By Lois Harris
Snow Sanctuary By Lee Hall Delfausse
Many of the members of the NSWTA of a certain age know Lee Hall as a fine tennis player and coach. Fewer probably know of her outstanding skiing career as a U.S. World Cup ski racer. Even fewer would know that Lee is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of U.C. Berkeley and spent a long career teaching American literature in college and secondary school. Now she has added to her impressive accomplishments by authoring a book on the challenges facing a young woman in the world of competitive ski racing. These challenges are set in the backdrop of the early 1970s, a time that added further complications to the rites of passage of a world class female athlete.
Lee's book, "Snow Sanctuary" is about Lia, a talented skier from New England, who gets an opportunity to train with and compete against some of the best skiers in the U.S. and the world. In her travels to the West Coast and various places in Europe, she meets new friends and competitors while working with some of the best and worst coaches in the country. Her dream, or so she thinks, is to make the Olympic Team. Her journey is eventful, to say the least. The journey is one in which a relatively sheltered girl grows up quickly when faced with the realities of this specific world. Some of these realities are particularly relevant to today’s world. These are the challenges facing young girls at their most vulnerable age when thrust into the adult world at sometimes its most venal.
Lee flexes her literary muscles with apt and interesting quotes and allusions to John Muir, Emerson, Shakespeare, Sandberg, and Frost. In 1872 John Muir wrote: “He decided that if he could conquer these jagged peaks (the Minarets), he could overcome any adversity in life.” That might well be considered an appropriate theme for this book. Lia ventures to the heights with her successes and the depths with adversity as she faces the skiing and personal challenges in the story. In the end, there are several other possible themes to explore, and you may wonder what Lia’s dream really was.
Besides the appealing literary references, the skiing venues are brought to life with a fluid descriptive style. Her knowledge of the flora and fauna of the mountains is also impressive. I particularly appreciated learning the details about her training and about the competitive mindset of a serious athlete. In addition, setting the events in the early 70s allows most of us to relate to where we were and how we felt at these pivotal moments. Lee adds to this by exploring other more sensitive issues that are certainly outside the experiences of “normal” teenagers at that time.
As timely as it is, this is not really or not just a “Me Too” story. Lee says herself that it is important to make parents and female athletes more aware of the dangers of unsupervised coaching. Many readers may have their own “Me Too” story. I can still remember playing some friendly doubles at my local tennis club when one of our foursome asked, “Who are those girls taking lessons down on court nine with JS (teaching pro)?” When someone replied that the three girls took the train down from Wisconsin every other weekend to stay with JS, this player got physically ill on the court. She also had taken lessons from this guy as an early teenager. When the full story hit the fan, many people asked what were those parents thinking? The blinders that accompany any such quest for excellence is not unique to skiing or tennis or gymnastics or….
I also like the fact that there are discussion questions at the end of the book that allow you to use it for a book club. The questions also encourage you to delve a little deeper into the thematic and symbolic substance of the book, e.g. is there justice? Does a failure of authority lead to chaos?
You can obtain this book on Amazon, although why not ask for it at your local bookstore? If you do buy it from Amazon, don’t forget that you can add the NSWTA Foundation as your charity of choice and a percentage of all your purchases on Amazon is given as donation to the foundation. Just look for AmazonSmile on the homepage and follow the instructions.
That was the commercial—I hope you will read it and enjoy it as much as I did.
Olivia (Lee) Delfausse
Lee Delfausse has been teaching tennis for over 23 years. She has 26 National Gold Bowls, has represented the USA in 4 Senior World Cup teams, and is in the New England Tennis Hall of Fame. Lee loves teaching kids and adults. She gets great pleasure out of seeing her students grow a passion for the sport that has given so much to her.