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Media Reviews: Four ISHA Award Winners



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Skiing History (USPS No. 16-201, ISSN: 23293659) is published bimonthly by the International Skiing History Association, P.O. Box 1064, Manchester Center, VT 05255.
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Media Reviews: Four ISHA Award Winners

Celebrate Winter
An Olympian’s Stories of a Life in Nordic Skiing
By John Morton

A Middlebury College graduate and Vietnam War veteran, John Morton participated in seven Olympics, twice as an athlete for the U.S. Biathlon Team. He served as chief of course for Biathlon events at the Salt Lake City Olympics, and for 11 years was head coach for the Dartmouth College Ski Team. In 1989 he founded Morton Trails, designing cross-country trail systems.

Much of this book is taken from Morty’s radio broadcasts for Vermont Public Radio. The chapters cover a range of topics, elucidating the history of American Nordic skiing in the 1970s and ’80s. Celebrate Winter is an encyclopedia of sorts. Morty writes of his adventures coaching and acting as a team leader at Olympic Games and World Championships. Much of this stuff is hilarious, including “Victory in the Sauna” and “The Joys of Roller Skiing,” while other chapters convey key aspects of cross-country, such as the “The Art and Magic of Waxing Cross-Country Skis.”

Morty is at his best when he waxes philosophical. Few authors describe so well the benefits of international competition. He writes about his friendship with the top Russian biathlete, Alexander Tikhonov. Morty raised money from his athletes to buy a U.S. rifle (of all things!) for his Russian friend. I, too, was very friendly with the Russians on their XC and Nordic combined teams, and even helped them out with some waxing needs. I’m sure we were both criticized by our conservative friends, but Morty covers the idea of friendship among athletes from different countries.

It’s a wonder that U.S. skiers ever moved ahead in the results during these years. “Nordies” had no full-time paid staff. Coaches were assigned as needed at the Olympics or the World Championships, given a plane ticket and sent on their way. Most of the money went to Alpine. I was the cross-country coach for the U.S. Ski Team during this period, and I can corroborate or even expand on Morty’s text.

This is a must-read for skiers of any sort. And you can find out what Morty has been doing all this time. –John Caldwell

Celebrate Winter: An Olympian’s Stories of a Life in Nordic Skiing, by John Morton. Independently published. 6 x 9 inches, 260 pages. Paperback $14.95 (Kindle edition $2.99).

By Lowell Skoog

Written in the Snows
Across Time on Skis in the Pacific Northwest
By Lowell Skoog

Written in the Snows is a comprehensive history of skiing—mainly of ski mountaineering—in the Northwest. Well-researched and sustained by a gripping narrative, the book takes the reader on an exhilarating ride as the backcountry skiing reaches ever higher elevations and levels of difficulties to the point where even the best practitioners are forced to recognize their limits.

Surmounted by Mt. Rainier, the high peaks of the Cascades trapped every drop of moisture brought by prevailing winds off the Gulf of Alaska. The profound snowfall was impassable in winter, until, in 1887, the Northern Pacific Railroad crossed Stampede Pass. The Great Northern crossed Stevens Pass in 1893, and the Milwaukee Railroad crossed Snoqualmie Pass in 1909. Seattle-area skiers, rich with Scandinavian immigrants, quickly pioneered ski trails branching off the rail lines, building small hotels and ski cabins in promising high meadows. In 1906, 151 women and men chartered The Mountaineers. The club has organized outings, winter and summer, ever since and served as a locus for jumping tournaments, racing, and exploratory expeditions.

Lowell Skoog, an ardent practitioner of high-altitude, self-propelled skiing, brings dozens of key events to vivid life, going so far as to replicate, on his own and with friends, some of the pioneering routes and early races. He explains how skiing has been shaped by larger social trends, including immigration, the Great Depression, war, economic growth, conservation and the media, and recounts the adventures of local characters like Milnor Roberts, Olga Bolstad, Hans Otto Giese, Bill Maxwell, Gretchen Kunigk, Don Fraser and John Woodward.

There are excellent photo illustrations throughout and a useful appendix covering ski mountaineering highlights, plus a very useful glossary, valuable listings of references and resources, and a superb index.

As a skier, climber, writer and photographer, Skoog has been a keen observer of Northwest mountaineering since the 1970s. He is the creator of the Alpenglow Gallery and founder of the Northwest Mountaineering Journal, websites that celebrate local mountain culture, and he was a key member of the team that launched the Washington State Ski and Snowboard Museum. Skoog is the chairman of The Mountaineers History and Library committee. He lives in Seattle.

This is the author’s second ISHA Award. He won the 2010 ISHA Cyber Award for –Seth Masia

Written in the Snows: Across Time on Skis in the Pacific Northwest, by Lowell Skoog. Mountaineers Books, 7 x 9 inches, 336 pages. Paperback $29.95 (Kindle edition $14.99)

Dan Egan & Eric Wilbur

Thirty Years in a White Haze
Dan Egan’s Story of Worldwide Adventure and the Evolution of Extreme Skiing
By Dan Egan & Eric Wilbur

Dan Egan’s autobiography is a colorful inside look at the evolution of “extreme” skiing into what we now call big-mountain free-skiing. Dan was a multi-talented athlete with a good business head. Emerging from a large, devout yet unruly Catholic family, he found success in skiing, soccer and sailing. But sports, and the related party scenes, interfered with academics. It took a sporadically heroic effort of self-discipline to complete a college degree in marketing.

After joining his older brother John as a star of Eric Perlman and Warren Miller films, Egan’s talent for marketing enabled him to line up lucrative sponsorships. He seized on emerging VCR technology to become a video-distribution mogul as president of Egan Entertainment Network. Twenty-five years later, after digital technology made VCR distribution obsolete, Dan had to reinvent himself. He went on to careers in ski resort management and marketing; coaching skiing; soccer and sailing; journalism; and consulting on a wide range of video and sponsorship projects in skiing and sailing.

Sibling rivalry was brought to a crisis in 1990, after Dan survived a fatal 38-hour storm high on 18,500-foot Mt. Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus. The brothers went on to collaborate on many more projects, including their X-Treme ski clinics held across North America, and in Chamonix, Val d’Isère and other European destinations. Dan and John Egan were elected to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2016.

Co-author Eric Wilbur is a journalist who has been covering the New England sports, travel and skiing scenes for nearly three decades. His written work has appeared in the Boston Globe, New England Ski Journal,, Boston Metro, and various other publications. He fell in love with skiing at an early age, a dedication to the sport that only increased upon moving to Vermont during his college years. He lives with his wife and three children in the Boston area. This is his first book. –SM

Thirty Years in a White Haze: Dan Egan’s Story of Worldwide Adventure and the Evolution of Extreme Skiing, by Dan Egan & Eric Wilbur. Degan Media, Inc., 6 x 9”, 418 pages, paperback. $39.95 (Kindle edition $9.99)

By John Lundin

Ski Jumping in Washington State
A Nordic Tradition
By John W. Lundin

Ski jumping, once Washington’s most popular winter sport, was introduced by Norwegian immigrants in the early 20th century. In the Pacific Northwest, competitive jumping began at Rossland, British Columbia, in 1898. The sport migrated to Spokane’s Browne’s Mountain in 1913 and Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill in 1916, moved to midsummer tournaments on Mount Rainier in 1917 and expanded statewide as new ski clubs formed. Washington tournaments attracted the world’s best jumpers—Birger and Sigmund Ruud, Alf Engen, Sigurd Ulland and Reidar Andersen, among others. In 1941, Torger Tokle set two national distance records there in just three weeks. Regional ski areas hosted national and international championships as well as Olympic tryouts, entertaining spectators until Leavenworth’s last tournament in 1978.

Big-hill ski jumping in the Northwest suffered a major blow when the Milwaukee Road Ski Bowl at Hyak burned down in 1949 and was not rebuilt. By the 1970s, public interest had faded and the Northwest’s historic facilities were all dismantled. Leavenworth’s really big jump was the last to go. Unsustainable maintenance and insurance costs contributed to the demise.

Seattle-based lawyer, historian and award-winning author John W. Lundin re-creates the excitement of this nearly forgotten ski jumping heritage. The book was written in conjunction with an exhibit put together by the National Nordic Museum and the Washington State Ski and Snowboard Museum. This is the author’s third ISHA Skade Award: He was honored in 2018 for Early Skiing on Snoqualmie Pass and in 2021 for Skiing Sun Valley: From the Union Pacific to the Holdings. –SM 

Ski Jumping in Washington State: A Nordic Tradition by John W. Lundin, History Press, 226 pages. $32.99 hardbound, $23.99 softcover.


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