Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Best SKI BOOK #7: The Best Ski Touring In America
So some books are worth collecting because they are old, or unique or by famous authors. This book I feel is worth owning not because it is old, it was published in 1987, or because Steve Barnett is famous (perhaps in our world and to a few purists like us he is) but because I feel it is unique. Steve Barnett is one of the few founding fathers of our sport that I have not had the pleasure to meet. I can say however that through his books I have discovered one thing. He is by far one of the most passionate skiers I have ever come by. His first book "Cross Country Downhill" (a book I will review here at some point) was perhaps the foundation of the how to tele books during the resurrection of the sport in the early 1970's. That book oozes ski passion, down to funky inventive devices for skiing better in harder terrain. Anytime you see a guy making new gear to accommodate a need he is seeing you know that he is affected. In "The Best Ski Touring" book he takes it step further. This book is extensive in its scope. He starts with a solid chapter on what defines a "classic ski tour" and it is not what you might think. It starts with a these headers.
1.) Maximum scenic value.
2.) Maximum skiing value: "The route should have a mix of different types of skiing: downhill through open country, downhill with tight maneuvering, cross country on rolling country, and cross country on a scenic trail."
I love the fact that Safety and access are the last on the list. In other words, I am going, it might not be safe or easy to get to but damn the torpedoes I am going! This is also a unique book in the fact that it starts with tours in the Midwest as it opening chapter. That is really crazy. Steve Barnett lives in the Northwest, has access to the most unbelievable skiing in the world and yet he took the time to ski and document some of the more fun and classic ski tours in the upper-Midwest. As a Nordic and backcountry skier who grew up here in the Midwest I was laughing like crazy when I read where he had gone. I had always loved those tours and felt that I have had as much fun on those routes as anywhere but would never admit because I would just get a blank stare from any mountain dweller. This is case in point for my comment that Steve Barnett is indeed a very passionate skier, he can ski ANYWHERE and understand that the value is in the skiing, no matter where it is. Certainly there are different experiences and I would not recommend skiing here all the time but kudos to Steve for coming and looking. His routes go to the east, to Quebec, VT, New York and to West Virginia (no doubt influenced by Chip at Whitegrass!) and then on to a host of grand tours out west.
The other reason that this book is so unique to me is that there is this cryptic autograph from Steve on page 217 about the Three Sisters wilderness. It says "GET A JOB" and is signed over a picture he took of a person skinning up the mountain. I assume the autograph is his but maybe not, and who is the guy? I love looking at it and trying to imagine what relationship is involved there and who and why it was signed. I found the book on State Street in Madison, WI.
Anyway a fun read.