Backcountry Bibliotheca

“The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it,” British academic James Bryce once said. Clearly he was talking about the hefty tomes and thoughtful prose of backcountry skiing literature. After all, I don’t recommend hauling some handbook up the skintrack. Instead, read up, reread and carry the lessons with you—weight weenies rejoice! Here are three favorites that are worth adding to your library.


Free Skiing by Jimmy Odén

Free Skiing by Jimmy Odén

Free Skiing: How to adapt to the mountain
by Jimmy Odén

Inside the back cover of Jimmy Odén’s “Free Skiing” reads the following note: “Do not attempt to go into the mountains with only this book as a manual.” No doubt that statement is correct, as a book alone cannot provide significant instruction or practice for mountain proficiency. But if one book could come close, it’s “Free Skiing.” Tucked between 366 colorful and beautiful yet starkly designed pages are thousands of tidbits and pointers compiled by UIAGM guide Jimmy Odén. Part coffee-table book, avalanche guide, first-aid handbook and more, it’s the skiing version of “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.”


Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain
by Bruce Tremper

Bruce Tremper, 26-year veteran of Utah Avalanche Center directorship, first inked “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain” in 2001. This second edition was published seven years later and it remains the single most popular and comprehensive bit of avalanche text. Sure, it’s packed with detailed graphs, crammed charts and microscope-enhanced images of facets, but, on the whole, it’s easy to understand and follow. Ten chapters take you from avalanche basics to human factors, and photos, anecdotes and useful tips thoughtfully round out the technical jargon. “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain” is both a book to grab before your first avalanche class and one to revisit each fall.


Mike and Allen's Avalanche Book by Allen O’Bannon and Mike Clelland

Mike and Allen’s Avalanche Book by Allen O’Bannon and Mike Clelland

Allen & Mike’s Avalanche Book
A guide to staying safe in avalanche terrain
by Allen O’Bannon and Mike Clelland

“Allen & Mike’s Avalanche Book” is the latest from the NOLS-instructor duo behind “Telemark Tips,” the “Really Cool Backpackin’ Book,” and the “Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book.” Always detailed yet concise, technical yet witty, Allen and Mike’s books are easy to read from cover to cover in a single sitting. The “Avalanche Book,” released in December, is no different. Sure, it lacks the detail of Tremper’s text, but it’s just a 90-page handbook crammed with cartoons—engaging, creative and to the point. And, as the skiing rabbit says on page 39, “It’s Cosmic!”

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