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Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches Hardcover – November 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151012490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012497
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,752,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Co-director, with her husband, Doug Fesler, of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center, the author is an expert on both the beauty and dangers of snowy mountain ranges. Combining the expressive reverence for nature evident in an earlier work, Rowing to Latitude: Journeys Along the Arctic's Edge, with her own experiences, Fredston sounds a wake-up call to those who ski, hike or drive snow machines through snow-packed peaks and passes. Avalanches, she says, are not completely unpredictable, and can be avoided by reading the snow scrupulously and picking routes carefully. Drawing also on her husband's research on the history of avalanches in Alaska, Fredston describes how she and Fesler teach those who enjoy the mountains the best ways to minimize their risk. She presents harrowing accounts of rescue efforts the two have led, highlighting fatal accidents that might have been avoided. Fredston details, for example, the death of her friend Todd, an experienced skier, whose joy in the sport overcame caution when he and his comrades embarked on a last run that sparked a deadly avalanche. Fredston conveys the emotional toll too many mountain deaths have taken on the couple as well as their sense of mission to prevent future tragedies.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This seems to be the era of a genre perhaps best called nature-adventure-disaster. Fredston, who lives with her husband in the mountains above Anchorage, Alaska, has spent the years tracking avalanches in an effort to prevent disasters. Fredston has rescued many skiers trapped by avalanches--one was so deeply entombed that he could only move one finger. She says that avalanches most often kill by suffocation, although broken necks and other forms of fatal trauma have become increasingly common as people jump into ever more ruthless terrain. "Poisoned by their own carbon dioxide emissions, most victims begin to lose consciousness within four minutes, which is a good thing, as they will use air at a slower rate," she writes. "Brain damage may set in after eight minutes." Fredston writes that avalanches are like fish; they tend to run in schools, and when one has occurred, more are likely. With black-and-white photography throughout, this book is an electrifying account of the dangers of avalanches, their causes, their victims, and--thanks to Fredston--sometimes their victims' rescue. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I would recommend this book to anyone, outdoor lover or not.
Dustin Shannon
I read the paper book first, and then years later read the kindle edition.
TJ Burr
This is a very sincere and frank book coming from the heart.
Victor Melamed

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Human beings are a pretty stubborn lot. People insist on building expensive new abodes along the San Andreas fault. Others ignore the dangers posed by hurricanes and build homes and hotels right on the water all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. It is not a question of "if" devastation will strike these areas but rather a question of "when". Likewise, over the past quarter century as people play and build in ever more remote areas of this country the threat of death or serious injury at the hands of an avalanche have increased dramatically. This is particularly true in the State of Alaska.

For more than two decades author Jill Fredston and her husband Doug Fesler have been fighting the good fight in our nations largest state trying to educate everyone about the dangers posed by avalanches. The results have been mixed. In "Snowstruck" Jill Fredston speaks of the exhiliration of working in the wilds of Alaska and of the heartbreak when individuals gamble and lose their lives to an avalanche. What is so frustrating to people like Jill and Doug is that most of the folks who are killed in avalanches are experienced individuals who really should know better. In "Snowstruck: In The Grip of Avalanches" Jill Fredston explains how she goes about the task of predicting where an avalanche might occur and what is involved in deliberately triggering them with explosives. In addition, you will accompany Jill and Doug on a number of heart wrenching rescue missions. You will quickly come to understand how frequently these rescue missions become recovery missions. It is very sad particularly in cases where Doug and Jill know the victim.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dustin Shannon on April 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is awesome. Expertly written, Jill can bring you from your living room to feeling like you are there, participating in the avalanche or the rescue. Having had a good friend perish in an avalanche, who in fact, was dug up by Jill and her husband, this book was so intense that while it is normally a book that you would read from start to finish, it was so superbly written that many chapters would make the memories come rushing back, prompting a break, if only for half an hour before being so compelled to read on. I would recommend this book to anyone, outdoor lover or not.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Schomaker on April 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Snowstruck is a fascinating book from an actual scientific expert involved with avalanche rescue, prediction and study, but it reads more like the great adventure narratives from writers like Jon Krakauer or Sebastian Junger. Smart, exciting, and thought-provoking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Author Jill Fredston has worked in avalanche prevention, education and rescue for several decades, trying to keep people and avalanche disasters separate: her account of her experiences in SNOWSTRUCK: IN THE GRIP OF AVALANCHES provides an excellent mix of science, adventure and autobiography as it surveys her experiences. From triggering them with explosives to teaching potential victims how to stay alive, Fredston's many encounters and stories all hold lessons for survival.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Martin on August 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am a disaster afficionado--have been since I can remember. Books, movies, documentaries--if something on the planet erupted, shook, blew, flooded or flamed, I'm interested.
Maybe it's the awesome power of Mother Nature that attracts me. She is one tough chick you just don't mess with--and I want to be her.
Anyway, for a disaster buff like myself, a book sporting a title with the word "avalanche" in it has to get my attention. And Jill Fredston's "Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches" not only grabbed my attention, it held me by the throat to the very end.
Fredston has an impressive resume: She has spent the last 25 years studying avalanches and has worked in education, prevention, rescue and recovery. She is co-director of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center and co-author of "Snow Sense: A Guide to Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard." Her partner in both endeavors is Doug Fesler, who also happens to be her husband. But more important than her credentials is her awe of and respect for the forces she studies.
She tells the reader of her arrival in Alaska in 1982, proud possessor of a masters degree in polar studies and ice. Landing a job as a snow and ice specialist for the University of Alaska, she become known for her expertise in "anything frozen."
When the university inherited the Alaska Avalanche Forecast Center, Fredston was appointed director, even though she knew nothing about the subject. That's when she met Fesler, who at that time was Alaska's "reigning avalanche authority" and who had recommended against her hire.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Arndt on December 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A rich blend of discovery, wonder, science, tragedy and somber reflections on human nature, Snowstruck is simultaneously educational and entertaining.

The author relates vividly her interest in learning everything about avalances, but also reveals the heartache of regularly interacting with so deadly a topic. Her frustration with the way natural disasters in general and avalanches in particular are reported in the popular press rings very true.

The the author's acquired humility from years of wrestling with this natural phenomenon is much appreciated. One comes away from the book with a clear picture that nature will ultimately have the upper hand in a struggle with humanity, but humans can at least manage their risk taking as well as their own tendency towards arrogance.
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