Leslie Anthony’s White planet

I have recently finished Whistler-based author, Leslie Anthony’s new book ‘White Planet.’ The 300 page paper back, published by Greystone Books, is exactly what it claims to be: ‘a mad dash through modern global ski culture,’ and is also an essential, must read book for any dedicated free rider. The manuscript neatly weaves many of Leslie’s magazine pieces (his life work) into an interesting glimpse of several exceptional experiences. Throughout, he adds meaningful dialogue about numerous people, places and things that skiing has inspired.

White Planet reads more like a text book than a novel, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on what you want out of it. One of my first observations is that it took a lot of concentration to read and I needed to be alert to chew on all the words and references. This isn’t really surprising considering the intellect of its author. Leslie is a complicated, smart, satirical and insightful individual. Watch the following YouTube video for proof:

To ski mediaists, like myself, he’s a sensei; he’s lived, and still is living the dream, long past most. He’s been apart of the privileged few, who have had the opportunity to travel the world and be a professional in skiing. He also has a Ph.D in Zoology. Therefore, reading this book was like being a student in the class of freeskiing. There’s a lot of historical information documented within the book and it’s a worthy history lesson. The book also leaves an aftertaste that the ultimate trip is still out there waiting to be had and it inspires motivation to press harder for your own experiences.

There are many things to be appreciated in White Planet. Leslie writes in the language of intelligence and there is a lot that can be learned and enjoyed from understanding his perspectives. He educates us about our history, a skier’s history, and to find a book that contextualizes this worldview is refreshing enough to merit the read. For me, White Planet was a lot less of a guide book (like how to kill it in Europe) and more about instruction about why Austria, for example, is such an important place. The depths of ski culture that Leslie uncovers in his writings are the single biggest asset of this book. He helped me understand the mindsets of several kinds of people and their approach towards skiing. Leslie elaborates in a humorous way about how skiing is really just a journey of understanding ourselves through a medium of sliding on snow.

White Planet takes some space (and time) to enjoy. That’s why I found myself finishing the book this summer, I needed time away from winter to really get it. I received a copy of the book, mid-winter (2011), and eagerly dove in, but I soon found myself struggling to get through it. Inside my ski media saturated life (and job) it was just too much effort to get pleasure reading about the intricacies of skiing in shitty conditions in Canada’s east, or in Mexico and beyond. This was of course, during the best winter of my life. It’s strangely ironic that in the winter of 2011, when I was a full time skier, that I couldn’t come home and read this book about skiing. When your legs are burnt, your body is tired and life is all together on-hold for any other reason than getting up tomorrow and shredding as hard as you can, White Planet fell a little flat for me. Why? Because several chapters in it didn’t really capture for me what skiing is all about: the ultimate moment. I blame Chris Rubens for this. Well it’s not really his fault but I will say that in the last couple years Chris especially, has reminded me how utterly better it is to go on a trip and kill it by skiing in the best conditions. The ‘best time of your life,’ mentality means showing up to the right place, at the right time, with the right people. I felt that for many of the adventures described in White Planet, this was not the case. The opening chapter, which is about a young Anthony traveling to Mexico to ski a volcano, the actual skiing sounded less than enticing; in fact it sounded so brutal that I didn’t want to keep reading. I think there may have been a time, when suffering, on the down, for the cause of getting things done, was cool. But for me at least, that time has past. I think the general mentality for me on ski trips is that if you don’t nail the conditions then you have failed and you should have gone someplace else. In White Planet I felt that for several chapters in the book, Mexico, Iceland, Newfoundland, Les should have probably gone someplace else: someplace with deep and stable powder, not icey, windswept hardpack. What’s the point of going someplace exotic if the skiings better in your backyard? This is, of course, not always a luxury that assignment journalists get; I point I duly noted. There were several very intriguing chapters. The journey to Lebanon was especially intriguing and I also liked the Italy, Chile, Austria chapters and these were the ones that I easily flowed through.

But even in the chapters in White Planet that didn’t wholly capture my ideals about how I view skiing, in no way means that I didn’t get anything out of them. In fact, I will firmly say that this book is a must read. Leslie is a talented writer. His contextualizing of the facts within history from a skier’s perspective is enlightening and gratifying. If I had one complaint it was that the book was exactly what it said it was; a ‘mad dash’ and I actually wish that it wasn’t. There were several parts of the book that I feel paid too little homage to what I wanted the author to go really deep into (like Brett Carlson’s passing). Leslie’s perspectives are what you really want to read this book for. It’s not his actual adventures that are so inspiring, it’s his viewpoints that are so invaluable. Skiing, and freeriding in particular, doesn’t have a lot of PhD’s that can enlighten us and teach us how to think about the sport we love. The facts are that Anthony takes us way beyond thinking of skiing as a hobby; rather he shows us that freeskiing is like a martial art and that it takes study to accomplish it. White Planet is a text book that helps with that study.

The bottom line is that White Planet is a must read. It’s a not to be faulted snap shot of modern ski culture and all dedicated skiers should have it on their book shelf. It’s an effort to acknowledge the craziness of our pursuit of life on a pair of boards.

I recommend to buy the book and support one of the best author’s of our time. If you do, he may end up writing more books about skiing, which we desperately need. I would be very interested to read a non-mad-dash version of any trip by Leslie and I really hopes he has found enough success with White Planet so that he can give us more.

Written by Tim Grey
From Big Lines