Inspired Lines | Tracking the Wild Coomba - Ski Mag

Inspired Lines | Tracking the Wild Coomba

A new book explores the life and death of skiing icon Doug Coombs
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Ten years ago this past April, legendary extreme skier and mountain guide Doug Coombs perished on the slopes of La Grave, France. In honor of Coombs, whose contributions to the sport include breathtaking first descents (such as the Grand Teton’s hyperexposed Otter Body route) and pioneering heli-skiing in Alaska, a new book, Tracking the Wild Coomba: The Life of Legendary Skier Doug Coombs, hit bookstores in August.

Doug Coombs arguably did more for the sport of ski mountaineering than Michael Jordan did for basketball. He won his first World Extreme Skiing Championships in Valdez, Alaska in 1991, and pioneered extreme skiing in North America and Europe in the years that followed. Coombs has skied steeper lines and made more first descents than anyone in the sport, all the while running his own heli-skiing company and running Steep Skiing Camps. Coomb's generous and adventurous spirit may have been his Achilles heel. In April 2006, as he was showing his friend Chad VanderHam lines in Couloir de Polichinelle in La Grave, France, when VanderHam fell and Coombs died trying to rescue him. Coombs' influence over the industry would have undoubtedly been felt further had he not died a premature death. His legacy of his Steeps Skiing Camp as well as Valdez Heli-Ski Guides (and heli-skiing as a whole) lives on in his memory.

Doug Coombs arguably did more for the sport of ski mountaineering than Michael Jordan did for basketball. He won his first World Extreme Skiing Championships in Valdez, Alaska in 1991, and pioneered extreme skiing in North America and Europe in the years that followed. Coombs has skied steeper lines and made more first descents than anyone in the sport, all the while running his own heli-skiing company and running Steep Skiing Camps.

Coomb's generous and adventurous spirit may have been his Achilles heel. In April 2006, as he was showing his friend Chad VanderHam lines in Couloir de Polichinelle in La Grave, France, when VanderHam fell and Coombs died trying to rescue him.

Coombs' influence over the industry would have undoubtedly been felt further had he not died a premature death. His legacy of his Steeps Skiing Camp as well as Valdez Heli-Ski Guides (and heli-skiing as a whole) lives on in his memory.

In researching Coombs’s life, author Robert Cocuz- zo spent three years following in Coombs’s ski tracks, which took him across the globe to places like Valdez, Alaska, and La Grave, France. Along the way, Cocuzzo scored countless dream lines—think AK’s Stairway to Heaven—and unparalleled access to Coombs’s friends, colleagues, and widow, Emily, as well as to some of skiing’s most influential players, like Seth Morrison.

The result is a rich slice of ski history and culture as well as an intimate glimpse into the life of a man who changed the sport forever. As inspiring as it is tragic, Tracking the Wild Coomba is not only a tribute to Coombs but also a guide to living well. As Coombs often said, “You don’t know if you don’t go.”

Tracking the Wild Coomba can be purchased here.

This Front Side piece was originally published in the October 2016 Volume 69/Number 1 Issue of Skiing Magazine.

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