The God of Skiing, by Peter Kray, has been called, “The greatest ski novel of all time.” Reveling in the exploits of the legendary Tack Strau, an iconic East Coast racer whose stunning wins and spectacular crashes made him an instant celebrity on the NCAA race circuit, the book reads like a love letter to a sport built on gravity, speed, and the heartbreaking thrill of cold acceleration.
When Strau suffers a potentially fatal fall after being signed by the U.S. Ski Team, then disappears, the book takes off on a whirlwind tour of the sport’s most storied slopes in an effort to find him. We sat down with Kray to discuss who and what inspired the book, what our sport needs most right now, and why there isn’t more literature about skiing.
Those of us at Wagner know, and thus love you. For people who don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Denver. My dad was a volunteer ski patroller at Vail. We were always skiing. I can’t thank my parents enough for making this sport a focus of our lives. I went to college at St. Lawrence and skied Whiteface, taught four years in Jackson Hole, then followed the woman of my dreams to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I spend my time walking dogs, skiing, and writing.
How did you invent The God of Skiing, how did it come to be?
I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more novels about skiing. We’ve got the most amazing settings, outrageous characters, and crazy stories we share well into the evening. I’ve got a library full of great books on surfing and climbing, but I don’t really do those things. So I figured if I wanted to read more ski novels, the first thing I should do is write one. I wish more people would write books about skiing.
Can you tell me about the character Tack Strau, and what he means to you?
Two things: You and I could go into a bar right now, make up some stories about a superstar skier, and after awhile people would start saying, “Yeah, I heard of him.” Also, every hill has its own local heroes who inspire everyone on the mountain. So he’s kind of an exaggeration of the unknown legend. The crazy thing is how many people think he’s real. I was doing an interview with the Associated Press, with a writer who has written about skiing for decades, and halfway through I realized, “This guy thinks all this stuff really happened.”
Is the God of Skiing what skiing means to you? And, how has modern media changed or swayed our perspective on what’s real, what’s fake and what’s fantasy?
It is what skiing means to me. Life in the moment. Laughing with your friends. Meeting your heroes. Pushing yourself to do scary, sometimes stupid things. As for modern media, everyone can exist in an echo chamber of their own making now, and probably not do enough critical thinking. Which is not a good thing.
Do you personally live in a lyrically-genius, whimsical ski land? If so, how do the rest of us join you?
Just get outdoors and breathe it in. Remember that every ski day is a kind of mini, magical experience where you’re basically flying down a snow-covered mountain. Share that magic of the day—and the world—with all your friends.
In an era where social media portrays only the best (best run, best powder, best selfie, best action shot, etc.), what can the God of Skiing teach us? What really matters?
Skiing. What matters is actually skiing. Wherever and whenever you can.
If Tack Strau could pass along one thing to the newest generation of skiers, what would it be?
I like what he said about surrendering yourself to gravity, how it needs you, and how, “You just want to keep going faster, like the kid with the brand new Christmas sled out looking for the biggest freaking hill.”
If you could wrap the spirit of skiing into one quote from the God of Skiing, what would it be?
Here’s one: “For a sport so present in the now, it’s the memories that make it important. Going fast through nature. Those long moments lost to a turn, and the feeling of flying when you are thinking of everything and nothing at the exact same time.”
The God of Skiing is a must read for all ski enthusiasts. It’s whimsical writing style will pull you in. As Kray mentions in our interview, you will get lost between what is real and what is made up. But, it doesn’t matter, because it’s all about the sport we love and daydream about, skiing. Want to get your own copy of “The greatest ski novel of all time.” Click here to order one.