I always do a lot more reading in the winter. Long nights and crackling fires tend to have that effect. With that in mind, I thought I'd offer up my personal list of twelve books that fit the winter season perfectly. I have ten minutes to write this, so we're going to tap into some of those deadline skills I learned in journalism school!:
12. Manual of Ski Mountaineering by David Brower – A classic read, written in 1949, with great advice like, "skiing in the high mountains without a shirt on is great for your health, when done in moderation." It's old school and it hearkens back to the early days of our sport from one of the sport's legends.
11. Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman – This is a fiction book of real life events – the climbing of the famous Matterhorn (named the Citadel) in Switzerland from the town of Zermatt (named Kurtal). If you dream of skiing in the Alps and visiting this mythical town with huge mountains and no cars, this book is for you.
10. The Edge of Never by William Kerig – One of the few quality ski books written, it follows the real-life story of 15-year old Kye Peterson's trip to Chamonix to ski a 50° chute where his father and famous extreme skier Trevor died in an avalanche. It ties together generations of skiers from Glen Plake to Anselme Baud. There is a movie with the same title and story, but the book is better.
9. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Not so much a winter book per se, but there is nothing like diving into a mythical land with mountains, adventure and magic on a snowy night with a raging fire and a cup of hot cocoa in hand. Preferably hardback. This will be my personal project this coming winter.
8. Allen and Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book by Allen O'Bannon and Mike Clelland – These guys do awesome "how-to" books with good, practical advice and funky illustrations. We use these at NOLS all the time, and this one is perfect for anybody who loves backcountry skiing, from the novice to the ten-year veteran.
7. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen – A simple kids book about a father and daughter's trip into the woods on a cold dark night in the Minnesota north woods to call owls. If you have a kid (or are a kid at heart) and you like reading to them, this is the winter book for you.
6. Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowatt – Story of two teens who get stranded in northern Canada and have to survive in the wild for an entire winter. Cool integration of imagination, real-world outdoor functional skills and historical knowledge in this haunted land.
5. Call of the Wild by Jack London – They don't come any more classic than this. Buck leads a pack of dogs across the Alaskan wilds during the Gold Rush and fights – and eventually succumbs to – the wild call. A great read for all those who struggle in the hinterlands of the civilized world and the more primitive place in our hearts.
4. Colorado Hut-to-Hut Volume #1 by Brian Litz – This volume focuses on the northern Colorado Huts. Great directional guide and information on the best skiing experience in all of Colorado. If you have never done a hut trip, don't…that way there will be more spaces open for my wife and I!
3. Winter: Notes from Montana by Rick Bass – The authors memoirs from northern Montana, following the seasons from early-fall to the dead of winter. A memoir of the passing of time in a wild, mountainous country. Start this one soon and follow it all the way through as the seasons change in your own world.
2. Shadow Mountain by Renee Askins – Simple the best book I have ever read. Miss Askins played a key role in the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. This book is a combination of mountains, wilderness, passion and biology. It will make you cry and examine your own life and priorities.
1. Ski Fast, Ski Long by Helen Markley Miller – The first book I ever picked up and read straight through. Hey, it's not Hemingway, but how many books are about a fictitious college nordic ski team that has fires out in the woods everytime they take a lunch break? Between races the kids rescue a dying Finn who cut himself skinning a deer and save the crew of a plane that crashed in the Idaho Rocky Mountains. Bad ass. It's out of print but there are four copies left on amazon.com.
That my list. Feel free to add as you see fit!