Reviewed: Peter Kray’s “The God of Skiing”

“The God of Skiing” is a reverent, ribald, realistic mixture of fact, fiction and fantasy about what some refer to as the sport of skiing but which high priests and devoted acolytes alike know as a way of life. Peter Kray is a beautiful, insightful and devoted writer, and what I can’t resist thinking of as “The Book of Kray” is among the very best books about the spirit and practice of skiing as a way of life ever written.

At this writing, just days after two U.S.S.A. developmental team members were killed in an avalanche in Soelden, Austria, it struck me that Kray wrote the introduction to the book in Soelden in 2013 and concludes it thus: “In order to tell what’s true, I made up a couple of things. But only to balance out what I’m still afraid of telling. And I present the events as much by year as I do by season, which means you can call it a novel if that makes it easier to understand. Or a documentary. Or skiing’s double album. It is the celebration of a sport made of cold and clouds and the anticipation that the white water will come to wash us clean again. It’s the explanation of why Tack Strau told the reporter in Alaska, ‘Skiing is made of gravity and speed. It’s dying all the time.’”


Yes, and being born all the time in many forms, including literature as good as “The God of Skiing.” Those of a certain age and familiar with a certain time and place of skiing who know about Fritz Stammberger will be drawn to the book simply because a photo of Fritz is on the cover. Those who don’t know of Stammberger will stop to look because the photo and the title fit together as perfectly as the line only you can see through the trees on the best powder day of the season.

Yes, skiing is a way of life made of the freedoms to be found in gravity and speed and the skills acquired playing with them in the snow and cold and mountains in which we live. Kray’s book includes his time in Jackson Hole at the base of the Grand Tetons (which, in French, means big nipples but in the vernacular describes what they are attached to). In that time he met Bill Briggs, the first to ski from the summit of the Grand Teton, about which he writes, “Once you have seen those peaks, the photographic evidence of Bill Briggs’ epic ski descent down the face of the Grand Teton in 1971 looks like a nude, a weather bleached church on a moon-bathed hill. His thin ski tracks down the peak are the black and white prototype of something bare and yet to be seen, as stark and unimaginable as a lunar landing, as if they were the footprints in the sand of a man trying to sprint off the edge of the world.”

But even the most hard-ass skier can only ski five or six hours a day and “The God of Skiing” does not leave out the remaining 18 or 19 hours. For instance, of “The Stewardess,” he writes, “In the morning I could watch her perfect round ass in the lightbulb above the loft like a poor man’s mirror. Everything was beautiful and round about her—her blonde bangs, brown eyes and perfect boobs—like Bambi in the fields with the sweet smell of flowers. Like I was a big Texas cowboy drilling for oil.”

In the section titled “The Grievous Angel,” Kray writes, “’Gravity’s the only thing that matters,’ Tack said…. ‘The sky is all in your mind…. It’s just an illusion to create a feeling of distance—an imaginary barrier.’ After the third joint it didn’t matter. My hands finally stopped shaking and I could marvel at the energy and electricity and how his blue eyes burned like twin planets seen from space, ablaze and unexplored.”

That gives you an idea. “The God of Skiing” is a must read for all skiers.

You can find it at for $13.95.

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