Holiday Break Reading Assignment

December 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Holiday Break Reading Assignment

Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

Here’s a bit of praise for the New York Times, and some required reading for fans of gripping non-fiction, backcountry skiing, outdoor adventure, sports writing, or just excellent journalism.

Like my boss, Matt Sawyer, Ski Butternut’s director of marketing, said after the Times printed its annual “Ski Issue” last week: For a major newspaper not located in ‘ski country’, The New York Times does a pretty good job covering winter outdoor sports in general, and skiing in particular.

Today, they raised the bar, releasing a nearly book-length, multimedia feature story called “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” and prominently featuring it as the lead-story on their homepage. It’s both a deep portrait of the lives of several skiers, and a seat-of-your-pants, suspenseful and tragic tale of a fateful day that they spent together in the Washington backcountry.

It’s unusual to find this kind of long-form non-fiction in a newspaper, but I’d even be surprised to find it in Ski Magazine.

Not only did its author, John Branch, clearly devote extensive time to researching and interviewing for this piece, but the Times also worked with him to turn it into a multi-chapter online feature, straddling the space between a traditional news story and a book, and wisely exploiting all the benefits that the “e” provides to e-books, weaving superb writing with photos, infographics, animations, audio and video clips.. (Don’t make the same mistake I made and read this on a smartphone. Do yourself a favor and get the full big screen, immersive and interactive experience on a computer.)

Though you won’t find anything like this at Ski Butternut (in fact, I can assure you that our home, Warner Mountain, is an avalanche-free zone), it’s a compelling and gripping read, even for us easterners who hardly know what a powder day is. -rj


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