By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Schussing down all the trails on the mountains described in the new book "Fifty Places to Ski & Snowboard Before You Die" would require living longer than a normal lifetime.

The book aims to chronicle the quintessential downhill experience, from the world-famous Swiss Alps and Colorado resorts to the lesser known slopes of Russia and New Zealand.

But even the reader who gets no farther than the couch can feel transported to the snow-covered peaks, mogul fields and sparkling expanses sculpted by the book's avalanche of quirky nuggets, insider tips and historical perspectives.

After writing nine other "Fifty Places" guides, author Chris Santella has the drill down. First, interview winter sports experts including Olympic skiers Jonny Moseley and Billy Kidd and dozens of snowboard and ski instructors and coaches.

Then, craft 50 tightly written profiles so vivid that readers can almost feel the sting of fresh powder on their cheeks and the anticipation of the next turn on a tree-lined trail.

The author details family-friendly American classics like Vermont's Stowe. The historic New England ski resort is praised for its range of trails and for being "a real town, not a resort with an access road."

After the first trails were cut in 1933, the nation's first ski patrol was established at Stowe. World class skiers like Kidd started on its beginner slopes, and eventually conquered the mountain's tough "Front Four" trails: Liftline, National, Starr and Goat.

The book is dominated by North America, which claims 33 of the 50 locales on the list. Among them is Colorado's Vail, one of North America's largest and most well-known resorts.

Opened in 1962, Vail was made famous in the 1970s by President Gerald Ford's Christmas trips there. The vastness of the Rocky Mountain resort with its famed powder-filled Back Bowls - wide, remote expanses of treeless snowfields - is evident in trail names like "Seldom" and "Never."

The book includes such lesser known ski areas as Vermont's Mad River Glen, whose single-seat chair lift attests to its draw for lone wolf expert skiers and Colorado's Silverton Mountain, a tough area opened in 2002 for top-notch skiers only - there are no intermediate trails.

Farther afield, Santella cites adventure-of-a-lifetime destinations like the Antarctic Peninsula, where there are no ski lifts so skiers hike up and schuss down steep, snow-covered faces with names like Wintervention and Sex Troll.

"Where else can you ski down an empty mountain right to the sea and be greeted by scores of whales, hundreds of seals and thousands of penguins?" expedition leader Doug Stoup said in the book.

Canada's Kootenay ranges in British Columbia are also remote: backcountry snowboarders and skiers are drawn to terrain accessible only by snowcat and helicopter. They ski and ride the Burn, which runs through a fire-scarred forest of ghostly, charred trees, and the ultra-steep Cheeky Monkey.

"When you're back at the lodge at the end of the day, looking at photos and film of the day's experience, you feel like, 'Yes, this is why we do this. The soul of the sport, the passion is there,'" snowboarder John Laing is quoted as saying.

Another jaw-dropping experience is Russia's Kamchatka, closed to visitors until the early 1990s because it was classified a strategic military zone. There, helicopters transport skiers to the edge of active volcanoes. Some runs dip into the crater, some end at the beach.

The book also includes the Alps of Switzerland, France, Italy and Austria, and mountain ranges in Norway, Chile, Argentina, India, Japan and New Zealand.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Doina Chiacu)

 

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