This ‘View’ Has Seen It All: Woodstock Sports Journalist Compiles Essays in Book
“The View From The Finish Line” by Bill McCollom; Enfield Publishing and Distribution; paperback; 222 pages; $20
The height of summer may seem like an inappropriate time to read a book filled with columns compiled from Ski Racing Magazine. Fortunately, Woodstock resident Bill McCollom’s collection of his favorite stories from a 15-year writing tenure with the publication is about so much more than winter skiing.
Arranged chronologically, McCollom’s columns cover everything from golfing in Scotland to riding the Prouty. Of course, there’s also plenty about skiing and the ski culture from his 1998-2013 stint.
McCollom was an All-American skier at Middlebury College and has enjoyed a prolific masters career. He’s as active as ever today at age 67, having won the giant slalom at the USSA Eastern Division national age-group championships last winter at Okemo Mountain. McCollom also stays busy in winter as the coach of the Woodstock Union High alpine team, having led the Wasps since 2007.
A former English teacher, McCollom was the headmaster at Killington Mountain School when he was offered the View From The Finish Line columnist’s position by Ski Racing publisher Gary Black.
“It was an opportunity to write professionally for the first time in my life, and I decided to take a shot and jump on it,” McCollom said in a recent phone interview. “I’ve always loved ski racing, so I knew it was something I could write about.
It led to a lot of adventures over 15 years.”
For the book project, McCollom combed through his collection of more than 300 stories written for an entity that transformed from a tabloid-format newspaper to a glossy magazine and finally to digital-only during his tenure. He identified candidates and eventually whittled them to the 63 featured in the book, all accompanied by the color illustrations that originally appeared with the stories — drawn by Ski Racing artists Tom ward and Rand Paul.
McCollom introduces the self-deprecating humor that marks many of the columns during View From The Finish Line’s preface: “After my fans (both of them) screamed for more, I thought, ‘Why not?’ This has been too much fun over the past 15 years to just let it go.”
Many of the columns are lighthearted and funny, ushering a fast and enjoyable read.
McCollom reveals his superstitious tendencies in a piece that first appeared in December 2001. He writes, “If you discover a lucky pair of undertrousers, go with them until they are so shredded and full of holes that you can’t determine which holes to stick your legs through.”
In his Fore! Lads on Tour story from September 2002, McCollom expresses frustration with Scottish links golf. “(It) appears so easy, yet is so frustratingly difficult that even Mel Gibson in his Braveheart role would be reduced to a whimpering puddle of tears after the first hole,” he writes.
McCollom’s jealousy for skiing conditions in the nation’s western climes comes to surface in a story aptly titled Snow Envy that appeared in January 2003. He vents, “What is really irksome is that in recent years, regardless of what region of the country has good cover, the East has been bone-dry. This strikes me as exceedingly unfair and I resent it. When it’s our turn, who hogs all the snow? Utah or California or Colorado, that’s who.”
Not all of the columns are so firmly tongue-in-cheek. McCollom pays homage to his heroes of masters skiing, praising luminaries such as National Ski Hall of Famer Al Sise. He draws inspiration from a visit to the home of former U.S. Ski team coach Georg Capaul, who is wheelchair bound following a stroke but learns to wiggle his toes. McCollom pays tribute to former Middlebury skier Kelly Brush, also wheelchair bound after an accident, and to fellow masters ski racer George Anderson, a vibrant personality who died suddenly in February 2008.
Evidence of McCollom’s central Vermont and Upper Valley roots are sprinkled throughout the works, particularly while covering freestyle moguls skier Hannah Kearney at the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia, where the Norwich native won gold.
“With Hannah being a local gal, I’ve followed her athletic career throughout high school days at nearby Hanover High School and tracked her ascent to the top of the freestyle moguls world,” he boasts in a column called The Run for Redemption.
McCollom also selected stories that feature a number of area skiing outlets, including a profile of East Corinth’s Northeast Slopes, where he explores the importance of skiing opportunities for children in rural communities.
One of book’s best columns is Coming Home, a tale of catching up with friends while skiing on Christmas Day at Suicide Six, the small-but-venerable hill in Pomfret where so many from the Woodstock area learn to ski.
“I’ve been skiing there since I was 5-years-old,” McCollom said in the phone interview. “It means a lot to me, and skiing there around the holidays is always special.”
Covering diverse topics with humor and prudence, McCollom’s The View From The Finish Line is a strong presentation of his best work. It’s a terrific read, no matter the season.
Bill McCollom’s The View From the Finish Line is available at Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock or at enfielddistribution.net.