A Colorado Ski History

Sometimes I feel like a “fake” Coloradan because I’ve never gone skiing. But after reading Abbott Fay’s A History of Skiing in Colorado provided by Inkberry Books, I have to say that I am more intrigued by the sport.

I was fascinated by the book’s anecdotes, such as how Mount Werner and Hughes’ Run got their names–Buddy Werner was caught in an avalanche in 1964, and Berrien Hughes suffered the first non-avalanche skiing death in 1939. But I mostly enjoyed the book’s archival photos.

Most pages of the book display photos, sometimes dating as far back as the 1800s. I think these are especially interesting and useful in any historical book because photos give a greater sense of not just time, but, in this case, the evolution of skiing and of Colorado ski slopes.

I loved learning about groups like the Colorado Mountain Club, established in 1912, and how it helped a lot of towns develop their industries. It was also really surprising to read about how times have changed. For example, back in the day, St. Mary’s Glacier had 365 days of skiing, including a special Independence Day ski meet.

I liked the conversational tone of the book. It felt like I was talking with someone really passionate about skiing. It was clear that Fay put a lot of effort into research which was particularly evident in the appendices, which discussed the significance of people, places, awards and groups.

As much as I enjoyed the conversational tone of the book, I sometimes found it somewhat distracting. The conversational tone tended to bounce from one time frame to another to the detriment of the book’s organization. I personally prefer historical books to have a very clear timeline and to know where I am temporally while reading. For example, there were a few times where events from the 1920s and the 1930s were discussed almost simultaneously. So while it felt like a very natural way of speaking, for me, it was unexpected in a historical book.

Generally, the 12 chapters do follow a timeline from the 1800s to 1999, but the chapters are divided into themes rather than a chronology. Early chapters, for example, talk about the origins of skiing and how it developed from practicality into fun with the chapter “The Flying Norseman.” Then, “The Strange Case of the Almost Olympics” discusses how there was great debate, notably in the 1960s – 70s, over whether or not Denver should host the Olympics.

If you are interested in history, and of course skiing, I definitely think this is a great read. It’s also relatively fast–only 174 pages, about 30 of which are the appendices.

Even if skiing isn’t your cup of tea–maybe you’d rather be in the lodge with tea and a book than on the slopes—this is still a really engaging read that is also a great complement to this winter weather.

Happy Reading!


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