The year was 1986. The peak was Ski Hayden near Aspen. The new book was “Colorado High Routes.” The newspaper reporter who joined me (much to my delight promoting shameless self) was Bruce Edgerly, Aspen Daily News.
“Edge” was an excellent writer and went on to a prolific career in ski writing, which morphed into his co-founding Backcountry Access and changing the world of snow safety. Back then I was a carpenter and guide — but I wanted to be a scribe. The idea was to achieve some kind of cross between Poe and Hemingway, with some Heinlein mixed in there. Still working on it. I couldn’t find any guidebooks by Poe to model myself after.
“Colorado High Routes” made a mark (it was one of the first modern ski alpinism guides for North America, perhaps the first) but really wasn’t all that great. Though I do have wonderful memories of writing on an electric typewriter, and struggling mightily with Mountaineer’s Books to get enough photos and useful maps into the book. Frankly, no one at Mountaineers had any idea of how to produce or design a decent modern ski touring guidebook; I was never happy with the results. What is more, one of my route descriptions got messed up and directed people to a nearly impassable cliff. Totally my fault, but Mountaineers didn’t help, only solution was for me to fly up to Seattle and paste a warning sticker in every one of several thousand shrink-wrapped books. Due diligence. Lesson learned. Luckily no one died though I’m forever apologetic to Marcus, who got steered wrong (and let me know about it in no uncertain terms!). I still feel like an idiot every time I reminisce on that.
Second edition (Colorado Backcountry Skiing) was everything I wanted it to be (beautiful topo maps!, and no cliff routes) but had disappointing setbacks. The first printing of 3,000 fell apart in reader’s hands like some kind of disintegrating archeological artifact from an Indiana Jones flick. The second printing finally got out there (after the ski touring shopping season), but frankly by then I was burnt out on hassling with print publishing, and looking back, my publisher was getting burned out on the deal as well.
The web and all you WildSnow readers out there saved me as a writer, but guys like Bruce helped me get started — and we’re still friends and colleagues thirty years later. My only regret is a I can’t seem to convince Bruce to do guest blogs. The consolation is he produces excellent expository prose over at the BCA website, which is placing ever more emphasis on information and education.
Trivia: any of you old timers know who that cover skier is on the cover of Colorado High Routes first edition, and where?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.