The Ski Racer’s Reading List: a work in progress

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Here it is folks, a reading/listening list in time (barely) for holiday giving, long flights and van rides, or evenings by the fire after you’ve tired of each other’s company.

A while back I asked friends this:

“What were your most influential books related to sports and training? Imagine you are building the ultimate reference library for coaches and athletes. What’s in it?”

This is what I got. Far and away the big winner amongst diehard former ski racers was Pianta Su, the 1976 classic book by Ruedi Bear. Bear’s uncomplicated yet detailed technical analysis and photo sequences were a bible of sorts for racers of a certain generation. You know who you are. The stick figure illustrations (Stenmark on an early generation slackline) are priceless, not to mention cost-efficient and perfectly clear,

I’ve included all the books recommended, grouped loosely by type, though there is significant overlap. In some cases, and also with the more obscure picks (we love obscure), I’ve included, in quotes, the nominator’s rationale behind the pick. I linked up a lot of them but then lost steam. I’ll get there eventually, but until then Google has you well-covered.

These are curated from ski racers and also non ski racers and even non athletes, who attest to the life skills value in the reads. In all cases, these are from trusted sources. The most modern books have their own websites or podcasts to tell the story. Often podcasts, by or with the author, are enough to sketch out the concept, set the hook, or entirely check that box of understanding.

These books come in all sizes and fit into a variety of wisdom dispersal techniques: They are books you can give directly, or leave on the coffee table and in the kitchen, hoping they will get noticed, or (for the most slimly-packed wisdom) slip into a bag when someone embarks on a long journey.

The genesis of this effort came from me trying to remember the book that had been pivotal for Hilary Lindh. That book was Psyching for Sport, by Terry Orlick. As the effort gained steam, a friend noted it would have been easier to simply ask Hilary. True, but this crowdsourcing method ended up being a lot more fun.

Finally, it is impossible to contemplate ski technique without thinking of the extensive photography and analysis by the late Ron LeMaster. With LeMaster’s passing, the ski world lost a true artist, fan and friend, whose work appeared in countless books and articles. His enthusiasm, curiosity and passion for the sport, not to mention his tireless work to document it, will be hugely missed.

I hope you find something that works to enlighten, educate or entertain. As always I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts and additions! (PS I’ve added a few already)

SKI SPECIFIC CLASSICS

  • Pianta Su: Ski Like the Best by Ruedi Bear. The countless testimonials don’t lie!
  • John Caldwell’s The Cross Country Ski Book All eight editions “got thousands into XC racing, which often led many of us to road bike racing too, when both sports were very ‘fringe’.”
  • How the Racer’s Ski by Warren Witherell, founder of Burke Mountain Academy. “My entire youth every training session started with ‘Progressions’, a set of drills, mostly snowplow. Every SSWSC racer in the mid 70’s, early 80s went through the same thing. Only later did I realize that these came straight out of “How The Racers Ski”
  • The Athletic Skier, by Warren Witherell and David Evrard “Probably the best book on set-up…so far.”
  • World Cup Ski Technique by James Major and Olle Larson
  • Ski the New French Way by Georges Joubert
  • Teach Yourself to Ski by Georges Joubert
  • Skiing Mechanics by John Howe, the skier and engineer responsible for the design of Head skis and tennis rackets from 1967-80.
  • Breakthrough on Skis, and assorted spinoffs by Lito Tejada-Flores
  • Ski the Champion’s Way by Ernie McCulloch
  • Shut up and Ski by moi. (Hey, it got a couple of legit votes)

MENTAL TRAINING/PERFORMANCE CLASSICS

TEAMS AND CULTURE

  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
  • The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
  • Captain’s Class by Sam Walker. The traits—some obvious and some surprising—that mark true leaders within a team.
  • Run To The Roar by Paul Assaiante, head squash coach at Trinity
  • The Competitive Buddha by Jerry Lynch. A new book by the Positive Coaching guru.

PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER: Thought-provoking reads on talent development and coaching

PHILOSOPHY DISGUISED AS SPORT

  • Zen and the Art of Archery By Eugen Herrigel. Six years of studying and practicing archery and flower-arranging in Japan distills the jist of Zen in a weekend read or a long plane ride.
  • The Playbook by Kwame Alexander. Basketball oriented, poet-written, “oh so relevant.”
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
  • Golf in the Kingdom by Michael Murphy. A classic since 1972, for golfers and gophers alike.

BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR

STRAIGHT UP PSYCH/MEDITATION

PUSHING THE LIMITS AND GOING THE DISTANCE

  • Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson. A few props: “Discovers that what we think of as our limits are set by our minds, not by our bodies.”… “Hutchinson sheds light on how humans accomplish our most absurd athletic achievements.”
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds By David Goggins. As the only man in history to complete elite training  as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, badass Goggins maintains that most of us only tap into 40% of our capabilities.
  • How Bad Do You Want It? By Matt Fitzgerald

OTHER SPORTS

  • The Education of a Tennis Player by Rod Laver and Bud Collins
  • Sacred Hoops Phil Jackson
  • I’ve Got Your Back, by Brad Gilbert
  • The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams
  • The Game Changers documentary
  • The Miracle of St Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski (Kudos for inspiration)
  • The Complete Handbook of Speed Skating, by Dianne Holum “a go-to for technical ideas and physical training.”

HISTORY AND ADVENTURE

  • The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. Teamwork, old style grit, badassery, tenacity and great story telling with rowing as the vehicle.
  • Anything by Eric Shipton or HW Tilman. “They were arguably the greatest adventurers in history and they set the standard for methods and style that keep adventure exciting but safe, and preserve nature and self along the way. They are impossible to emulate but worthy of the effort to try.”

OUT OF THE SPORTS BOX BUT EMINENTLY READABLE

LIFE/INSPIRATION

  • Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid by Giuseppe Catazzarro. About a Somali girl who ran in the Olympics.
  • The Spirit in the Stick by Neil Duffy
  • My Losing Season, Pat Conroy”
  • See You at the Top by Zig Ziglar

BITE-SIZED HITS

Finally, if you want little, thought-provoking reading hits in a digestible package, I love James Clear’s 3-2-1 Thursday emails AKA “the most wisdom per word of any newsletter on the web.”

That’s time well spent!

Read on, listen on, live on. 

Pianta Su, keeping it real.