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Louis Dawson - Wild Snow
Skiing Heritage magazine (1st issue 2000) called Wild Snow "the flawed but sole history available of ski mountaineering from east to west in America." First published in 1997, this book was reworked and reprinted in 1998. Based on my comments, several factual errors in the Cascade chapter were corrected, but others remain. The errors and omissions in the Cascade chapter are unfortunate but perhaps excusable, since the scope of the book is so large. What is less excusable is that, based on this shaky foundation, the author proceeds to pass judgment on Northwest ski mountaineering, citing "a history of conservatism" and a "reactionary attitude." These comments and the overall tone of the Cascade chapter seem to reflect bias on the part of the author.

Wet and Scrappy: Cascade Mountains

p. 58a: The author highlights the ski mountaineering contributions of Fred Beckey (whose climbing contributions are beyond question). In personal communication however (beckey-fred-9-mar-2001) Beckey's self-assessment is quite different.

p. 58b: The author states that Fred Beckey skied Eldorado Peak in 1940 with Lloyd Anderson and Dwight Watson. However, beckey-1977-p38 describes this as an aborted attempt to ski to the peak. The author credits the same party with a ski ascent of Ruth Mountain in 1940. However, beckey-v3-1995-p59 credits Calder Bressler and Ray Clough with a ski ascent of the peak in the late 1930s.

p. 58c: Fred Beckey is said to have skied Silver Star Mountain in 1953. Instead, Beckey climbed the Silver Star Glacier on foot in late May, 1952 (mtneer-a-1953-p25) and made a winter ascent using skis in 1965 (beckey-1977-p202).

p. 61: The author writes that Ed Loness and Robert Sperlin made the first ski descent of Mt Baker in 1930. However mtneer-a-1930-p50 describes this as a complete ski ascent and only a partial ski descent.

p. 64: The author writes that the 1922 winter ascent of Mt Rainier by French ski mountaineers, who abandoned their skis below Anvil Rock, "no doubt introduced the locals to what skiing had to offer." However, as documented in the Mountaineer Annuals and elsewhere (see chronology), The Mountaineers had been holding winter outings at Mt Rainier for ten years and annual skiing tournaments were being held there.

p. 65: On this page is a photo of two skiers on the Emmons Glacier of Mt Rainier during the 1928 attempt. The author writes that the Silver Skis races "were canceled in 1940 after several racers schussed to death." However, my research confirms that the races continued until at least 1948, and only one skier ever died in the race, Sigurd Hall in 1940 (spi-silver-skis).

p. 69: Of the first ski descent of Mt Adams in 1932, the author writes that "[Walter] Mosauer and his friends had mastered the Arlberg technique, and after applying it to the mountains of Southern California, they'd taken a ski trip to the Northwest and enjoyed descents on Rainier, Hood and many other slopes." This paragraph implies that Mosauer's partners on the Mt Adams trip were his Californian friends. However, as noted in mtneer-a-1932-p26, Hans-Otto Giese, Hans Grage and Otto Strizek were Seattle Mountaineers.

p. 74: In the first printing of the book the author wrote about Mt St Helens: "Fred Beckey made an early ski in 1961, which may have been the first." After I pointed out that this was too late to be a credible pioneering trip, the author changed the text to state that the first ski descent is unknown. My interviews have uncovered several parties who skied Mt St Helens in the late 1930s. In 1940, the Mountaineers scheduled a club outing to the summit on skis. After more digging, I found the apparent first ski ascent, by Hans-Otto Giese and Otto Strizek in 1933 (mtneer-b-1933-aug).

p. 75a: The author writes that in 1931 Andre Roch, Arne Stene and Hjalmar Hvam "skied from outside Portland to [Mount] Hood and back in under nine hours via Eliot Glacier." This account is garbled. Jack Grauer's book indicates that the party drove in a car from Portland and put on skis halfway between Government Camp and timberline (grauer-1975-p216). It includes a photo of the skiers next to their car following their ascent (grauer-1975-p215) clearly suggesting that they drove back to Portland. Since Eliot Glacier is on the opposite side of the mountain, it's very unlikely they crossed it.

p. 75b: The author writes that Ray Conkling and Bill Oberteuffer made the first high ski orbit of Mt Hood in 1951. However, grauer-1975-p160 records that the first ski encirclement was done in 1934.

Other Chapters

p. 214: In "Classic by Definition: Mountains of the Northeast," the author writes that Fritz Wiessner and Milana Jank made a winter ski traverse of New Hampshire's Presidential Range in 1931, topping several peaks along the way. Jank also made a three-day 130-mile ski over California's Tioga Pass in 1932.

Here's what I really thought of this book.

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Last Updated: Sun Dec 13 08:59:36 PST 2009