Monday, January 19, 2009

History of skiing

My lovely daughter Elena gave me Two Planks and a Passion by Roland Huntford, a recently published history of skiing. It's an entertaining book that brings alive many quirky technique and equipment innovators from Norway to California, and the historical foundations of divisions and resentments that are still with us today: nordic vs alpine, tele vs fixed heel, lift-served vs backcountry, competition vs freedom. Contrary to the IHT review linked above, I don't think that the book is swamped by trivia — although the style is a bit breathless at times. On the contrary, if it has a weakness is that it does not give enough detail to allow us to visualize early technique and gear. Yes, the author is a clear nordic partisan and his romantic dismay over the commercialization of alpine skiing is a bit overwrought, especially when he goes rhapsodic over the invention of synthetic ski waxes, which can be hardly be seen as a victory of disinterested amateurism.

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