Fredston, Jill A. 1958(?)–

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Fredston, Jill A. 1958(?)–

PERSONAL: Born c. 1958; married Doug Fesler (an avalanche expert). Education: Dartmouth College, B.S. (environmental studies and physical geography); Cambridge University, graduate study in glaciology; M.S. (polar studies/snow and ice).

ADDRESSES: Office—Alaska Mountain Safety Center, 9140 Brewsters Dr., Anchorage, AK 99156.

CAREER: Avalanche expert. Alaska Mountain Safety Center, Anchorage, AK, codirector; Alaska Avalanche School, codirector. Formerly a naturalist at Grand Canyon National Park.


(With Lynn D. Leslie and James L. Wise) Snow Loads in Alaska, Arctic Environmental Information and Data Center (Anchorage, AK), 1987.

(With husband, Doug Fesler) Snow Sense: A Guide to Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard, 5th edition, Alaska Mountain Safety Center (Anchorage, AK), 2001.

Rowing to Latitude: Journeys along the Arctic's Edge, North Point Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Jill A. Fredston and her husband, Doug Fesler, are avalanche experts and codirectors of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center, a nonprofit organization that specializes in avalanche hazard evaluation, forecasting, mitigation, and education. They are also directors of the Alaska Avalanche School, which provides mountain safety training. Fredston grew up in Larchmont, Connecticut. Her family's house was located on a small island in Long Island Sound, and Fredston was fascinated with the water. When she was ten, her parents gave her a small rowboat, which she rowed everywhere, even to school. She recalled in her Rowing to Latitude: Journeys along the Arctic's Edge that "if it was low tide when school let out, I had to walk home and return later when there was enough water in the channel to float the boat." When she was eleven she rowed across the seven-mile-wide expanse of Long Island Sound to Long Island, accompanied by a friend in a tiny sailboat. They made landfall on Long Island, swam in a stranger's swimming pool, then headed back to Connecticut. A mile from shore, they were stopped by the Coast Guard. She wrote: "It hadn't occurred to us to think about the distance or the danger. We were simply heading for another shore."

Fredston's experiences in the boat solidified her love of the outdoors, ultimately leading her to settle in Alaska. Accompanied by her husband, she has traveled more than twenty thousand miles through the Arctic and subarctic in an oceangoing rowing shell, and she describes many of these trips in Rowing to Latitude. She and her husband have explored the rocky and frigid coasts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Spitsbergen, and Norway, and have encountered whales, grizzly bears, polar bears, and other northern wildlife, as well as twenty-foot-high waves. "It is hard to believe that two five-by-eight pages sprawled across your lap can evoke the same gut-wrenching fear as a Hollywood special-effects epic," Dana De Zoysa commented in January Magazine, "but about a quarter of this book does just that." When Fredston started her book, she intended to focus almost entirely on these natural wonders, but her editor insisted that she also write about herself and her husband. As Fredston told interviewer Susan Elia in Publishers Weekly, she eventually agreed, since "it makes sense, really, as you're seeing everything from our point of view." This approach worked; as John Kenny noted in Library Journal, the book is "enjoyable and well-written."

Fredston's Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches combines instruction with a personal narrative to delve into the phenomenon of avalanches. The author relates many avalanche stories, from the woman who was buried sitting in her armchair in Cordova, Alaska, to the death of one of the author's friends and fellow outdoors enthusiast. George Cohen, writing in Booklist, called Snowstruck "an electrifying account of the dangers of avalanches, their causes, their victims, and … sometimes their victims' rescue." Writing in Skiing magazine, Jill Davis commented that the author "takes avalanches out of the statistical realm and into the human one." Noting the author's "expressive reverence for nature," a Publishers Weekly contributor added that the book "conveys the emotional toll" avalanches have had in terms of human life.



Fredston, Jill, Rowing to Latitude: Journeys along the Arctic's Edge, North Point Press (New York, NY), 2001.


Alaska, August, 1990, Nan Elliot, "Jill Fredston: Long Distance Rower," p. 76.

Booklist, September 15, 2001, Allen Weakland, review of Rowing to Latitude, p. 188; October 1, 2005, George Cohen, review of Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches, p. 11.

Christian Century, September 25, 2002, Patrick Henry, review of Rowing to Latitude, pp. 39-41.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2005, review of Snow-struck, p. 954.

Library Journal, October 15, 2001, John Kenny, review of Rowing to Latitude, p. 98; September 15, 2005, Nancy Moeckel, review of Snowstruck, p. 87.

Natural History, October, 2001, review of Rowing to Latitude, p. 78; February, 2006, Laurence A. Marschall, review of Snowstruck, p. 50.

Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2001, Susan Elia, "PW talks with Jill Fredston," and review of Rowing to Latitude, p. 79; July 18, 2005, review of Snowstruck, p. 192.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2006, review of Snowstruck.

San Francisco Chronicle, December 11, 2005, Claire Dederer, review of Snowstruck.

Science News, January 21, 2006, review of Snowstruck, p. 47.

Skiing, October 1, 2005, Jill Davis, review of Snow-struck, p. 40.

Smithsonian, March, 2003, Michael Ryan, review of Snow Sense: A Guide to Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard, p. 86.

Sports Illustrated Women, March 1, 2002, Karen Karbo, "So You Want to Escape to the Mountains: The Adventurer Jill Fredston," p. 102.

Washington Post Book World, January 15, 2006, Brendan Gill, review of Snowstruck, p. 9.

Women's Review of Books, January, 2002, Judith Niemi, review of Rowing to Latitude, p. 14.


Booksense, (February 8, 2003), Gavin J. Grant, "Very Interesting People: Jill Fredston," author interview.

Curled Up with a Good Book, (October 7, 2006), Dana De Zoysa, review of Rowing to Latitude.

January Magazine, (February 8, 2003), Dana De Zoysa, review of Rowing to Latitude.

National Geographic News Online, (February 8, 2003), Brian Handwerk, review of Rowing to Latitude; (February 21, 2001), Brian Handwerk, review of Rowing to Latitude.