How to survive on skis and what you may slide into—from slopes to slopes

December 05, 1966

One characteristic that distinguishes a good book from a merely adequate one is the zest with which it has been put together, and when obvious enthusiasm is combined with authority and clarity of style you are bound to have a winner. Such a book is America's Ski Book (Scribner's, $10), compiled by the editors of Ski magazine from back issues of their own publication starting in 1936. That is the year arbitrarily given to the birth of modern skiing, for it was then that the "first chairlifts were flung up mountainsides and skiers began to adopt modern forms of parallel skiing using vastly improved equipment...." The evolution from survival sport to popular sport was slow but never dull, as recounted here, and the book moves briskly from history to practical considerations for both beginner and expert. Information given is encyclopedic without being tedious (though we must yell track as we pass a caption identifying the Aiguille du Midi tramway at Grenoble. It-is at Chamonix). That done, we commend the attention given to detail: Should a beginner borrow, rent or buy equipment? What kind of boots, bindings and poles? What should you look for in jumping skis? What kind of car should you buy if you have skiing trips specifically in mind? There is a waxing guide to snow conditions and even a numerical guide to waxes for those who indulge in that former "black magic" of skiing.

The advantages and disadvantages of touring abroad are discussed at length and what you can expect to find in Alpine Europe or Portillo, Chile ("the most sophisticated resort in the Southern Hemisphere"). An entire chapter is devoted to the problems of teaching children to ski. "Children of three and older believe in their hearts that they can fly."

Though the section on skiing abroad—Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, the Orient—is good reading even if you don't ski, the bulk of the book is devoted to skiing in the U.S., from the most easterly "spine of Vermont" to the High Sierras and other points in the Far West. An appendix includes a ski-area guide to North America and Europe (though it ignores some of the newest locations), a list of ski organizations, a chronology of ski developments, a list of books, journals and films on skiing and how to go about organizing a ski competition.

If the book minimizes anything it is the size of the cast you may wear at the end of the season. Preconditioning is highly recommended. If you do fracture something, here's one consolation. You can always curl up with a good book on skiing.

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
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