Steamboat Springs The weeks leading up to the holidays are enjoyable if for no other reason than Christmas shopping gives one a good excuse to go out and shop for books. Even if one is destined to give the shiny new volumes away, there's nothing that quite affirms one's own sense of self worth than purchasing a quality book. Only good people buy books.
Vintage ski photos
Anyone in Routt County shopping for books about the outdoors this fall would be making a wise choice if they picked up a copy of "Ski & Snow Country, The Golden Years of Skiing in the West, 1930s-1940s."
The book includes the late Ray Atkeson's timeless black and white photographs of skiing in the west during in the pre-war years, coupled with essays and captions by Warren Miller of ski movie fame.
Together these two men did as much as anyone who was not a ski area builder to increase the popularity of the sport. If you get a kick out of photographs of vast untracked powder bowls being tracked up by crouched-over skiers strapped to long wooden skis, this book will delight you.
Atkeson's home mountain was Mt. Hood, Oregon, and he made many treks up the old volcano with heavy camera equipment to capture what was then an exotic sport. He got the job done without the benefit of a motor drive or auto focus and always came back with decisive moments.
Miller was a friend of the older Atkeson and appreciated the life of a ski bum like no one else he spent the winter of 1946 living in the Sun Valley parking lot and spending less than $20 all winter.
Miller describes one of Atkeson's remarkable powder skiing photos this way: "Ski school director Alf Engen at Alta, Utah, was a master of powder skiing. In 1952 a lot of upper body motion was necessary to turn the long stiff skis in the deep snow. At one time Alf was the national champion in downhill, slalom, cross country and jumping."
If you're intrigued by an era when skiers were necessarily rugged individualists, you want this book.
Gorillas in our schools
Alright, so your relatives are not rugged individualists, but armchair travelers with a tendency toward the perverse. You should rush right out and purchase Tim Cahill's new collection of travel essays, "Hold the Enlightenment, More Travel, Less Bliss". Cahill dares to go where no one else wants to go and does his best to put himself in one form of danger or another.
If you've read a copy of Outside magazine at the optometrist's office, you've probably read some of Cahill's prose.
In his new book, your brother-in-law will find delightful descriptions of Saharan salt mines, the Congolese jungle and the spectacle of watching orcas beach themselves in order to snack on baby sea lions.
Don't miss Cahill's wry recounting of a visit to a third-grade classroom to teach eight-year-olds how to belch like gorillas.
Cahill is armed with a wry sense of humor at all times.
Sublime summer hikes
Wildflowers have often been left to chance on the average family's summer hikes when they encounter a flower on the way to a lake they consider it a bonus. However, Pamela Irwin and David Irwin offer a more deliberate approach in their book, "Colorado's Best Wildflower Hikes Volume 2: the High Country."
Even without any mention of wildflowers, the book would be an above-average hiking guide to the mountains of central Colorado. But this volume is designed around the species of flowers one can expect to find on specific hikes.
With 50 hikes and profiles of 62 individual wildflowers, this book would be an invaluable aid to anyone whose purpose for hiking is to record encounters with delicate blossoms.
Pamela's text is informative and precise, and David's color photos show both close-ups of blossoms that will aid in identification, as well as photos of the flowers in their settings around high alpine peaks and lakes.
The book even includes hikes on which one could reasonably expect to see 100 species of wildflowers.
The buzz about flies
John Gierach is deservedly known as America's best teller of fishing tales. If you've read his books, you probably feel like he is one of your fishing buddies and the two of you have shared a few beers in taverns after the last light has faded from the stream.
However, in his new book, "Good Flies, Favorite Trout Patterns and How They Got That Way," Gierach follows a fresh current. This time out he talks about the fascination grown men have with tying bits of fur and feather onto a hook, all in the interest of fooling a trout several months hence, when the snow has finally melted.
Gierach devotes 180 pages to discussing his favorite fly patterns in a non-technical way. He gives his recipes for favorite dry flies and nymphs, and although he gives general instructions on how to tie them, this book stops short of being an instruction manual.
By now, millions of American anglers want to know what Gierach knows.
And now we know that a "parachute damsel" is not a female sky diver, but rather a straightforward way to ring the dinner bell for a hungry trout.
Put Away your Putter
If you know somebody who is compulsive about golf, "How to Quit Golf, a 12-Step Program," by Craig Brass will either make you weep, or laugh, or both.
The author's premise is that golf involves addictive behavior patterns. His take on this affliction is often hysterical.
He offers this simple test to help determine if your loved one needs to enter a 12-step program:
"When stuck on a highway in bumper-to-bumper traffic, have you ever gotten out of your car to hit shag balls on the median?"
"Have you ever decided to quit golfing for a week, only to find yourself at the driving range within a couple of days, telling yourself it's not really golf is you're not on a course?"
"When you watch 'Caddyshack,' do you turn down the volume and handle all of the dialogue yourself?"
If your special someone answered "yes" to these questions, ask them to turn to page 15 and confess they have pet names for their putters.
"You name your putters," Brass writes in an accusatory tone. "Nothing sweet and simple, like Calamity Jane. No, you name your putters like people name American Kennel Club show dogs: Sir Reginald Ping Backandfrontnine, Most Holy Roller of the 25-footer; Lord Odyssey Von Greensidebunker, Baron of Inside-the-Leather; the Teardrop Earl of Bentsodgrass, or Duke of the Sliding Left-to-right Downhill Knee-Knocker.
"But worst of all, you believe that you can improve your golf game, and that one day other people will consider you to be a good golfer. God have mercy on your soul."
Go ahead. Shop for books. You'll feel better about yourself, even if the state of your golf game rhymes with "trucks."