Book Review: Hans Gmoser, Two Ways 

Deep Powder and Steep Rock: The Life of Mountain Guide Hans Gmoser

by Chic Scott, 346pp. Assiniboine Publishing Limited, 2009

$50. Special Hardcover edition with DVD featuring three of Hans Gmoser's films

Bugaboo Dreams: A Story of Skiers, Helicopters & Mountains

by Topher Donahue, 293pp. Rocky Mountain Books, 2008


"A man should have wings to carry him where his dreams go but sometimes a pair of skis makes a good substitute." Hans Gmoser

If he weren't already dead, Hans Gmoser would be blushing. Two books detailing his life and achievements in the past six months? He wouldn't know what to say but chances are he'd quickly change the subject if asked. More likely than not, he'd find a way to guide - literally - the conversation into mountain travel, climbing, skiing, biking or any one of a number of people, other people, he would rather have talked about, people he loved and people he relied on to build the first, biggest and best heliski operation in the world: Canadian Mountain Holidays.

Sharing the principal character and a rich assortment of photographs, the two books are decidedly different in their approach. Likely that stems from the close, personal relationship Chic Scott enjoyed with Hans, as opposed to Topher Donahue, who met his subject late in life. Read together though, the two volumes describe the arc of a life well lived and a legacy that blazed a new trail to skiing nirvana.

In Deep Powder and Steep Rock , Canadian climber, backcountry traveller, writer and now publisher Chic Scott, paints an intimate portrait of one of western Canada's least-known Horatio Alger stories. In his only conceit on chronology, Chic starts at the end, July 3, 2006, the day a 73-year-old Gmoser set off on a long bike ride along the scenic Bow Valley Highway in Alberta, a ride he never finished.

From there, we flash back to 1932, to Braumau am Inn, Austria, Gmoser's birth, the product of an unmarried mother and cold, authoritarian, distant father who never played that role in his son's life and left a void as yawning as the most dangerous crevasse because of it. Through the magic of a first trip to the mountains led by his parish priest, Gmoser finds what so many of us find in mountains: challenge, fulfillment, majesty, humility, grandeur and peace. He also finds his life's passion and ultimately, the seeds of future success.

Driven perhaps by that uniquely European trinity of mind, body and spirit, Gmoser not only finds himself in the mountains, he chronicles seemingly every foray in a series of tourenbuchs , diaries. Scott draws heavily on these first-hand sources - written in German and later in English - in illuminating Gmoser's early life in Austria, his accidental emigration to Canada and his very satisfying, early life as a mountain guide in the Rockies.

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