A Fall-Line book club? Why not? There are some good skiing and mountain sports books in both the fiction and non-fiction sectors and we’re looking for some good holiday reads.
If you’ve got any recommendations, please add them in the comments below – we’d be glad to hear them!
Let’s start with a whodunnit
Not too many ski novels cross Fall-Line’s path, but we’re loving the ski-infused whodunnit Death in Grondère (£6.99 print and £2.49 Kindle edition at ypdbooks.com), which is out this week. A 306-pager by Swiss-based Kathryn Adams, it all the ingredients for a gripping mountain tale. A mysterious disappearance, 40 years earlier. A lovable ski-mad Brit who lives year-round in a fictional resort (clearly based on Verbier). A crowd of seasonnaires and ski bums. A menacing moneyed set. An unsettled old score. Plus a constant stream of entertaining in-the-know mountain and ski references.
We reckon it’s a must-read for anyone who has spent much time either in the Valais or indeed in any ski resort, and you’ll find our full-page review in the upcoming Backcountry Issue, on sale from 21 December. Meanwhile to whet your appetite we caught up with the author, Kathryn Adams, who’s originally from north-east England but now has the Alps on her doorstep having married a Swiss man she met during apres-ski.
FL: Why the book?
KA: It has been bouncing around in my head for a long time. I wanted to show life in a ski resort from a different angle. I felt there was room in the marketplace for a book of this type, a gentle holiday read with a decent plot, background colour and detail. I have done quite a lot of editorial/translation work for Verbier Life magazine and this had given me a wonderful insight into the people who live in Verbier and the wacky things they get up to. The storyline and characters all fell into place, like a jigsaw, even when I had to re-write entire sections. My first panel of reviewers (mostly Verbier-based) were harsh but encouraging, making me go back and restructure twice (and change the title). Their input was key and I think they’re almost happy with it now.
FL: How did you come to skiing?
KA: Late. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and, despite being quite adventurous, it would never have occurred to my parents to take us skiing: even if they had, the cost would have quickly killed the idea. Aged 25, encouraged by friends, and finally earning enough to pay the rent and have a bit left over for holidays, I booked my first ski package to Mayrhofen in Austria.
My friends took me to a dry slope first to make sure I knew how to put on my boots and understood what the ‘fall line’ was. I didn’t felt any particular magic on the dry slope but they were right, when I got onto real snow, I was better prepared.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the ‘bolt of lightning’ on day three. After two sweaty days of sidestepping up and sliding down, suddenly I wound my clumsy way down an entire slope and it clicked. I can still remember the feeling of elation and a little voice inside me saying repeatedly ‘I love this’.
After that, I had to ski every year. As my earning power increased so did the ski trips. The one-week trip extended to two, then it was long weekends too.
FL: Why did you move to Switzerland?
KA: I never meant to move here permanently but my focus and performance at work had evaporated; I decided to quit before I was pushed, have a year off and rethink. After Christmas 2000, I moved to Verbier for the season. I met my Swiss husband, Olivier, at après-ski in the Farinet a month later and I’ve been here ever since. I’m still a weekender in Verbier but it’s now only a two-hour drive away and we’re here for holidays and every other chance we get.
FL: What kind of skiing do you like?
KA: I’m a very different skier to the one that first arrived here: I have ‘grown up’ in these mountains and, as I have progressed from the slopes to the itineraries to the off-piste, I have come to love every bump and gully on them. I’m not a speed queen; in fact, busy slopes scare me and I do everything in my power to avoid them. I think this is why I love bumps so much.
Give me the choice between a slope and a field of bumps at the side and you will always find me in the bumps. I don’t care if it takes me longer to get down, in fact, I prefer it – the longer the better. I’m always last down and my friends don’t seem to mind, in fact, that’s one of the wonderful aspects of skiing, you can ski happily with people of different levels and you will all get the same buzz. There is no happier conversation in life than a chairlift conversation. This is something I have tried to convey in Death in Grondère.
I am still progressing as a skier. I will never be brilliant, I have to feel ‘in control’ and so I’m never able to completely ‘let go’ but I don’t care – I love it. One of my chapter heading quotes by Lindsey Vonn says it exactly: “I think the most important thing in skiing is, you have to be having fun. If you’re having fun, then everything else will come easy to you.” I hope that I have shared that a little through my writing.
Any book suggestions for the Fall-Line Book Club? Please comment below!
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