Book review: ‘Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow,’ by Porter Fox
Special to the Free Press
“Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow,” by Porter Fox, is available at Out West Books, 533 Main St., in downtown Grand Junction.
Find Out West Books on Facebook or call 970-986-8086.
Every winter in Colorado, there is a countdown to the first lift openings and the bragging rights that go along with nabbing chair No. 1 at Arapahoe Basin or Loveland ski areas.
The first snowflakes are greeted with joy when they return to the High Country in the fall months, and the subtle shift from the shoulder season to “open for business” begins in earnest.
All across Colorado and in other states dependent upon skier tourism for their economies, there is a sense of promise when those resort shuttles begin their treks from the airport to points beyond the Continental Divide.
But for every casual skier from the flatlands, content to slide down the green runs for half a day before hitting the T-shirt shops and the hot tubs, there is another sort of skier, a fanatical individual who builds an entire lifestyle around quests for those early-morning tracks through the powder. Author Porter Fox is one of those snow hounds, and his recent book “Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow” is like a love letter to snow by a man obsessed.
Fox grew up in Maine, skiing Sugarloaf Mountain, where the snows paled in comparison to the famous powder of the Rockies. Still, the passion took hold, and Colorado quickly became destination No. 1.
Soon, he was in over his head, literally — the experience of sinking his skis deeply into the snow and having to navigate by feel became an addiction that demanded one fix after another. His final point of no return was the moment he secured a job with Powder magazine and moved to Jackson Hole.
With that, he built his career around the sport of skiing, and soon he was being paid to ski and write about some of the most famous mountains in the world. As he traveled, he learned that skiers across the world shared a bond, akin to the fellowship of mountaineers and surfers. The goal was always to find the next great line or the deepest and softest powder.
It was his own passion for the sport that led him to write “Deep,” in which he intersperses fascinating skiing history with anecdotes and, ultimately, with a call to arms to defend the snows of the famous mountain ranges across the world, where climate change seems destined to inflict irrevocable damage.
Anchoring the book is the tragic 2012 avalanche at Stevens Pass, Washington, which killed three very accomplished and capable skiers. His examination of the tragedy looms over each page, like a mythical monster, stalking the reader, appearing occasionally to strike fear, creeping ever closer, until the moment the deadly avalanche occurs, long anticipated but shocking and heartbreaking, nonetheless.
The harrowing narrative of that tragic day is woven into the overarching theme, which is a reverent homage to snow in general, as well as a plea for action to all those who love the sport of skiing. Snow is a powerful beast, capable of stopping armies and dooming explorers, but people throughout history have adapted to the presence of snow. From thousands of years ago in Russia to Gold Rush miners, with their mountain cabins well above the snow belt, who skied out of necessity, and the 10th Mountain Division, who proved crucial in the European theater during World War II.
When the miners and soldiers left the mountains, they took their skis with them, as well as a love for the activity. That passion has taken hold of entire nations, with the sport of skiing contributing significantly to the economies of many European countries and North American states, and the struggle will be real when the inevitability of climate change becomes increasingly pronounced. It is already being felt in some celebrated alpine resorts that are completely beholden to the skiing culture. Mount Blanc, Chamonix, Zermatt and Innsbruck, for example, are already shutting down lifts, moving walkways higher into the hills and placing insulating blankets across the glaciers in the vain hope of prolonging the inevitable.
Fox paints a grim picture of the future of snowpacks around the world, citing statistics that foreshadow an alarming decline, most critically in the Alps in Europe. The disappearance of snow goes far beyond a skier’s lament, of course. It is vital to survival, with many rivers and waterways originating in the snows of the high mountains on nearly every continent.
Harnessing the passion of the skiing population is a worthwhile goal, he insists, as world-renowned resorts such as Aspen have done, assimilating the management of an entire community into leading the way in green technology and real solutions for a future with snow. Many nations, states, towns and companies depend on mankind doing the right thing. Fox advocates that skiers will be the perfect individuals to mobilize their communities, to preserve enough powder for generations to come.
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