POWDER DAYS: Ski Bums, Ski Towns, and the Future of Chasing Snow
An electrifying adventure into the rich history of skiing and the modern heart of ski-bum culture, from one of America's most preeminent ski journalists
The story of skiing is, in many ways, the story of America itself. Blossoming from the Tenth Mountain Division in World War II, the sport took hold across the country, driven by adventurers seeking the rush of freedom that only cold mountain air could provide. As skiing gained in popularity, mom-and-pop backcountry hills gave way to groomed trails and eventually the mega-resorts of today. Along the way, the pioneers and diehards--the ski bums--remained the beating heart of the scene.
Veteran ski journalist and former ski bum Heather Hansman takes readers on an exhilarating journey into the hidden history of American skiing, offering a glimpse into an underexplored subculture from the perspective of a true insider. Hopping from Vermont to Colorado, Montana to West Virginia, Hansman profiles the people who have built their lives around a cold-weather obsession. Along the way she reckons with skiing's problematic elements and investigates how the sport is evolving in the face of the existential threat of climate change.
Riveting, action-packed and beautifully written, Powder Days is a love letter to a high-stakes sport and the definitive tome for ski lovers everywhere.
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Here's what reviewers are saying:
Hansman (Down River), an environmental columnist for Outside magazine, takes readers on a riveting plunge into ski culture. After sharing reflections on her own years of “living the ‘dream’ ” of putting the “constant sense of chase” of skiing above all else in her 20s, Hansman delivers an entertaining ethnography of what constitutes a ski bum. She defines the lifestyle, describing how prioritizing skiing could lead to “no job, no relationship[s], no stability,” but paradoxically also foster “deep connections, community, joy.” She weaves in her own experiences, beginning in the “knobby mountains of New England,” where she learned to backcountry ski as a teenager and peaking in Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin, where, in college, she spent her days “hopped up on a mixture of adrenaline, secrets, and the thrill of breaking rules.” In addition to insightful chapters on the psychology and “heady rush” of skiing and the freedom it represents for so many of its participants, Hansman also tackles topics such as ski town economics and the ways climate change threatens to upend the industry (“Can we actually keep doing this if it gets worse?” she wonders). This is as exhilarating as the act of skiing itself.-Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
Heather Hansman, a former editor at both Ski and Powder magazines, takes a critical look at the sport and the industry, examining how skiing is affected by climate change, gender, race, economics, and psychology. While also serving partly as a memoir for Hansman, she traces the evolution of skiing’s popularity in the U.S., from casual weekends at family-owned lodges decades ago to luxury resorts catering to the private-jet crowd of today, nodding at the looming future for the industry as climate change escalates. -Fortune
Powder Days is an absolutely rollicking, unfiltered account of American ski bum culture, from its post-WWII origins with the 10th Mountain Division cutting out mountain trails and building lifts, through the epoch-changing turmoil of 1960s counterculture, to its declining and decadent days in the late 80s and early 90s. But not only does Hansman offer an engaging history of the subculture and its evolution from eccentric pastime to leisure-time scene of the rich, she recounts in revealing detail her own ski-bum story, from the humble hills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the dizzying class divides of Colorado’s luxury resorts. A great read to get you excited about winter. -Lit Hub
DOWNRIVER: Into the Future of Water in the West
The Green River, the most significant tributary of the Colorado River, runs 730 miles from the glaciers of Wyoming to the desert canyons of Utah. Over its course it meanders through ranches, cities, national parks, endangered fish habitats, and some of the most significant natural gas fields in the country, as it provides water for 33 million people. Stopped up by dams, slaked off by irrigation, and dried up by cities, the Green is crucial, overused, and at risk, now more than ever.
Fights over the river’s water, and what’s going to happen to it in the future, are longstanding, intractable, and only getting worse as the west gets hotter and drier and more people depend on the river with each passing year. As a former raft guide and an environmental reporter, Heather Hansman knew these fights were happening, but she felt driven to see them from a different perspective—from the river itself. So she set out on a journey, in a one-person inflatable pack raft, to paddle the river from source to confluence and see what the experience might teach her. Mixing lyrical accounts of quiet paddling through breathtaking beauty with nights spent camping solo and lively discussions with farmers, city officials, and other people met along the way, Downriver is the story of that journey, a foray into the present—and future—of water in the west.
Here's what reviewers are saying:
"In an energizing mix of travelogue and investigative journalism, Hansman, a raft guide and environmental reporter, provides a straightforward elucidation of the mind-bogglingly complicated subject of water rights in the American West. Travel enthusiasts will appreciate Hansman’s descriptions of her rafting exploits, and admiration for the power of water, while policy advocates will mull over her thought-provoking insight into the West’s water conundrum."-Publishers Weekly
"Hansman delivers a worthy updating of a core library containing such works as Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert and Philip Fradkin's A River No More. An insightful look into the unsustainability of western waterways."- Kirkus
"By placing herself directly in the current of the river and taking us with her, Hansman gives us a more tangible understanding of what’s at stake. “I had to be gone, to be in it, to see the good and the bad,” she writes. “I learned that you can care about places and want to protect them, but then you’re fighting for abstractions.” In Downriver, she makes the Green River—and with it, all the water of the West—just a little less abstract for the rest of us." Outside Magazine
"Hansman’s narrative succeeds, where other such accounts have not, in large part because she is transparent about her motivations, her preconceived notions, and the knowledge she gains from her epic journey. She has come to learn, not to lecture, and the reader learns alongside her." American Scientist
"Water management is risk management, too." Newsweek
"On a 730-mile run through this far-off, achingly beautiful, seemingly wild river, author Heather Hansman discovers the future of water in the West." Sunset
"It’s a well-told story and a great read, weighty and thought-provoking while remaining light-hearted and soaked in fun." Adventure Journal
"2019's best books about the environment so far." Chicago Review of Books
"Heather Hansman's book, 'Downriver: Into the Future of Water in the West,' has plenty to share about policy and government, but it also offers a glimpse into the things we learn about ourselves and our community when we head toward the wilderness." REI Journal
"In between white-knuckling class III rapids, wading into flooded fields with cattle ranchers, camping on moonlit sandbars, and confronting the powerful illusion of fear, Hansman must navigate the biggest thrill of her life while also uncovering an archaic and frighteningly unsustainable water system. Whether you're a westerner or not, you'll be caught up in the hustle and flow of this universal story, one that has rippling effects on our entire country." Shape
Here are some interviews and podcasts:
Aspen Words, Author Talk with Heather Hansman (video)
Mountain and Prairie: Demystifying Water in the West
Go West Young Podcast: Heather Hansman's Solo Float
She Explores: Reading a River
We are Rivers: The Story of the Green
Wyoming Public Media: A Journalist Wanted to Understand Western Water Rights