Feb 19 2014

Review: Volken’s BC Ski guidebook for WA


Washington routes for ski tours.

Washington routes for ski tours.

There’s another guidebook for backcountry riders in Washington. This time the author is noted guide Martin Volken, a Swiss guide whose training in the Alps has served him well in the glaciated environs of Washington’s volcanos and Cascade range.

The book begins with an historical retrospective that lends insight to knowledge that exists only in a few dusty corners of the internet and Lowell Skoog’s archives. About the only thing missing from his introduction to this new guidebook is any mention of the work he did in carrying Washington’s ski mountaineering torch with his brothers in the 80s.

One could argue that all this info is available on the web, and no doubt it is, but not with the insight of Martin Volken and the guides of his Pro Guiding Service, chief among them co-authors Chris Simmons and Ben Haskell. A benefit younger skiers may miss is having everything related to skiing in Washington in a single, organized, non-electric package that includes the advice of experience, something that has dubious credibility when found on the web.

All the photos and maps are in black and white, but far from being mediocre substitutes, the photos generally have good lighting allowing you to distinguish key features of a face or route that will help in planning your own visit to the 80-plus routes described in this book.

Each route has a summary of key factors, like the length of the route in miles, vertical, and time, recommended season, difficulty and where to get permits. The written descriptions are expectedly dry, but chock full of good info on what terrain features or aspect to use for ascents versus descents. Some of the prose is not all that dry, which is where the voice of experience is confirmed and the value of this guidebook found. Consider this example of an otherwise simple warning on the Forbidden Tour:
“You are entering a big talus zone that might not hold all that much snow anymore and could have some treacherous holes.”

If you want a handy source of tours to add to your bucket list without breaking the bank, the new guidebook by Martin Volken and the guides of Pro Guiding Service is worth having in your library.

Mountaineers Books
Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding Routes for Washington
by Martin Volken and the guides of Pro Guiding Service
MSRP: $25