On the face of it, Charlie English’s The Snow Tourist appears to be based on the flimsy premise of “one man’s quest for the best snow”, calling to mind other travel book gimmicks from the past year such as Dave Gorman’s America Unchained: A Freewheeling Roadtrip In Search of Non-Corporate USA.
However, what sets English’s book apart from this kind of fodder is his writing, which is as crisp and clear as some of the snowscapes he describes.
What’s more, his exploration of humankind’s relationship with snow takes him on an enthralling journey to some of the planet’s most frigid corners, where he is forced to face up to his own vulnerabilities and inadequacies.
He just about passes “the cold test” in Greenland’s -30˚C temperatures where he is learning to build igloos with the Inuits, but develops a terror of heights while climbing in the Swiss Alps under the tutelage of fatalistic adrenaline junkie, Phillipe.
Other fascinating sojourns see him checking out the world’s biggest snow crystals in New York State and pondering the death of the Scottish ski industry from global warming. ALISON GRINTER