By Jessi Loerch
When Kate Rogers, editor in chief for Mountaineers books, held up a copy of “Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: Washington,” many in the crowd wolf-whistled.
Many people worked hard to get this book published, and they were happy to celebrate it with a crowd at a release event on Tuesday night. Rogers called the book a “love letter” to the mountains of Washington state. And you can’t say she was exaggerating.
The book was written by Martin Volken and his team at Pro Guiding Service. Rogers had to do some work to convince Volken to write the book. He knew it would be a massive undertaking, and it was — after all, you can’t just easily pop in to visit a backcountry ski routes. He agreed to do it with a lot of help.
Volken and his team spent more than three full seasons — or more than 400 full days — working on the book. The book was extensively researched. Each of the 81 routes — 80 in Washington and one bonus route in British Columbia — was researched and skied by the expert guides. There are detailed route descriptions, maps and gorgeous aerial photos. Routes cover a variety of distances and skill levels.
Volken spoke with Lowell Skoog, a Northwest ski historian, at the event about skiing, snow and the process of writing the book.
Volken grew up in Switzerland. He said there is an interesting difference in the backcountry skiing and snowboarding culture between the U.S. and Europe. In Europe, people expect the experience to include company. You’re unlikely to be all alone on your routes.
“Here, we are looking for a wilderness experience. I think the national parks and wilderness protection are an enlightened idea. … That being said, they’re might be room for a hut or two,” he joked.
“Our area has a really nice sweet spot. The access is reasonable enough that you can do it all on your own — no huts, no heli, no help,” he said. “That self-sustained element is very quintessentially American.”
Volken said he enjoys guiding trips for Northwest skiers, either here or in Europe. “They really know how to ski,” he said. “They are used to any snow condition.”
And admittedly, our Cascade snow can be rather challenging at times. Volken said “It’s kind of like a meal at Denny’s — it’s not great but you get a lot of it.” But that heavy deep snow is the right blanket for the terrain we have in the Cascades, he said.
The event concluded with stunning slideshows of aerial photos of the areas featured in the book. Outside it was pouring down rain, but no one seemed to mind. That rain, after all, was snow in the mountains.
Want a copy of “Backcountry Ski &“Snowboard Routes Washington” for your own? Leave a comment on this blog by Monday, Feb. 17, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a copy, thanks to Mountaineers Books.