(Last Updated On: June 29, 2010)
Title: Two Planks And A Passion
Author: Roland Huntford
For those of you who check my blog frequently, you may have noticed this book on the sidebar for most of the winter under “Currently Reading”. At 390 pages, I would normally finish a book like this in a month or so, but this one took considerably longer. Why did this book take so long? For starters, it is written very dryly and matter-of-factly- picture the teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” writing a book like this. The other reason the book takes a while to read is that nearly every sentence has a lot to say.
I’ll start off with the things I didn’t like about this book. Besides the somewhat droll writing style, my main complaint with the book was what I would call a lack of organization. Something tells me this book never started with a well-developed outline, for one paragraph could easily go through several centuries and multiple continents without any discernible tie between them. The book attempts to follow skiing in a chronological order, but at times it jumps around- a lot. The other thing that bothered me quite a bit about this book was what I felt were the author’s biases towards the following things: nordic over alpine, Europe (especially Scandinavia) over everywhere else, and a fascination with the slight contributions of the English to the skiing world. Scandinavia unquestionably reigns supreme when it comes to the history of skiing, but in my opinion that doesn’t mean that North American contributions like the world’s first charlift in Sun Valley barely merit one sentence.
On the other hand, parts of this book were utterly interesting. Ski shapes from the very beginning (10,000 years ago) have run the gamut, including what most people would consider to be “new” shapes, namely fat (over 100mm in the waist), reverse cambered, and reverse sidecuts. It seems that “what is old is new again”. As a reference work, the amount of information in this book is simply astounding, and it’s hard to imagine another book covering such a vast array of ski facts.
Overall, I’m happy to have this book as part of our library. I am quite sure that this book will come off the shelf frequently to look up a specific fact or two that can’t be found on google. Still, I wish this book had all the same information but had been written by a different, and better, author. Comparing ancient and modern skis and skiing styles could have made for a much more fascinating book. And as a ski mountaineer, I wish the book had had a chapter on the development of that aspect of the sport. But on a final note, I think that knowing the history of skiing only leads one to appreciate it more, and on that level, this book is a must-have for any serious skier.