When it comes downhill skiing, people seem to be keen on two things: speed and wrecks. Truly, there is nothing more astounding than seeing competitive skiers cutting through icy surfaces at 80 mph with only a razor edge holding them in balance. Likewise, when a split second miscalculation is made, nothing is more dramatic than watching a gravity tossed skier careen like a rag doll down the mountain. It is literally breathtaking.
Skiing offers some of the biggest personalities in sports. After all, I think it is fair to say that you HAVE to have a big personality to race they way they do! Perhaps then, it would be fitting that some off these athletes are the subject of books. Most pro skiers seem to have an intoxicating mix of drive, independence, and reckless abandon. Most also have had to overcome some catastrophic crash that becomes a fabric of their story, and in essence, their being. All make for some lively reading.
Sadly, I doubt that many of these books make it onto library shelves. Like many winter sports, skiing tends to be seasonal in interest. Besides winters, maybe once every 4 years during Olympic time, when everyone suddenly becomes an expert on things like the rules of curling, these books will surface.
I think it is a big mistake more libraries don't offer these books. The personalities are fascinating, and the backstories of competition, comebacks and courage are awesome. It would be a disservice for high schools not to have a few of these books on hand as well, seeing that one of the fastest growing sports in snow state schools is competitive skiing. Plus, these dudes are just downright cool as hell! I mean look at book cover with Tack Strau. I swear I've seen some guy like that in every ski chalet in the world--usually with a girl on each arm!!
Perhaps someday there will be a book about Lane Myer and his conquering of the great K-12 slope! (If someone (anyone) reads this and gets this, I may buy you a book!) Send a note!
Check out these great titles! (Click on covers for more info)
The God of Skiing by Peter Kray Reveling in the exploits of the legendary Tack Strau, an iconic East Coast racer whose stunning wins and spectacular crashes made him an instant celebrity on the NCAA race circuit, the book reads like a love letter to a sport built on gravity, speed, and the heartbreaking thrill of cold acceleration. When Strau suffers a potentially fatal fall after being signed by the U.S. Ski Team, then disappears, the book takes off on a whirlwind tour of the sport's most storied slopes in an effort to find him (Amazon).
Ski to Die: The Bill Johnson Story by Jennifer Woodlief Bill Johnson took the world by storm at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, coming out of nowhere to win the first American gold medal in downhill skiing. He went on to dominate the World Cup races that same year. His success made him an overnight celebrity, but his fame was fleeting. He never won another race, and personal tragedy seemed to follow him at every turn. With his post-Olympic life spiraling out of control, Johnson decided to do the unthinkable — make a comeback at the age of forty. He had his motto, “Ski to Die,” tattooed on his right bicep. In a race at Big Mountain, fearless and in the lead with one turn to go, Johnson crashed face-first into the icy mountain at fifty miles per hour.Ski to Die is a story about the cost of chasing dreams. It is about glory and the attempt to recapture it once it is lost (Amazon)
Picabo: Nothing to Hide by Picabo Street Street shares her coming-of-age experience, revealing how adversity shaped a rebellious tomboy into a champion athlete and compassionate woman, in harmony with her family and at peace with her fear of failure. Here, for the first time, Street addresses the pressures exerted on her by her ski sponsors that may have been partly to blame for her terrible crash; the scandals surrounding the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee; and how she overcame a lengthy, debilitating depression (Amazon).
The Fall Line by Nathaniel Vinton There was a time the US was an afterthought in the world of competitive skiing. Then came a fledgling class of American racers that disrupted the Alpine racing world order. Led by Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety, this band of iconoclasts made a place for their country on some of the world’s most prestigious race courses. Even as new technology amplified the sport’s inherent danger, the US Ski Team learned how to win, and they changed downhill racing forever(Amazon).
Hermann Maier: The Race of My Life. Hermann ""The Herminator"" Maier, born in 1972, rose from humble beginnings as a scrawny mason to the heights of sports stardom, skiing to four world champion titles and two gold medals in super-G and giant slalom. All that changed in 2001, when a motorcycle accident threatened to end not only his career but his life. True to his reputation, Maier fought his way back to the slopes and further victories. This compelling biography tells a riveting story of flirting with death and dodging it through sheer willpower, of painful recoveries and worldwide triumphs, including his appearance at the 1998 Olympic Games at Nagano, where he stunned millions in what has become the most notorious downhill crash of all time(Amazon).
Bode: Go Fast. Be Good. Have Fun by Body Miller Born and raised “off the grid”–without electricity or indoor plumbing–in the cabin built by his father in the woods, Bode is unconventional to the core. The strong values of his simple upbringing, where he and his family had to “invent, grow, or carry in” all the essentials have made Bode unique among today’s top sports stars. Bode revolutionized skiing by adopting new and crossover technologies. He drives his tradition-bound European rivals to distraction, skiing and winning by instinct. His outsider status, killer smile, and outspoken yet laid-back persona have earned him a reputation as the Michael Jordan of skiing (Amazon).