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The Edge of Never, book review

post #1 of 59
Thread Starter 
The Edge of Never
A skier’s story of life, death and dreams in the world’s most dangerous mountains

By William A. Kerig

Bill Kerig made his bones as a skier competing for ten years on the World Pro Mogul Tour. After retiring in 1996, he began building his reputation as a writer and film producer/director, married an understanding woman, and started a family, which led him to mastermind the extraordinary adventure he relates in this remarkable book. Kerig takes us inside the world of big mountain skiing with a group of skiers who arguably invented the sport, with a story within a story within a story. In the center is the legendary Trevor Petersen, who was killed at the height of his prowess in the prime of his life in an avalanche at Chamonix in 1996; that story is encapsulated by the coming of age journey his son Kye makes to Chamonix in 2005 to ski the run where his father died; and surrounding both stories is another equally compelling one about Bill Kerig’s personal quest make a movie that will enable skiers and nonskiers alike “see what it is that makes this mountain life so special that people are willing to die in order to live it. I wanted to see selflessness, the loyalty of family, tradition and respect. I wanted to see men risk their lives to help a boy become a man—a better man than themselves, perhaps.”

It is rare for me to read a book start to finish in one day, especially one with the girth of The Edge of Never, but that’s how it was. Combining astute observation and a penetrating, journalistic style of writing, Kerig puts the reader on that trip to Chamonix with the 110-pound twin-tip riding lost boy who earns his birthright by experiencing his father’s last run firsthand—with the able assistance of his dad’s good friends Glen Plake and Mike Hattrup, private instruction from the man who wrote the book on ski mountaineering routes around Chamonix, Anselme Baud, and the unwavering leadership of a chain-smoking French guide called Fanfan, who later nearly dies in a “stupid” fall while filming background shots for the movie.

Kye Petersen was a rising fifteen year old professional skier in 2004 when Bill Kerig proposed that he retrace his father’s last run down the Glacier Rond at Chamonix as the premise of a documentary that would seek an answer to why guys like Trevor Petersen would risk life and limb to ski the most treacherous mountains in the world. The very proposition, even though Kye is acknowledged as one of the best fifteen year old skiers in the world, is so crazy Kerig marvels that Tanya Petersen would ever allow her son to do it. Crazy is the word Kye chooses to describe the experience after he does it:

“This is the craziest feeling ever. The satisfaction, the one hundred percent satisfaction from the long mission! I’ve never done anything that took that long to ski. That much effort. This is really, really cool. And

suuuper scary. I don’t know what kind of words to use, really. The no-fall zones—serious no-fall zones—it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. Gave me a really crazy feeling of adrenaline. I always wanted to ski this place. To see what my father saw, where he went. Now I’ve been there. I know now. This is the best feeling, the craziest feeling in the whole world!”
Chamonix is known as “the Death Sport Capital of the World” because an average of sixty people die on its slopes every year. We learn that Anselme Baud’s son died just the year before, skiing a route that Anselme had pioneered with Patrick Vallencant almost twenty years before. We meet Doug Coombs on the Aiguille du Midi the day Kye skies the Glacier Rond. A year later, Coombs died in an attempt to save a friend who fell off a cliff while skiing together at La Grave, just down the road from Chamonix. Kerig is inspired to take the risk of doing this project when his mother dies unexpectedly. Then when Peter Jennings, whose company owned the rights to Kerig’s movie and was underwriting the film project, dies of lung cancer soon after the crew returns home, the project is sidelined in favor of a documentary about Doug Coombs called “Steep,” which came out last year.

Although death plays a prominent role in The Edge of Never, the reader gains an understanding of life, and how the men and women who play those stakes do it not because they love death but because they love life and won’t let the fear overcome their faith. Kerig writes early in the book, in the chapter called A Madman’s Scheme about coming up with the concept for the film, a passage that perfectly explains why Trevor would do it, and why Kye (and Bill) would too.

“…as a skier I know that taking control requires moving toward the thing you most fear. On very steep terrain, everything in your being screams,

Back off! Get away from the edge! But you learn to ignore those voices and move toward the emptiness because if you lean away from the void and into the slope, your ski bases tilt and you lose your edge—the only thing holding you to the hill. Lose your edge at the wrong moment, and it could be the last thing you ever do. Control comes from squaring your shoulders, reaching out and planting your pole down the hill, and moving with complete conviction toward the abyss. It’s a thrilling, counterintuitive, high-stakes dance, and it’s become my one enduring faith.”
Bill Kerig was able to buy the rights to all the film footage described in the book. He expects to release the film he intended to make in Chamonix about Kye and Trevor Peterson in the fall of 2009. It too will be called The Edge of Never. His publisher, John Gattuso of Stone Creek Publications, is sending EpicSki a couple of copies of the book for us to auction. Keep tuned in for details.

For more information, please see the website: http://www.theedgeofnever.com/
post #2 of 59
Thread Starter 
Last night I took a look at what's on the Net about the other film, Steep, and I see we have a thread about it on this forum. There's an interview of the two producers, Kayce Jennings (Peter Jennings's widow) and Tom Yellin, at the Tribeca Film Festival, on YouTube that shows some great footage. At one point Yellin says something very important when he tells us that extreme skiers are somewhat paradoxical, being extreme risk-takers who also are extremely careful.

It's like in the book, when Anselme tells Kye: To be sure, to be safe, you must never fall down. Because if we fall down, it is finished. Okay, sometimes we have a chance, but usually...

So we must never fall down, Kye, repeats Anselme, raising his feathery eyebrows. Never.

Maybe that's where Kerig got his title: The Edge of Never.
post #3 of 59
Nolo, thanks for a great review. I'm not much of a reader, but I'm inspired to pick up this book.
post #4 of 59
Nolo, As the author of the book, I'm honored and grateful that you would write such a thoughtful review.

Thank you.
post #5 of 59
Inspiring review, Nolo.
It sounds like this book will do for big mountain skiing what the similarly-titled "Right on the Edge of Crazy" did for racing.
post #6 of 59
Sounds like a definite read that should span interests of many members here.

Skiwrite, glad to have you join the forum. I found your web page for the book. I didn't know of this until Nolo posted her review.
post #7 of 59
Thread Starter 
I added the URL to the review.

Good to see you here, SkiWrite. Thanks for writing a great book for skiers.
post #8 of 59
Originally Posted by SkiWrite View Post
Nolo, As the author of the book, I'm honored and grateful that you would write such a thoughtful review.

Thank you.
I just ordered the book after reading that review. Can't wait to read it.
post #9 of 59

Thanks for your support. I hope you enjoy the book. Drop me a line after you've read it and let me know what you think.

The Dropkick Murphys rock! I bought an album -- The Meanest of Times -- after I heard their music in The Departed. It's on the top of my most-played iPod list.
post #10 of 59
I kow I am appearing lazy but...what's the book isbn number?
post #11 of 59
Here it is:

ISBN-10: 0965633845
ISBN-13: 978-0965633840

post #12 of 59
I'll try to find it here, but surely shops will ask for it...
post #13 of 59
I too have order the book today after reading Nolo's review.
The clincher was viewing the pics and short video with my 11 year old son.
post #14 of 59

A father and a son getting hooked on my story about a father and a son... That's very cool. Thank you for your interest and support. I really hope you and your son like it. A good friend of mine read the whole book (back when it was a manuscript) to his 10 year old son. I'm not sure whether he used it as a sleeping aid... Please send me a note to say what you thought of it.

And Nobody, where do you live? Maybe I can help. You can buy the book with international shipping here: www.theedgeofnever.com

Cheers all
post #15 of 59
Thanks, actually I hadn't thought about that possibility...Sometimes my reflexes are still locked to the "old ways".
Finally managed to watch the trailer.
That piece of movie alone it so inspiring and touching at the same time! Wow
post #16 of 59
It sounds like a very interesting read. I am putting it on my Xmas wish list.


Here's a question. Do we have a book recommendation thread here on Epicski? Just thinking that such a thing might be a good resource and make a good sticky.
post #17 of 59
I'd be happy to start one. I have been looking at mountain literature for a long time. Of course, I'd include my own book!
post #18 of 59
That would be wonderful! As a fellow writer, I'm glad to see you on Epicski. As soon as I finish my current projects (a Breckenridge Guidebook, a novel about a woman exploring her father's past in the 10th Mountain Division and a video on Breckenridge History) I will pick up a copy of your book and review it on my Examiner Ski Page.
post #19 of 59
Finished reading last night, couldn't put it down. Fascinating look inside the world of big mountain skiing.
Really like this line "Control comes from squaring your shoulders, reaching out and planting your pole down the hill, and moving with complete conviction toward the abyss."
At the end it felt like there was more of the story yet to be told. Or I'm greedy and want more.
post #20 of 59

Thanks for the kind words. It really is quite a thrill to read that real skiers like my book.

And thanks for wanting more. Yes, there is more of the story to be told. Kye is quickly becoming as well-known and proficient as his father. We are still trying to finish the film we started out to make (though the current economic mess has pretty much shut us down for the moment) and may soon embark on one more adventure with Kye. And I'm still trying to support my family by selling stories about skiing. Sheesh, some guys never learn...

If you liked the book, please spread the word and encourage folks to buy it off my website: www.theedgeofnever.com.

post #21 of 59
And I'm still trying to support my family by selling stories about skiing. Sheesh, some guys never learn...
Have you considered supplementing your income with a lucrative career in the glamorous world of ski instruction? You could use the experience as an instructor as background for a behind the scenes look at the life of an instructor...the adventure, excitement, glitz..........

For anyone who is interested in reading The Edge of Never there is an auction going on. You can pick up the book and support the site at the same time.

post #22 of 59
Ha! I once tried to teach. No one listened and the glamour was just too much.

Really, I wrote some instructionals for magazines, but that was easier because I didn't have to face the blank stares and crashing students.

Actually teaching a live human is beyond me and I have tremendous respect for those who CAN do it.
post #23 of 59
BTW, I'd be happy to send signed copies for anyone for Christmas. Just order from my site, www.theedgeofnever.com, and then immediately send me an email at williamakerig@theedgeofnever.com to tell me who to sign them to (and any special messages you want written). You'll have them in three days or less.

Also, two powder days at Snowbird/Alta so far. Then it rained and turned the bottom of the mountain to concrete. The top of Snowbird is still skiing great -- chalky snow -- and Alta is good from top to bottom.
post #24 of 59
I'm certainly going to get your book and I do remember your instructional articles in the magazines. I can recall pictures of you in the article on mogul skiing , skiing different lines on a pair of K2 Mods. I also remember a reference HH made about your mogul skiing in one of his books likeing it to a snake slithering through corn stalks.
post #25 of 59
Careful Roundturns, you're dating yourself. But thanks for remembering anyway. You and Harold are overly kind. On the whole, I was probably more stomp than slither, but we all have our moments. Thanks for picking up my book. Lemme know if you want it signed. Cheers, BK
post #26 of 59

Bill's book

Like Nolo I read this book cover to cover in one sitting. Bill is a fantastic writer!! But, it's not just about skiing. The work is character driven and beautifully done.

Nolo wrote an excellent review and I won't try to add to that. I just wanted to take a moment to praise the work and encourage all to order a copy.

As I told Bill, my grandfather said to me "if you read one a week for sixty years you can only read 3,000. Choose them carefully." He never skied, but loved the mountains and would have truly loved this book.

Choose this one.

post #27 of 59

Thank you


I'm humbled by your praise. Thank you.

post #28 of 59
Originally Posted by crank View Post
It sounds like a very interesting read. I am putting it on my Xmas wish list.
I just added it to my wish list too. If I don't get it, I'll get it anyway.

Thanks for the great review. I can't wait to read it.
post #29 of 59
Thanks to all for the encouraging comments. I really appreciate your support.

BTW, I've now made it easier to buy books for Christmas gifts.

I’ll sign and write a customized gift message on every copy that you buy directly from me at

You tell me what sort of thing to write by filling in a new field that we created on the checkout form.

post #30 of 59
I finally finished this book yesterday. It was a fantastic read and I'm sorry that it's done, I wanted to keep reading. The characters in this book are compelling, the descriptions of the setting incredible and the story being told wonderful. Thank you for writing the story Bill and I can't wait to see the movie!
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