Here`s a growing list of reading resources that every skier & snowboarder — off-pisters, on-pisters, beginners or experts — can inexpensively add into their snow education arsenal.
Being a bookworm won`t magically help you pull-off sick tricks in the park, zoom past slalom gates faster or become a more savvy backcountry tourer. But absorbing valuable knowledge in any form, whether by talking with an old-school rider, participating in educational clinics, watching innovative videos or browsing pages in these books will increase your awareness in alpine environments.
Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering (Volken, Schell & Wheeler, Mountaineers Books)
This 300+ page book covers many aspects of backcountry ski touring with a strong ski mountaineering focus. The easily readable content delivers equipment, technique, safety and snow-specific science & environmental info.
Much of the info in the book is painted with a broad brush decidedly focused toward ski mountaineering (i.e. “the back-end,” geared toward the ascent). But for those entering the backcountry from the “front-end” — riding-oriented touring more concerned with descents — there will still be plenty of useful things to make you better prepared sliding away from marked boundaries. Step-by-step tutorials with black-and-white photos help put things into context and a great dictionary of terms at the end of the book make it a very good educational resource for out-of-bounds skiers & snowboarders of all levels.
Basic Essentials Weather Forecasting (Hodgson, Falcon Guides)
This book isn`t snow-specific, but it`ll give you a better understanding of naturally forecasting the weather than the meteorological mouthpiece on television. There are short sections directly relevant to alpine climates offering scientific explanations of the natural processes occurring to create our precious powder days.
Predicting the weather is nothing more than an educated guess, but it`s not a blind science. No promises of clairvoyance are made by the author (an avid outdoorsman), as unpredictability is stated early in the book. Understanding tell-tale signs of weather and how to draw inferences from frequent naturally occurring phenomena can be a great tool for any outdoors person. From cloud formations to wind patterns, topographic factors to interesting eco-system anomalies, this short 64-page book with small photos & diagrams is a nice multipurpose addition to your collection.
This book can be hard to find as it has been discontinued, but some online retailers still have it in stock. Otherwise, check out the Falcon Guide Basic Illustrated Weather Forecasting by Hodgson & Levin.
Backcountry First Aid & Extended Care (Tilton, Falcon Guides)
Author Buck Tilton founded the Wilderness Medical Institute of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in the early 1980s, so it`s safe to say he understands a thing or two about how to handle a life-threatening situation away from civilization. That`s why this pocket-sized, 128-page soft-cover is a great compliment to previous training for beginners & experts.
There aren`t enough photographic/illustrated step-by-step tutorials to make it the go-to book in a first-hand backcountry crisis, but it will always be useful as an easily portable source of refresher info to keep in your backcpack, on your work desk or as a mini-toilet book. No matter where you stash it, it`s an inexpensive must-have for anyone playing in the great outdoors.
You won`t find this one on Amazon or in your local book store. The only way to put one of these integral sources of avalanche training knowledge on your bookshelf is to participate in an avalanche safety certification course. There really isn`t any other snowsports “book” we recommend so strongly. Why? Because this reading material is an accompanying resource included with your life-saving training course that`ll help refresh your memory years down the road about what you discovered during your hands-on, interactive field work on the mountain with avalanche rescue professionals.
Resources will differ based on country of origin, administering professional organization and level of training course, but there is generally enough standardized info offered in these variable resources to suggest that it`s less important which one you learn from, than simply to make sure you learn from one of them. The usually short, concise information within these course books normally covers a wide breadth of knowledge concerning natural & human related avalanche causes, decision making & route finding in the backcountry, proper equipment, rescue tutorials and helpful re-counts of real-world avalanche scenarios that force you to evaluate the circumstances leading to the slide, as well as how to avoid repeating those frequently deadly mistakes.
This book is difficult to find unless you`re affiliated with or know someone connected to the major snowsports educational organizations in the USA (Professional Ski Instructors of America – PSIA & American Association of Snowboard Instructors – AASI). However, it`s one you should consider adding to your collection if you`re serious about snowsports as a profession.
Although this easily readable, 90-page book is focused toward developing teaching skills for skiing & snowboarding instructors, this is an excellent resource valuable to all snow pro educators, mountain resort staffers and avid snowsports participants looking to gain a perspective on the physiological & psychological aspects involved in what it takes to become a better teacher, rider and learner on the slopes. There are great illustrations, diagrams and photos throughout the book that compliment the wealth of knowledge compiled by PSIA & AASI leaders that will help enhance the teacher-student relationship, build a greater understanding of self as an educator, as well as get you thinking about numerous natural & human-created situations that you`ll encounter working & playing in alpine environments.
We don`t always see eye-to-eye with PSIA/AASI, but Core Concepts for Snowsports Instructors is a commendable & thought-provoking book that we`re glad to have on our snow shelf.
Books about skiing & snowboarding are great, but so are online travel guides for skiing & snowboarding in Japan.