Tracing The Footsteps of Doug Coombs
By James Hamilton | Monday, March 28
Robert Cocuzzo has dedicated the better part of this decade to telling the story of Doug Coombs in "Tracking The Wild Coomba: The Life of Legendary Skier Doug Coombs"
Many Thanks to Wade McCoy, Joshua Simpson, Ace Kvale, and The Doug Coombs Foundation for the images used in this post.
I'll be honest, these days I do not read for pleasure. I don't have time. That being said, I will be making an exception for this book. Doug Coombs is undoubtedly one of the most influential skiers in history. From his gravity defying technique on film and in the World Extreme Skiing Championships to his lasting impact on the sidecountry access policies that have been adopted by most major ski resorts, Coombs was a pioneer of backcountry skiing. His untimely death in La Grave, France in 2006 is an irreparable loss for the backcountry community. Doug's story has been partially told many times, most notably in the 2009 film Swift.Silent.Deep, but no one has put it to paper until now. Enter Robert Cocuzzo. Rob has spent the better part of this decade mirroring Coomb's travels and major decents as well as meeting characters from his life.
I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Rob and talk about this project. See below for the interview, and enjoy!
JH: What inspired you to write Tracking The Wild Coomba?
RC: I grew up watching Doug Coombs ski in Warren Miller and TGR videos. I obsessed over the scenes of Coombs, watching and re-watching them in my parents' basement in a suburb of Boston. He was a superhero in my mind, existing in a world so foreign from my own. Yet when I moved to Jackson Hole after graduating college, I discovered that Coombs had actually grown up only a few towns away from mine in Massachusetts. Not only that, but he learned to ski on the same hill as I did, a 240-foot resort called Nashoba Valley. Learning that blew me away and ultimately set me off on a quest to learn how Doug Coombs became one the greatest skiers of a generation. Indeed, one of the greatest skiers of all time.
JH: You really did some investigative journalism for the book, where has this journey taken you?
RC: From spending time with his mother and sister in Vermont, skiing with his wife in Jackson Hole, heli-skiing with one of his most trusted friends and guides in Alaska, learning to ski steep terrain from one of his proteges in Chamonix, and finally living in the tiny French village of La Grave, where Coombs spent his final days-- following Coombs's tracks has been the greatest adventure of my life.
JH: You have lived in two of our favorite places, Jackson, WY and Nantucket, MA. What kind of parallels have you found between the two places?
RC: Well, right off the bat, they're both staggeringly beautiful places unlike anywhere else in the world. Of course, it's the people that really set them apart. I've been privileged to meet so many unique individuals from the year-round communities in both Nantucket and Jackson Hole. They're artists, adventurers, creatives, and free-spirits--all drawn to these special corners of the country in search of a dynamic way of life. Unfortunately, this natural magnetism has also resulted in both Nantucket and Jackson Hole becoming extremely expensive, making it difficult for these year-round communities to call them home.
JH: Ultimately, what do you want readers to take away from Tracking the Wild Coomba?
RC: Beyond Coombs's obvious brilliance as a skier and guide, I hope readers will be inspired by the man he was and the way he impacted others. Coombs was a once-in-a-generation kind of guy. He possessed such blinding optimism and infectious charisma that even ten years after his death, the energy he left behind is still manifest in the all people he touched during his life. Whenever his friends, family, or former clients recalled the time they spent with him, a fire was stoked within them. You could see it in their eyes. Their posture would change, and a warm smile would invariably stretch across their faces. I feel truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to feel that warmth. My hope is that readers will feel that too.
There you have it. Robert Cocuzzo has made telling Doug Coombs' story a labor of love, and if you would like to read the book when it comes out be sure to pre-order it on Amazon here.
The Coombs File by GuideHire
Dominating the field in the first ever televised Extreme Big Mountain Skiing Event in 1991. Valdez, AK.
Coombs' spirit lives on. The man literally taught me to tune skis from the other side. Doug Coomb's Quick & Painless Tune at Teton Village Sports. Teton VIllage, WY.
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