To Heaven’s Heights: An Anthology of Skiing in Literature It’s an eclectic mix of stories celebrating skiing as sport, transportation and more.  It’s for anybody who loves skiing – even reading about skiing.

Many of the selections are nostalgic accounts of learning to ski, or descriptions of ski treks of long ago and far away. Others are exciting accounts of accidents, avalanches, competitions, skis in warfare, and daring ski chases from spy thrillers by writers like Ian Fleming and Brad Thor.

About half the selections are originally in English, and others are translated from the foreign languages, including some  translated by Christophersen herself, who was born in Norway. The rest is a scattering of French, Russian, German and Italian writings and even a little “skiers and hunters ditty” from Mongolia.

Altogether, this hefty book is a wonderful collection of interesting readings about our favorite sport.

Christophersen arranged her selections in twenty-three chapters, but there is overlap among headings like “Humour,” “Romance,” and “Poems.” The chapter titles “Miscellaneous” and “Just Skiing” reflect how difficult it is to sort such material into discrete categories.

No matter.  This is a book for pleasurable browsing that inspires the reader to explore further in the works excerpted.

The first book I looked up was Peter Kray’s 2014 novel,  The God of Skiing, which I am enjoying now. Another revelation was the work of French author Henri Troyat, whose 1957 novel Tender and Violent Elizabeth should be great, if the excerpt here is a fair sample.

The fiercely independent and feisty heroine is not  only a terrific skier but also a striking young lady with problems to solve concerning her repressive parents and two aspiring lovers. I ordered a British edition because it has a ski resort scene on the cover instead of the bodice-ripper illustration of other editions. I can’t wait to see how Elizabeth works things out.

Sometimes only sketchy or slightly incorrect information is given, making it a bit tough to track down originals.

For instance, the American writer Swain Wolfe (1939-2021) is introduced in the present tense with a paragraph quoted from an out-dated website. His first name is misspelled as “Swaine” and the title of his book from which the selection comes is The Boy Who Invented Skiing: A Memoir (2006) not simply “I Invent Skiing” as the excerpt is titled.

My personal favorite in the book is the last piece, John Updike’s story “Man and Daughter in the Cold” from The New Yorker, 1968. The skiing experience in blizzard conditions is perfectly rendered, while the exploration of relationships between the title characters raises the story to the level of true literature.

With so much to praise about Ingrid Christophersen’s award-winning book, I feel almost ungrateful suggesting a few more things that might have been included. On the other hand, second-guessing an author is part of the enjoyment of an anthology.

So I wonder—with all the wonderful pieces from Norwegian works that few of us would ever be able to read in the originals—why not include something from Stein Eriksen’s Come Ski With Me (1966)?

Also, alongside vignettes of skiing as a way of life among Norwegians, it would be appropriate to include selections from English writers who travelled to Norway and emulated the native love of the sport. Good examples are found in such books as Mrs. Alec Tweedie’s A Winter Jaunt to Norway (1894) and J. H. W. Fulton’s With Ski in Norway & Lapland (1912).

Probably every reader will think of other works that could be mined for skiing in literature.  Maybe there’s enough for a sequel.

Although we are all adults here, I feel warnings should be sounded about two items in the book that may put off some readers.

The piece titled “The Seducer” by a contemporary Norwegian writer includes a long and rather graphic sex scene. And there’s a selection by the German film director “Leni” Riefenstahl who produced propaganda films for the Nazis.  While describing Berlin in 1932, before she made an “escape to the mountains” of Switzerland, the Nazi sympathizer recounts receiving a leather-bound copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf from Joseph Goebbels as a Christmas present. Ugh! Who needs this?

Ingrid Christophersen’s book was published in London by the Unicorn Publishing Group ( ), 2021. 336 pages, hardbound. Available from online booksellers, including as a Kindle edition.

Proceeds from sales will go to Snow Camp, the UK’s National Snowsports charity, which gives young inner-city children the opportunity to experience the mountains and in many cases turn their lives around.

So it’s a good read for a good cause. 

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