OUT: Sunday Column November 23, 2008

Books on bygone ski areas in Colorado, shotgunning worthy of consideration

Each fall brings an avalanche of new outdoor books, all trying to reach those Christmas shoppers hoarding what little money they have left to spend.

Several books caught my eye this year, ranging from a guide to Colorado’s forgotten ski areas to Michael McIntosh’s final installment of his trilogy on shotgunning.

Only a relative handful of skiers and snowboarders know that Colorado once boasted nearly 200 ski resorts. Fewer still take the time and energy to seek out and hike to or ski, depending on the snow availability, some of the state’s now-deserted ski areas.

Author Peter Bronski of Boulder went farther and higher than most in his search for Colorado’s skiing past.

Bronski invested several years, innumerable gallons of gas and countless hours of sweat equity into seeking out and skiing many of the state’s forgotten ski areas for his latest book, “Powder Ghost Towns: Epic Backcountry Runs in Colorado’s Lost Ski Resorts” (Wilderness Press, Berkeley, Cal., $15.96, softcover, 243 pages).

Bronski not only honors the memories of 36 of these formers resorts, showing how and where to get some fabulous powder turns, but also includes some wonderful inside-history information. For instance, he notes that Pioneer Ski Area, located along Cement Creek south of Crested Butte, in 1939, had what is likely the state’s first elevated ski lift. The chairs, initially lowered at the demand of the U.S. Forest Service, subsequently had to raised when they started to drag as the snow piled up.

And it’s not known if anyone even skied during the two-year existence (1970-71, 1971-72) of Marble Ski Area, an land-scam deal that floundered in a financial scandal.

Bronski provides directions to each area, along with maps, vertical drop, season (the best time to ski these areas) and even a difficulty rating, which in this case rates the difficulty of reaching the area and getting to the skiing.

He judges the skiing at each area using on a one-, two- or three-skier level. In his entry on Mesa Creek, built in 1940 by the Grand Junction Ski Club just uphill of where Powderhorn Resort is today, an unqualified three-skier rating while his wife Kelli calls it a “phenomenal area.”

At each of Bronski’s featured areas you’ll have to walk up to ski down but that’s what generations of skiers did before us and it’s all part of the adventure laid out in “Powder Ghost Towns.”

Bronski is scheduled for book signings Jan. 18 at Summit Canyon Mountaineering in Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs; the time is to be determined.

Shotgunners around the world know the name Michael McIntosh. Well-respected not only for his knowledge of shooting but also for his comfortable writing style, McIntosh adds a follow-up to his well-received “Shotguns and Shooting” (1993) and “More Shotguns and Shooting” (1998).

This one is “Shotguns and Shooting Three” (Shooting Sportsman, http://www.shootingsportsman.com, hardcover, $25, 240 pages) and it’s vintage McIntosh, from his succinct overview of shotgun history to a bit of spot-on lay psychology about shotgun owners and the guns they own.

On the subject of matching an owner with the perfect shotgun, McIntosh opines, “It’s a complex process, because we and our gun interrelate in complex ways. ... It originates in the blood, not in the cranium.”

He also covers such seemingly universal topics as getting a good fit (“If you’re determined to be the best shot you can be, you need to be fitted”) to the simple act of closing your gun. If you want to see how not to do it, McIntosh writes, “visit any trap or skeet club.”

I’m not going to say you’ll be a better shooter after reading McIntosh’s book, that’s entirely up to you.

But I think you will come away with more appreciation for the skill of shotgunning and for the author’s mastery in translating those skills into words we all can understand and follow.

Finally, the Colorado Mountain Club guidebook series now includes “Colorado Snow Climbs: A
Guide for all Seasons” (Colorado Mountain Club Press, softcover, $22.95, 240 pages) by Dave Cooper of Alma.

The 42 climbs in this book are organized by season, cover six of the state’s mountain ranges and range in difficulty from walk-ups requiring an ice ax and little more to technical feats only experienced mountaineers should attempt.


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