Turning The Page

How a children’s book about skiing is healing a mountain community at Stevens Pass

Tracy Valentine and Terri Woods hold up the children's book that helped them grieve and heal from tragedy and loss in their community. PHOTO: Courtesy of Woods and Valentine

Tracy Valentine and Terri Woods created a children’s picture book about skiing to help them mourn the loss of their friends who died at Stevens Pass in 2012. PHOTO: Courtesy of Woods and Valentine

Perhaps the first bedtime story catered to the powderhound, It’s a Day for Ski and Play is a hand-illustrated, self-published children’s book that stokes the winterlust by stirring memories of sunny powder days and the deep turns we wished would last forever.

But for author Terri Woods and illustrator Tracy Valentine, the book is more than snowy children’s lit. For the pair of former Stevens Pass ski patrollers, the book is 22 pages of healing. After saying goodbye to a family member and then losing close friends to the mountains they love, the Washington duo used a picture book to put the shattered pieces of normalcy back together again.

“It hurts when you lose someone, so it was nice to channel that into something positive and good,” explains Woods, a longtime Stevens Pass local and Lake Wenatchee resident. “[Writing the book] let me concentrate and be distracted by that good. The good of the skiing, the good of the moments you have up there.”

The picture book tells a story that is a familiar one for skiers—a family heading to the mountain on a powder day, the struggles of herding kids out the door, the anticipation of fresh snow, and that untouchable contentment only first tracks can bring. Woods’ words draw from her experiences within the sport that has given her so much—something she hopes to pass on to the younger generation.

“Being in a mountain culture, sometimes I forget how blessed I am to go out there and have those days,” says the author. “But it’s so prevalent when you go out on a bluebird powder day, you just vibrate with that enthusiasm, that psyche of the day.”

The cover is an acrylic rendering of a photo of the author's son. IMAGE: Tracy Valentine

The cover is an acrylic rendering of a photo of the author’s son. IMAGE: Tracy Valentine

Woods’ journey to published author is one of pain as much as it is of positivity. She began writing after the unexpected passing of her brother, Bob, three years ago. A week after his death, she and her two boys, Alex and Ryan, followed her husband Evan, a part-time Stevens avalanche forecaster, up to Valdez for freeskiing festival Tailgate Alaska. As the family laid cooped up in their RV, waiting for weather to break on Thompson Pass, the positive energy slowly brewed and rhymes started to flow. She finished the first pages, but only toyed with turning her writing into anything beyond pastime.

Then tragedy intervened again.

On February 19, 2012, the Tunnel Creek avalanche ripped on the backside of Stevens Pass, killing local skiers and community staples Jim Jack, Chris Rudolph, and John Brenan. Woods knew all three men well from her time at the mountain, and was part of the tight Stevens family left reeling and dazed.

Suddenly the book was no longer a hobby—it was a mission.

“I was just like, ‘wow I really need to do this’ because all three of those guys were very, very full of spirit and larger than life,” says Woods. “Their enthusiasm for the sport of skiing was huge. Every time you went out with them you felt like it was just going to be a great day.”

To bring the project to fruition, Woods called on patrol friend and Leavenworth resident Tracy Valentine for help with illustrations. Valentine had a background in graphic design and photography, and eagerly signed on.

Using Woods’ old ski pictures, Valentine began crafting illustrations with acrylics in her cabin. Once a week, Valentine would pack up a finished illustration and snowmobile down from her mountain home in Icicle Canyon to the access road, where Woods would be waiting in her car to review the illustration by headlamp. After months of collaboration, laughter, and a few tears, the pair finally published It’s a Day for Ski and Play in March of this year.

Author Terri Woods and illustrator Tracy Valentine wanted the book to spread a message as much about safety as about getting outside and skiing. IMAGE: Tracy Valentine

Author Terri Woods and illustrator Tracy Valentine wanted the book to spread a message as much about safety as about getting outside and skiing. IMAGE: Tracy Valentine

“Once we got to the point where we could visually share something with the community, it felt like we were doing what these young men wanted us to do,” says Valentine. “In the end it was very therapeutic.”

In addition to the youthful exuberance emanating from its pages, the book also offers a personal view into its creators. Most of the illustrations in the book are based from photographs of Woods’ young sons (Alex is now 16 and Ryan is 19) and include Valentine’s dog, Miss Lily. There is also an educational undertone prevalent throughout. Lines such as, “Rock-paper-scissors, Mommy wins first rights/Shovel-probe-transceiver, and a partner for her hike,” point to the duo’s roots in snow safety, and their efforts to establish a culture of smart skiers from an early age.

This was a major point for Woods, who on more than one occasion had to fight editors to keep the correct ski lingo included.

“That is part of our world,” explains Woods. “We’ve had our kids out ski touring and taught them to be aware, to be smart.”

But while their mission is to spread that message, the two also want to give back to the alpine community affected most by the Tunnel Creek tragedy. Woods and Valentine have dedicated ten percent of all proceeds from the book to the Ski Hill Memorial Project in Leavenworth, which aims to honor the avalanche victims by supporting the local ski hill that Jim Jack, among others, tirelessly advocated for.

If there was any doubt over the pair’s motivation, the book’s dedication page reads, “For the Boys.” And this one is for ‘the boys’—it’s a children’s bedtime story that captures the youthful joy of getting out into the mountains and an immortalizing nod to their place in the ski community.

“You can’t just say I’m not going to do that anymore, my kids aren’t going to do that anymore, there’s just no way,” says Valentine. “You have to still be out there, you have to go out and ski, I hope that’s what this book shows.”

Add a comment

  • Alpine Al

    I have 2 grandsons, aged 3 and 5. I am going to buy this book for them to get them interested in skiing.

  • Cindy cram

    Beautiful story behind the story! God bless you for creating something positive out of the pain of life. Looking forward to getting a copy to read to my future grandkids!

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