILCA and banned helicopters for recreational use in our parks.

    Helicopters like an A-start use 1 barrel of crude oil (before refining) each and every hour. (5,000 barrels consumed in two months in Valdez alone) It truly is the ultimate gas hog. To compare that to my GEO Metro, my buddies clunkers or beater trucks or any car used to get to a trailhead for a day of skinning misses the point. There is also the bigger picture concerning consumerism, depleted oil resources and the health of our planet.

    Secondly I have not read the book and was only responding to Lou’s thread about the book which had a “Comment” button for a reason. He mentioned that tbe book has some mechanized routes in it. I will read it when it comes out and would enjoy reviewing it as a blog as Lou suggested.

    How many heliskiers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    Ans: None. They can’t fit a helicopter in a house. 😆 😆

  16. Larry September 14th, 2010 4:46 pm

    Careful reading of the title says they are talking about 50 ski DESCENTS. Seems pretty clear to me. However they arrived at the summit of each descent (sled, snocat, heli) falls within the parameters of the title. What’s the beef.

  17. Lou September 15th, 2010 6:31 am

    Matt and everyone, the book is awesome and honors the earn-your-turns ethic. If indeed a couple of the peaks or descents are more common as helicopter rides than climbs, that’ll be something I’ll cover in a review. But mostly, a tiny amount of that could be a good thing since the issue of 100% mechanized access (as in riding a bird to the summit) is one we should constantly be discussing as our sport continues to evolve. I’d hate for the book to be the focus of that discussion, but if it comes up it’ll be healthy and good.

    I for one have been appalled over the years at the way riding helicopters to the top of the descent has become such a respected, admired and sought after mode of ascent. I agree with Matt, it’s just so consumptive. More, if your goal is to reap the rewards of alpinism, it is really so unnecessary.

    That said, I’m not into some kind of superiority kick based on dissing heli riders. The sport of heli skiing has a place as do the movies based on it, and it employees (or has employed) a lot of people I greatly respect. I’d imagine I’ll probably do it myself some day, though I don’t have any big desire to. Perhaps when I’m too old to climb but can still ski down? Yeah, heli skiing, sport of the bad knee greyheads?

  18. Kidd September 19th, 2010 8:02 am

    Enough about me, let’s talk about me.

  19. Joe Pellegrino September 20th, 2010 8:51 am

    There are more classic lines in the Argentiere glacier area of Chamonix than in the lower 48, but i look forward to seeing the book anyway. Lou, I was wondering about the ratings in your Colorado 14ers books. There are a lot of extreme ratings that might warrant an AD- or 3.3 rating in Europe. There does not seem to be a rating system for american skiing that coresponds with european ratings, which is the equivalent of the Yosemite decimal rating system for climbing. Does this book have modern ratings or is everything “extreme”?

  20. Josh Kaplan October 11th, 2010 12:17 pm

    “There are more classic lines in the Argentiere glacier area of Chamonix than in the lower 48, ”

    Complete and total B.S., unless your definition of “classic” is simply having been done a lot. Just because you have not (or cannot) access the huge variety of gorgeous ski lines in the lower 48 does not mean they do not exist.

  21. Art October 11th, 2010 12:44 pm

    The Argentiere glacier area of Chamonix is certainly on a grand scale and accessible, but I think Joe’s comparison is not accurate. The Elk Range or San Juans or the big verts of the Sierra are as numerous, they just spread out over a very large area of geography. Explore more Joe. I think you will understand that after a good Colorado or Sierra tour.
    Hope you like the book. It’s as much fun as a month in Cham in the spring.

  22. Lou October 11th, 2010 1:36 pm

    Joe, my 14er books have a very limited difficulty scale which indeed placed many of the routes in the upper part of the scale. My books have been around for quite a while and have never been updated. If we updated, we’d probably use the D System, which in my opinion is way better than anything else (grin).

  23. Caleb Wray December 1st, 2010 5:08 pm

    WOW! My copy arrived last week, but due to a full house of relatives I wasn’t able to sit down in a quiet spot and begin being inspired until today. This book in amazing. It will reside on my coffee table for many years. Penn, Dav, and Mr. Burrows did a phenomenal job putting this thing together. The photography is amazing, the intro and forward put into words what I can’t about the sport, and the contributors add a rounded variety of perspectives.

    In a day and age where most of the mountaineering media has a tone of self, I have been guilty, I feel like this book just celebrates our sport and the mountains we all so admire. Thanks all that were involved in the project. Now I shall return to my studies.

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