By Edward Brennan
In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Egan brothers were heroes of the ski world for countless skiers, myself included. I have seen the Extreme Team atop Mount Ellen on more than one occasion. They would jump into the FIS and make magical turns through the mogul field below. These weren’t namby-pamby western powder skiing conditions; anyone can blow through bottomless powder. They were hard, icy bumps, but the Egan brothers were somehow unaffected by the conditions. These guys made the steep ice bumps look like powder skiing. Mortal skiers like me would shake their heads in wonder at what these guys could do differently.
Dan Egan explores three decades of wide-angle skiing adventures in his book, which he co-wrote with Eric Wilbur, “30 Years in a White Haze”. Dan and his brother John were part of an elite crew of extreme skiers who pushed the ski world to the extreme edges – then launched themselves just above.
The Egan brothers, members of the Skiing Hall of Fame, set a new standard for the much revered art of skiing and created their own job classes. It takes a real connoisseur to do low cost heliskiing, live and sleep in fleeing vans or cross the world to make turns in the most exotic countries. Together, they have 50 first runs on some of the most remote mountains on the globe. They went from duct tape patches to sponsor logos on their jackets, but they were still the Boston bahd ahses who ripped harder than anyone.
It would be one thing if all they did was hitchhike to Squaw Valley and jump off the cliffs. No, they had to do heliskiing on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Check this one off the list. Launch of the Berlin Wall in Germany? Check. Getting married to ski racers from the Eastern Bloc? Checkmate. The challenges of being a Sugarbush ski enthusiast seem mundane by comparison. You need a season pass, a reliable car with snow tires, a job of doing the dishes or adjusting the skis and as many days of skiing as possible. These guys were taking skiing fun to a whole new level.
John eventually became ambassador and vice president of recreation at Sugarbush, garnering immense attention, especially in the Boston area where the Egans are Beantown’s ski heroes. Dan has been successful in hosting Extreme Team ski camps, creating numerous films, and remaking an area of ââNew Hampshire.
Dan’s book reveals many of the difficulties of living the life of a skier. There is little safe and security. Adrenaline and adventure are available in quantity and quality. The other stuff, a nice car, a stable relationship, all the pitfalls of a safe and calm life somehow remain out of reach.
This book is the soul of a naked skier. It is fearless writing. People are in disguise, mistakes are admitted, anyone who has abandoned a deal or forgets their security patches on an expedition is attacked. Without ignoring his own failures, Dan’s personal struggles with the party are openly revealed. This surprised me because he always seemed to me to be a hardened athlete who always trained, if not on skis, then on a bike or a soccer field. Every fall, once the elevators were spinning, he showed up – with tree trunks for his legs and ready to rip.
Psychologically, this book is an interesting case study of siblings in extreme situations. Who knows how much sibling rivalry was a factor that pushed these two brothers to such heights? There is a perception that extreme skiers are fearless. It might not be that simple. Dan is holding nothing back. He shares raw emotions and confessions of events when things went wrong. The writing here is as bold and daring as the adventures they have pursued.
The book left me with a feeling of enthusiasm for adventure and the desire to always go further. It seems to be part of the mantra Dan used to accomplish as a skier. He was devoted to his inner voice, his family and his close friends. He has managed to twist the lives of ski enthusiasts to unimaginable heights by forging relationships that have rewarded both Dan and everyone he has met.
Imagine an audience watching an extreme ski movie where our heroes jump off perfectly functioning trams and ski furball slopes with effortless grace. Most spectators ask “why”. âWhy do these things? “Some ask” how “,” How we do these things? Dan has redefined where the edge actually is. He is uniquely qualified because he tackles the two questions, why and how, in this very revealing look at the cutting edge experience.
Brennan is the Alpine Skiing Editor for Valley Reporter, author of Along The Fall Line during ski season.