Book review: ‘Ski the 14ers: A Visual Tribute’
Vail CO, Colorado
For those who think cutting ropes, the East Vail chutes, and the nether regions of Blue Sky Basin are a big deal worth bragging about, prepare to be humbled.
Aspen resident Chris Davenport and his merry band of extreme skiers will see your little jaunts out of bounds, and raise you by about 14,000 feet. For good measure they’ll do it 54 times in a calendar year, well, actually 362 days for those scoring at home.
With stunning photographer and an adventuresome spirit (not to mention cojones), Davenport offers a book worth celebrating. “Ski the 14ers: A Visual Tribute to Colorado’s 14,000-foot Peaks from the Eyes of a Ski Mountaineer” is a must for any soul skier who dreams of the ultimate tracks. Consider Davenport and crew the pinchers, as they turned those dreams into a reality, and thankfully, documented the entire journey.
Throughout 2006 Davenport and a team of friends and fellow big-mountain skiers, who coincidentally all of whom have strong photography backgrounds, embarked on a quest to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Judging from the sweeping photography, this proposition was equal parts incredible and insane.
The inspiration seems quite simple as Davenport says in the foreword that the idea simply came to him while on a bike ride. The execution was obviously more complex, as Davenport takes viewers through each ascent and descent of the peaks, from arduous day-long summit hikes to races against the setting sun.
The photography found in Ski the 14ers is beyond description and any description would certainly never qualify as hyperbole. While just about every coffee table book features pictures of nouns ” pretty landscapes, flowers, waterfalls ” Davenport and his cohorts (Neal Beidleman, Dave Bourassa, Ted Mahon, Christian Pondella, Jonathan Selkowitz, Scott D.W. Smith, and Tomas Zuccareno) manage to shoot the verbs that come with such an audacious adventure.
The epic photography team captures the hike, with a trail of footprints sinking into oblivion below; the summit, with Beidleman precariously straddling a ridge en route to the tippy-top of Capitol Peak; the guys wading through snow on all fours; and, perhaps the most jaw dropping, Davenport and Nick Devore free climbing a sheer rock face … in ski boots … with no visible safety gear. Simply put, this is not your classic John Fielder coffee table book.
Of particular interest is Davenport’s conquest of Minturn’s own Mount Holy Cross, the lone Vail Valley 14er in the state. Davenport was assisted by local residents Chris Anthony, Eric Warble, and Carl Cocciarella, and even gives a shout out to the Minturn Saloon.
The photo team also manages to inject the lighter side of their perilous pursuit. Shots of a fluffy Ptarmigan, a chance meeting with bighorn sheep, a dog named Horton (who ‘skied’ Quandary Peak), barbecues, and much-deserved hot springs layovers add another element to the book. Sure, it was serious work but it was born out of genuine enthusiasm, respect, and love for the sport and nature.
Although the photography is the book’s signature, and justifiably so, it’s further strengthened by vignettes of each mission objective. Davenport offers summaries of the various peak’s conditions, lines, and the group morale it inspired, thus also making Ski the 14ers a version of a travel journal. The outlines were culled from Davenport’s online journals, found at http://www.skithe14ers.com.
Those who may be inspired to follow in Davenport’s tracks, be advised he has the chops to realize such a quest. He’s won more than his fair share of World Extreme Skiing and Freeskiing World Tour titles. This is a guy who knows what he’s doing. Also, be advised that Davenport thanks all his gear sponsors as well as chiropractor in the credits. More proof that this is no Sunday skier.
Books of this genre have an interminable table life, sitting in a living room somewhere, occasionally getting a leaf through. This, however, is one that doesn’t get put down until completion, and will likely always steal the scene at a cocktail party. Those brokers offering scenic nature books with vistas of meadows may want to think twice upon future closing gifts.
So for those patting themselves on the back over pints and wings at The Tap Room after an O.O.B. run, talking about charging the Sangre de Cristo Range, rest assured, someone’s already done it.
Stephen Bedford is the general manager at The Bookworm in Edwards.