Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Writer is inclined toward inclines

Dorworth tells stories of life in the mountains

Express Staff Writer

Dick Dorworth spends most of the winter on Baldy. Photo by Willy Cook

When Dick Dorworth says, "No place except down the road," one turns in whatever direction he's leading and follows. Perennially young and fit, legendary skier and climber Dorworth is a kind of Pied Piper. He has been coming and going from far-flung locales for decades, dragging friends along for fun and competition. A Reno native, he began traveling by car in his pre-teens to ski, ski and ski some more.

Dorworth shares many of those excursions in his new book, a collection of stories called, "Night Driving: Invention of the Wheel and Other Blues." He will read from and sign the book at the Community Library in Ketchum at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29.

The book has been percolating for some time.

"My publisher (First Ascent) wanted to publish (the story) 'Night Driving' so I went through my manuscripts, if you will, and picked these pieces because they're some of my favorites," he said. "There is still a whole book of ski writing and a whole book on climbing. I have trunks full."

This is not surprising considering that while Dorworth was adventuring around the world and driving by night, he was also writing. A columnist for the Idaho Mountain Express, Dorworth, has written (and continues to—"It's too late to retire. I blew it," he said with a laugh) for periodicals that include Ski, Skiing, Mountain Gazette and Wild Duck Review. During the ski season he writes a daily "Dorworth Report," which appears online at,

Meanwhile, Ketchum became his home. He first visited in 1953, and then came to stay for the first time in 1963. That same year, in Portillo, Chile, he became the fastest man on skis at 106.8 miles per hour. His speed skiing days are behind him but Dorworth still takes to the hills most every day of the season. This last stint at living here more-or-less full-time (in the summer he's away climbing) began in 1992.

"I've been here a long time," he said. Among the notables he befriended over the years include ski filmmaker Warren Miller, who used Dorworth in his early films.

One wonders why, given his world travel and wide scope of friends and acquaintances, he continues to live in Ketchum.

"The first reason is Bald Mountain," he said. "I'm an old alpine skier and it's a great mountain for skiing. Just the nature of Sun Valley has kept it from being overcrowded. The community is coming undone, though. People who work here can't afford to live here. But the geography and the culture of my friends suits me. I have enough friends here to keep me going."

Besides downhill, Dorworth, heads to the backcountry a couple of times a week. His inclination for inclines is central to his life.

"It's not about conquering a mountain," he said. "People who think they're conquering mountains are deluding themselves. It's just the path of my life. Nothing else came up that seemed as important to me."

Dorworth is enjoying his new travel purpose, however. He's done three readings of "Night Driving" this fall in Missoula, Mont., Shasta, Calif., and Banff, Alberta.

"I'm gratified and have been surprised at how well it's been received, and how people relate to what's in it," he said. "At some point most people have been wild asses, even the most conservative among us. I did it my way and that strikes a chord. Reading it aloud has reaffirmed for me that language is to be heard as much as read. We forget that."

Dorworth's oral history is akin to a documentary on one man's life as a skier in a time when things were maybe simpler, travel was slower and stories were passed down.

"That's all it is," he said. "These are just my stories."

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