“This is about the real world of skiing—not the rarefied strata of World Cup racing and competition that is mostly represented to the public. Whether resort-based or backcountry, real skiing takes place on the high mountains, in steep couloirs, on massive faces, and deep in forests. It is lodged in the heart and mind and soul of those who do it. It is typically out of sight for the non-skiing public; but White Planet looks deep inside that world.” – Leslie Anthony
Both for the hardcore skiers examined and those who want to live vicariously through them, White Planet offers a wild ride. Along the way, Anthony introduces many of the daredevils who have succeeded—and sometimes failed—at spectacular feats, the visionaries who have changed the whole concept of boots and boards and what can be done on them, and the forces that are bringing the sport to nontraditional markets such as China, Bulgaria, and India.
From the sadistic to the sublime, White Planet is an insightful, humorous, rock ’n’ roll adventure that paints a picture of modern global ski culture.
I guess we could start with the basics, like what the book is about and how long it’s been in the works.
Well, if you’ll allow me to paraphrase myself… it’s about the real world of skiing—not the rarefied strata of World Cup racing and competition that’s mostly represented to the public. Whether resort-based or backcountry, real skiing takes place on the high mountains, in steep couloirs, on massive faces, deep in forests, off huge jumps. It is lodged in the heart and mind and soul of those who do it. It’s typically out of sight for the non-skiing public; but White Planet looks deep inside that world.
In many ways the book has been in the works since my first ski-bumming stint in Banff as a 20 year-old; but for practical purposes I wrote it over about five months in 2009-2010.
Can you share some highlights of the exotic (and maybe not so exotic) places the book visits?
Exotic (in my mind): Mexico, Chile, China, India, Greece, Lebanon, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland. Not so much: Ontario, Newfoundland, Alaska, Aspen, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Whistler, Interior B.C.
This is a collection of stories that spans an unmatched career in ski writing. How much of this is brand new material and how much did you base off of previous stories?
About half the material is based on travels during my tenure at POWDER magazine in the 1990s; and the rest is based on travels and work over the last decade while at SKIER. However, nothing in the book is as it appeared in any corresponding magazine articles — it’s all been rewritten, expanded or shrunk, blended and woven together to tell a particular story: how and why all the various revolutions in modern ski culture have come about, flourished and spread around the globe. Various trips and places are used to elucidate this but there’s a definite narrative arc, and the glue holding that arc together is all brand new material: reflections, analysis, observation, experience — and the occasional asinine joke.
White Planet is subtitled “A mad dash through modern global ski culture”, but spans a few decades of your experiences around the globe. How recognizable is the skiing of today to the sport that first got you involved?
If you step back various degrees and/or look at it through certain lenses it’s almost unrecognizable; on the other hand, up close, when you’re on a pair of skis and snow is hitting you in the face, it’s identical.
With content going online and getting more bite-sized by the minute, do you think there’s an appetite for longer-form collections like this?
I would both imagine and hope so. I mean, I like getting my daily bits and bites about what’s going on in the ski world as much as any other Facebook/Twitter-addled idiot. But at some point, someone has to assemble all these random shards of information into historical and contemporary context in order to bring any meaning to them; and that distillation may as well be something thoughtful, lyrical, humorous and enjoyable to read. Or if nothing like that is available, my book.
Most ski media is presented alongside imagery that ends up doing some of the talking. Did you have to approach this book differently knowing that you’d be doing all of the heavy-lifting without photo support?
Excellent question. And the answer is: absolutely. I’ve been an Editor, Photo Editor, Creative Director, Photographer, and Filmmaker so I well know how it is when you’re trying to balance all the elements to tell a single story. But I’m a very visual writer by nature; when I was developing as a travel writer I would often keep trip journals in verse, using words to paint pictures of people, places and things that no photo could every capture. That enforced descriptive style also helped me in ski writing. I feel a very symbiotic relationship with the photographers I regularly work with; I understand their unique “eye” if you will, and know that my job on assignments is to see just a little more around the edges of a situation than the lens can capture — which gives me something to say. But I know what the lens sees, too, and have those pictures in my mind; so writing a book about a bunch of stuff that was being shot and filmed at the same time gave me an entire extra layer to draw from and into my descriptions.
In addition, historic and modern photo and film issues are prominent discussion points in the book—good, bad, indifferent. Mostly fucking funny.
It sounds like you’ve seen almost all there is to see in the world of skiing – what keeps you coming back for more?
People, places, things. And powder. Mostly the latter.
Where can readers pick up the book? (Probably a good place to put in a twitter/website plug as well)
All the usual giant chain bookstores as well as small local ones and a few core ski shops. Plus the usual online sources. I think there’s links on the Greystone website. You can also check out @whiteplanetbook on Twitter or the White Planet Facebook page
Would you like to thank anyone in particular?
Everyone really—the Acknowledgements is like an entire chapter in the book. But the people I’ve been really tight with in skiing over the years know who they are.