Mystery, adventure, elegies to nature and the beauty of the Green Mountains: This winter there are more reasons than ever to tuck in by the fire with a good book. Here are five new books (or releases) from some of our favorite local authors.
Black Diamond Fall
By Joseph Olshan
Black Diamond Fall is set in the fictional Vermont town of Clareton, a literary tribute to Middlebury, and follows the mysterious disappearance of a college student who has been having a secret affair with an older man, a local poet. Interspersed in the mystery narrative are glorious scenes of skiing in the Green Mountains, including on Black Diamond Fall, a fictional, death-defying ski descent somewhere near Clareton. When protagonist Sam watches his friend Mike ski the terrifyingly tight line, “Sam can hear whoops of pleasure–making virgin tracks, as though writing words on a blank tablet. And then, ever so faintly, ‘Awesome!’ floating back up to him,”—something anyone who has skied in the backcountry can relate to.
Snowboarding in Southern Vermont: From Burton to the U.S. Open
By Brian L. Knight
Snowboarding got its start in Vermont, where Jake Burton Carpenter first began crafting boards and convinced Stratton Mountain to let people ride there. If you want to dive into the rise of snowboarding in southern Vermont and why it’s stuck, this book is for you. It’s an entertaining read and a thorough look at the characters, inventions and stories that made snowboarding what it is today. One of the best anecdotes is from Steve Hayes, one of the first pro snowboarders, about poaching Stratton in late Seventies. “[We’d] come Snurfing down to Snowbowl lift and jump right on in and tell the lifties ‘it’s all good. The ski patrol told us it was OK for us to ride the whole mountain… And then we’d get spotted, and they would send out a chase committee.”
The Animal One Thousand Miles Long
By Leath Tonino
This is Vermont writer and Vermont Sports contributor Leath Tonino’s first book, and its essays are beautifully crafted tributes to the Green Mountain state. In “Seven Lengths of Vermont,” he writes about the toil and beauty he experienced skiing from one end of the state to the other via the Catamount Trail. It reads like a love song to our state’s rugged and relentless topography. Don’t look to Tonino’s book for glowing reminiscences of face shots; look to it for the necessary grit that makes backcountry skiing in New England both epic and grueling at times. He likened pulling his sled from Bennington to Jay to Sisyphus’ fated efforts to push a boulder to the top of a mountain–only to have it roll back down for eternity. “You go and you go, and all you earn is the desire to go more, which is not desire but love, an abiding love of getting out, of going, of grabbing your boulder, pushing hard, chasing it back down the hill to start anew in the home that holds your life.”
The Glass Summit
By Jan Reynolds
There are few things that Stowe adventurer Jan Reynolds hasn’t done. A former member of the U.S. Biathlon team, she’s outskied bullets shot at her while crossing the high mountains of Tibet and did the first circumnavigation of Mt. Everest, hiking and skiing. She climbed and skied 25,000-foot Mt. Muztagata in China and crossed New Zealand on skis. Many of her adventures were in the 1980s, when few women were pursuing such expeditions. The Glass Summit chronicles Reynold’s adventures through the Himalaya, New Zealand and other high country terrain and you can’t help but be left in awe of all she has accomplished.
Reynolds herself is in awe of the landscapes she encounters and describes them beautifully: “As I looked deep into the browns and violets of the broad, flat horizon of the Chang Tang of Tibet, I thought, what a way to spend a transitional birthday, on the salt route to Tibet, crossing the Himalayas on my own. I was joyous, and satisfied. The wind was now blowing about forty miles an hour, and we had to brace ourselves as we worked our way into it and down the glacier, me arcing telemark turns.” —Lisa Lynn
By Dave Schneider
Dave Schneider, a former collegiate ski racer, has coached many junior skiers in his day–a few of whom have since made the U.S. Ski Team. Now, the Vermont resident and Green Mountain Valley School honorary trustee has written a young adult sci-fi fantasy novel. In The Snowy, four young skiers wander into a hidden wormhole while sneaking out of bounds at their home mountain—which sounds a lot like Sugarbush. The book follows their efforts to get back from the darker, snowier world it transports them to. The other world is like a skier’s version of The Upside Down from the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Snow pillows house monsters with gaping mouths and foul breath and snow snakes are real serpents that lurk in powder stashes. The best ski scene comes just before they are swallowed by the wormhole: “At the top… Sparky whispered, ‘First tracks,’ then plunged into the soft, deep white. Cold fluff billowed into his mouth, up his nose, over his goggles and swirled past him.’”