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Hello, Peter

Deb Luginbuhl

The 2004 Festival of Words is fast approaching with the festivities kicking off on Friday, April 16. The Booklovers’ Wellness Weekend offers participants the chance to meet nationally recognized authors and hear their stories. The 2004 Festival of Words is a three-day event beginning with a Wine and Wit evening of poetry on Friday, April 16, and followed by an Afternoon with Authors on Saturday, April 17. A Footnote Breakfast with the authors will cap off the weekend on Sunday, April 18. The weekend events will be held at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa, with special rates. For more information and to purchase tickets, call the Vail Symposium at 476-0954 or visit http://www.festivalofwords.org.

In order for participants to get to know the authors before the event, the Vail Daily will be featuring an interview with each author every Friday in the weeks leading up to the festival.

Meet Peter Shelton

Peter Shelton is a contributing editor and columnist at Ski magazine as well as a correspondent for Outside magazine. His book, “Climb to Conquer: The Untold Story of WWII’s 10th Mountain Division Ski Troops,” is a highly readable historical account of the renowned 10th Mountain Division, which trained at Camp Hale, located south of the Vail Valley. It’s the in-depth history of a fledgling division that grew from a haphazard collection of enthusiastic outdoorsmen to a cohesive group of wartime heroes. Drawing on years of interviews and research, Shelton re-creates the ski troops’ lively, extensive – and sometimes experimental – training, as well as their journey from boot camp to the Italian Apennines. Shelton lives in Montrose.

1. How did you start writing?

A man I knew from the Telluride Ski School ran up to me as I was working on a cabin in the summer High Country. He was exhausted, and his leg was shaking uncontrollably. He said he had just run down three miles and 3,000 vertical feet from Lizard Head Peak, where he had left his climbing partner badly injured from a fall. I took off for the spot he described, at the base of the final cliff, while he went to find a phone to call for help. The brightly-colored bundle of nylon I found an hour-and-a-half later, laid out carefully on the rock, contained a man long-since dead, waxy and cold. I sat with the corpse for another hour listening to the search-and-rescue team labor up the scree. We took turns on the litter carrying him down. That night, in our tipi (with my wife and baby daughter), I couldn’t sleep and brought out the portable typewriter my grandmother had given me for my high school graduation. Next morning, I had a vivid story on paper, one that Mountain Gazette published that fall, called “Accident.”

2. Is there a particular author, past or present, who has influenced your writing?

John McPhee, whose appetite for research and ear for detail makes the seemingly mundane fascinating; and E.B. White, for his elegant personal essays, and for “An Approach to Style,” the best advice ever given on writing.

3. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I am with my wife talking, reading, watching movies, or listening to music. Or I’m skiing, mountain biking, scrambling in the San Juans of Colorado, the Wasatch Range in Utah or the Sierra Nevada in California. And hatching ways to get together with our two grown daughters, who do all of the above with aplomb; plus they cook.

4. What is your best personal quality?

I am a tenacious, albeit slow, reader.

5. What is your most aggravating habit?

I am a tenacious, albeit slow, reader.

6. Finish this sentence: My favorite way to waste time is…

Sit in the sun and devour an entire New Yorker.

7. What is the worst job you have ever had?

One of my first jobs in Telluride was to wash the ornate, Victorian, pressed-tin ceiling of the Mason’s Hall. The only Mason left in town hired me, helped me build movable scaffolding to reach the 18-foot-high ceiling, and supplied me with all the TSP (a cleaning agent), buckets and sponges I would need. It took scores of sponges and a full week of Michelangelo-like, upside-down elbow grease to get through the decades of coal dust to the cream-colored paint underneath. When it was done, my back was wrecked; I was exhausted, sore and immensely proud of the result.

8. If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

Probably a ski patrolman at Alta, Utah, living every day with the snow, its vagaries, mysteries, avalanches and powder rewards.

Peter Shelton and the 2004 Spring Valley Read

Peter Shelton’s book about the 10th Mountain Division, “Climb to Conquer,” is the 2004 spring Valley Read – a “virtual book club.” The Vail Daily will become a public forum for the book club March 22-29, in order to facilitate discussion, questions and reviews of “Climb to Conquer.”

The Valley Read will culminate in a gathering at the Colorado Ski Museum on Wednesday, April 7 from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. featuring a slide presentation by 10th Mountain Division veteran and Vail Valley local Earl Clark. This event is free. The Bookworm of Edwards and Verbatim Booksellers are offering copies of “Climb to Conquer” at a 20 percent discount for Valley Read participants through April 7.


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