Deep Powder and Steep Rock - the Hans Gmoser biography
I just finished reading Chic Scott’s “Deep Powder and Steep Rock, The Life of Mountain Guide Hans Gmoser.” The book holds a particular fascination for me because the events surrounding the last years of Hans’ life had drawn me into the web of his life and his legacy as the inventor of heli-skiing and perhaps the most influential figure in the history North American mountain guiding.
At the time of Hans’ death in 2006, I was working on a book, with Hans as my advisor, telling the story of Canadian Mountain Holidays and the invention of helicopter skiing. Hans agreed to support my writing of the book largely, I suspect, because I wanted to combine the stories of the other people involved in the project into a version of the story that would give voice to people besides Hans in the exciting evolution he and his friends had pioneered in the sport of skiing.
When Hans passed away, for a time I felt that the entire weight of telling the story of his incredible life had suddenly fallen on my shoulders. A short time later, Hans’ widow, Margaret, asked Chic Scott to pen Hans’ biography. The news was a relief to me because now I could focus on the story Hans had wanted me to tell, while Chic, a seasoned historian, was the perfect man for the job of writing Hans' biography.
In the aftermath of Hans’ death, Chic and I sat down for dinner and made a plan. Rather than competitors, I had the strong feeling that we were collaborators in sharing Hans’ story with the world. Chic told me that he planned to focus 90% of his book on Hans’ life outside of CMH, and 10% on the heliskiing aspect of his story, and my plan was to focus 90% of my book (Bugaboo Dreams) on the heliskiing story and 10% on the rest of Hans’ life.
Chic’s book, Deep Powder and Steep Rock, digs into the earliest days of Hans escaping to the mountains of Austria for reprieve from the dark days of WWII, his emmigration to Canada, and his rise as one of the most influential mountain guides in history. The book also offers a compelling look at the development of the outdoor industry over the last 60 years.
Written as a classical biography, Deep Powder and Steep Rock chronicles Hans’ life in an accurate and matter-of-fact prose that reveals much of the complex character of Hans Gmoser. Even Hans’ closest friends will find Chic’s book delves into little-known aspects of Hans’ life.
For aficionados of mountain heroes and heli-skiing, Deep Powder and Steep Rock is a must read and includes three of Hans Gmoser's original films in DVD format.
If there is any critique to be leveled at the book, it is similar to the critique I would level at my own book, Bugaboo Dreams: Neither book brings together the entirety of Hans’ life. Bugaboo Dreams leaves much to be desired in revealing the life of Hans Gmoser, while Deep Powder and Steep Rock covers the colourful world of Han’s most dramatic contribution, heli-skiing, with academic simplicity. A great project for a future writer?