Squeak goes on backcountry ski adventure in new book

Children’s story teaches avalanche safety

Squeak the mouse lives an ordinary life tucked away under the snow, until one day she is taken on an accidental backcountry ski adventure — turning her winter wonderland upside down. On her journey, she meets other forest critters and faces her fears, helping skiers avoid avalanche danger in the mountains. 

“Squeak! Goes Backcountry Skiing” teaches children essential lessons about overcoming obstacles and avalanche safety in the backcountry through the eyes of a tiny, but brave, little mouse. Written by Scott Borden, director of Western Colorado University’s Outdoor Industry MBA, the newly published book will be available for backcountry enthusiasts of all ages just in time for the arrival of the season’s first significant snowfall. 

Borden collaborated with local graphic designer Mallory Logan to create playful illustrations that introduce young readers to the things they may encounter in the backcountry. The creators, both young parents who are extremely active, envisioned a book that would inspire their kids to get outside and enjoy all the adventures the Gunnison Valley has to offer. Squeak, the book’s main character and heroine, showcases bravery as well as “female empowerment,” Borden said. 

“If you’re thoughtful and adventurous, then you can do just about anything in this world … then there’s also this message of being safe in the backcountry, to the extent that you possibly can. There’s always inherent risk,” Borden said.

With a background mostly in rock climbing and biking, Borden looked to the expertise of Beacon Guidebooks — a local business devoted to providing backcountry users with the tools they need to make informed decisions. As experts in their field, co-owners and publishers Andy and Gail Sovick left their own mark on the story. 

Youth are slowly being introduced into a sport that used to be an “adult-only pursuit,” Gail Sovick said. In response, local organizations like the Crested Butte Nordic Center are initiating more backcountry travel education and activities to help introduce avalanche awareness to children at a younger age. To teach, the book unites storytelling and adventure as Squeak saves the day.

“There is a little bit of a sneaky message there,” Borden said. “I think that it’s a good one, and it probably can’t start too early.” 

After accidentally climbing into a backcountry skier’s backpack, Squeak learns how to dig a snow pit and listen to the warning signs of whumping. When the skiers reach the top of the mountain, Squeak uses clues from her journey and an avalanche checklist to help the skiers make the right decision and ultimately avoid dangerous avalanche terrain. 

The proceeds from “Squeak! Goes Backcountry Skiing” will support Protect Our Winters, also known as POW, a national nonprofit focused on fighting climate change through legislation. On one of the last few pages, Borden created a place for small readers to sign the book, encouraging them to stand up for winter. The “Snow Sports Pact,” co-created with POW, is a commitment to speak up and take care of the environment.

The author and illustrator are holding a book signing on Friday, Dec. 2 at RoShamBo during Gunnison’s annual Night of Lights celebration. A book reading with hot cocoa and cookies will follow on Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Gunnison Library from 10:30-11 a.m. To snag a copy, visit the Bookworm, Tributary and soon-to-be Double Shot Cyclery and All Sports Replay as well as the local library. 

This is the second book in the Squeak series, preceded by “Squeak! Goes Climbing in Yosemite National Park.” 

(Bella Biondini can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or bella@gunnisontimes.com.)

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