More ISHA Award Books

2023 ISHA Award Winners

ISHA presented its annual book and film awards on March 20, at Black Rock Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah. We reviewed four award-winners in previous issues. Above, award winners (left to right standing) Lanny Johnson (Buried), Chris Couper (From Ranch to Resort), Rick Walkom (Skiing Off the Roof), Rett Ertl (Eldora), Ayja and Junior Bounous (Junior Bounous), Kathryn Mayer and Greg Glasgow (Disneyland on the Mountain) and Alan and Barbara Engen (Alf Engen). In front, ISHA's Seth Masia and Rick Moulton. Charlie Sanders photo.

Ullr Award

Around the World
Patrick Thorne

Around the World In 50 Ski Runs
By Patrick Thorne

Skiing History contributor Patrick Thorne tells the surprising stories behind 50 ski runs across the globe. Learn about the two different ski areas that each claim to be Hannibal’s route through the Alpine passes with his elephants; the debate around what is really the world’s steepest slope; how smugglers have used ski runs to escape customs patrols; and why hundreds of skiers dress as witches each year at Belalp in Switzerland.

Thorne’s account features skiing from across Europe, North America and South America, and ski destinations in China, Iran and even North Korea. Along the way, meet Franz Klammer, the Beatles, Count Dracula, St. Patrick and James Bond. This text is complemented with practical information and trail maps.

Patrick Thorne won ISHA’s Cyber award in 2020 for his website

Wildfire Press, 2022; ISBN 1472294351. 256 pages. $21.99 hardbound, $3.99 Kindle edition.

Baldur Award

Disneyland on the Mountain
Glasgow & Mayer

Disneyland on the Mountain; Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort that Never Was

By Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer

The book is a well-researched look at Walt Disney’s ill-fated attempt to develop a ski resort in the Mineral King area of the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

Disney was introduced to skiing in the 1930s and loved it. He met the Austrian ski champion Hannes Schroll, then ski school director at Badger Pass ski area in Yosemite, and became an early investor in Schroll’s development of the Sugar Bowl ski area. When Squaw Valley was awarded the 1960 Winter Olympics, Disney was appointed chairman of the pageantry committee and Disney studios designed the “set” and entertainment program.

After the Games, Disney and his advisor Willy Schaeffler looked for a resort site within driving distance of Southern California. They found Mineral King, adjacent to Sequoia National Park, and also learned that the Sierra Club had in the late 1940s recommended Mineral King for winter sport development.

In February 1965 the Forest Service issued a formal call for bids by companies interested in developing a ski resort in Mineral King. Of six bids received, Disney’s was declared the winner by Orville Freeman, secretary of agriculture, and Disney’s plans were announced on September 19, 1966, with California Governor Pat Brown and other officials in attendance.

The Sierra Club had an active skiing community in both Northern and Southern California, but environmental concerns increased substantially in the 1960s and 1970s. At a tumultuous meeting of the Sierra Club in San Francisco in May 1965, the club voted to lobby against the proposed ski development. Gradually, positions hardened to the point where the Sierra Club began to explore legal options and filed a lawsuit on June 5, 1969, in federal district court in San Francisco to block the project. The Sierra Club won in the district court but lost on appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Forest Service continued to study and revise plans for Mineral King and prepare an environmental impact statement. Disney adjusted his plans and for a time seriously considered building a destination resort at Independence Lake. But it took John Krebs, elected in 1976 to represent California’s 17th Congressional District, to put a stop to the whole project. He introduced a bill that would make Mineral King a part of Sequoia National Park and a similar bill was introduced in the Senate. The bills died in committee that year, but both were reintroduced in ١٩٧٧. Hearings were held, Jimmy Carter was strongly in favor of them and that was that. — Einar Sunde

Rowman & Littlefield, 2023; ISBN 1538173671. 207 pages. $32 hardcover, $30 Kindle edition.

Skade Awards

From Ranch to Resort
Chris Couper

From Ranch to Resort: The History of Sierra at Tahoe
By Christopher C. Couper

This book opens with a roaring depiction of the wild gold rush days of the forty-niners, who were driven by dreams of striking it rich in the gold camps of the High Sierra. Couper carries the history of this mountainous region on through early railroads and the lumber industry to the 1920s, when the advent of automobiles created demand for proper roads. The book then settles into the Highway 50 corridor to the south shore of Lake Tahoe while focusing on the Ski Ranch, a simple roadhouse that defied the odds and survived for 50 years, evolving by 1999 into the modern multipeak resort Sierra at Tahoe.

Founded by the Barretts in 1948, the ski area didn’t even have a parking lot. Skiers just parked along the road and climbed over snowbanks to the lodge and its short rope-tow-served slopes. This coffee-table-sized, 350-page book is crammed with photos not only of the Ski Ranch but of neighboring resorts, like the Strawberry Hut/Edelweiss Ski Area, that have come and gone along Highway 50.

In 1952 heavy snows avalanched, burying Route 50. The Barretts sold the Ski Ranch and the new owners, Vern and Bobbie Sprock, immediately created a parking lot; the improvements never stopped. Successful avalanche control, under the professional eye of Monty Atwater, not only protected the lower ski slopes, but also enabled expansion above tree line to more snow-dependable higher terrain. When Highway 50 was widened in 1968, the resort lost its roadside location and moved up to its current site. Since 1993, Mountain Manager John Rice has overseen its expansion. A purchase by Booth Creek Ski Holdings in 1996 led to more growth, culminating in 2,000 skiable acres serviced by 10 chairlifts, including three high-speed quads offering multiple slope exposures. Bristling with intriguing anecdotes, the book chronicles the rise of the ski area and will draw readers into searching out this lesser known of the major Lake Tahoe resorts. –Rick Moulton

Sierra Software Solutions (2021), 364 pages. Hardcover $100, softcover $50 at Amazon.

Skiing off the Roof
Rick Walkom

Skiing off the Roof
By Rick Walkom

This is the fourth edition of a book first published in 1991. It brings Australia's 93-year history of the Kosciusko Chalet up to date—well, up to 2020, with more color photos.

Author Rick Walkom arrived at Charlotte Pass in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains in 1975, after completing university. He was keen to take a short working holiday with a couple of mates before settling down to a life on the land. It was not to be! This famous snowbound outpost of winter sport on the roof of Australia seduced and captivated him, and he stayed for fifteen seasons. His first job as a lift operator led him to continue as a ski patrolman, Canadian-qualified ski instructor, summer caretaker and lodge manager. In 1978 Walkom became very much part of the mountain scene after converting his share in the family property into a slice of Charlotte Pass Village Pty Ltd, the company that held the head lease.

His interest in Charlotte Pass’ history grew and he suggested a Back to Charlotte Pass reunion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original chalet. At this reunion Walkom met many of Kosciuszko’s legendary characters. The resultant outpouring of reminiscences of the pioneering years inspired him to research the history around Charlotte Pass and its part in the growth of Australian skiing.

Walkom regularly returns to catch up with old mates and still tries to steal the gold from the young guns in the weekly Standard Race. He is a member of the Spencers Creek Ski Club, the Kosciusko Alpine Club, the Perisher Historical Society, the Thredbo Museum and the Australian Alpine Snowsports History Association. (2023). 320 pages, 450 photos. Hardcover $79, including postage.

Film Awards

Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche
Jared Drake & Steven Siig

In the early 1980’s, the Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol were the undisputed gods of winter in the mountain hamlet of Lake Tahoe, California, a sun-drenched wonderland of endless powder and parties. This sundry crew full of youthful hubris and a zest for explosives were guided by a newly minted avalanche forecaster named Jim Plehn. More thoughtful and strategic than the others, Jim was a stickler for safety and protocol; he had to be at this avalanche-prone resort. The responsibility to keep the skiing public safe was an all-consuming obsession of the patrol crew, which made the day of March 31, 1982, all the more devastating.

With the mountain closed due to high avalanche danger, an avalanche of unforeseeable magnitude broke free. Millions of pounds of snow hurtled down the side of the mountain demolishing the resort’s base area and burying the parking lot. The wreckage was unimaginable and for the shell-shocked patrol team there was no time to dwell, eight missing victims were buried in the slide - co-workers, friends, family - and every passing second was precious.

Over the next five days, through an unrelenting storm and unimaginable tragedy, the rescue team persevered. Innocence was lost, mortality faced, Mother Nature reckoned with, but through it all they never gave up hope for a miracle.

Streaming on Netflix, Prime and Apple-TV. 90 minutes.

Alf Engen: Snapshots of a Sports Icon
Alan & Barbara Engen

An affectionate biography of Alta legend Alf Engen.

Alf Engen Ski Museum, 38 minutes. Streaming at

Cyber Award
Perisher Historical Society

The Perisher Historical Society researches stories from all the resorts along the Kosciuszko Road including Sawpit Creek, Wilson’s Valley, the Hotel Kosciusko (Sponars Inn), Smiggin Holes, Perisher Valley, Blue Cow, Guthega, Skitube, Betts Camp, the Chalet and all the huts adjacent to the Kosciuszko Road and on the Main Range. This remarkable website archives hundreds of documents and photos, with an efficient search function. 

Honorable Mentions

  • Baldur Award: Without Restraint, by Robert C. DeLena and Ryan C. DeLena
  • Skade Award: Skiing in Colorado, by Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame and Dana Mathios
  • Film Award: NGR: The Fabulous Life of Nancy Greene Raine, by Lainey Mullins
  • Film Award: Sierra Nevada Ski and Olympic History: And the Future SNOW Museum, by Eddy Ancinas and Steve Jensen