Endless Winter

Paul Schipper, “The Iron Man of Skiing.” Photo by Katherine Gnecco, courtesy of the Salt Archive.

You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting Greg Warner on the radio these days. The dude is everywhere.

Just in the last few months, Greg produced a story for Radiolab, had a piece featured on Re:sound, and he assembled a series on health care in Russia for Marketplace. In fact, that’s where Greg works. He’s the Health Desk Reporter for Marketplace and files stories just about daily.

Well, Greg got his start in radio at Salt. I’ve blown off the dust from his stellar, 2003 story “Endless Winter” for today’s Saltcast. Happy listening!



  1. 7 Responses to “Endless Winter”

  2. By Connor Walsh on May 5, 2011

    Hey Rob,

    You know I’ve held back and listened twice before adding this comment, as it seems rather hubristic. But here goes! I have to disagree with you on the criticism of “detritus” in Endless Winter.
    I didn’t find the left-overs in this piece distracting or confusing. Listeners are smart, and the references to other media coverage are enough to inform us that there has been more, and, rather wonderfully, to allow us build up our own picture of it. Might it not even be beneficial for us to have that back story built up from just a few hints, so we have a nice rich mind-picture of it? It worked for me and I had no knowledge of John at all before.

    Now all this isn’t to say detritus is a risk – it is! Personally the greatest concern is when you realise after a mix that you’ve jumped in too deep and need to wind back, introduce the basics, start from a simpler standpoint – because you’ll probably need new clips, and probably not ones that jumped out at you when logging, so there’s this nagging sense of “I got the wrong tape” and “Did she say this for me at some time?”, “Oh I don’t WANT to listen to everything again!”.

    So I’m advocating keeping it simple, but not necessarily literal. I’m tempted to model some writing on Greg’s in this piece as a discipline to keep durations down…!

    Now this is not to let him off without a nit-pick! At times it felt a wee bit too wordy: some (well written) narration e.g. “Sisyphus in a ski-suit” got through (to me, at least) only on the second listen.

    But the guy clearly deserves all those outlets picking him up. Some delightful moments in there. “Do you want a conference call?” feels like Wiretap meets StoryCorps.

  3. By Rob Rosenthal on May 5, 2011

    Hey Connor,

    Spot on comments, I’d say.

    Maybe the issue is that I know what went on behind the scenes with the production of the story so I’m filling in info that the listener can’t. So, then, I hear disconnects but you folks don’t.

    That said, I still think the thread could have been more clear.

    And, yes, Greg is a stellar writer. He came to Salt with a degree in writing if memory serves.

    Thanks for chiming in!


  4. By Rich on May 7, 2011

    Hi Rob,

    One thing that jumped out at me about this story is the way that Greg offers an interpretation of Paul’s story at the very end:

    “While the typical Schipper news story is about a guy who loves skiing so much he does it despite his health problems, the truth might be the opposite: a man who really doesn’t like skiing any more but whose dedication to the sport keeps him out of the hospital. If the streak is both a blessing and a curse, then maybe the PR is a kind of prison but also a kind of medicine.”

    This jumped out at me because, unlike most stories on the Saltcast, Greg’s story explicitly tells the listener what to think about the story, tells us what the meaning of the story is, and even claims that it is “the truth.” I’m not objecting to Greg’s interpretation of Paul’s story, but I thought the issue might make an interesting topic for a future Saltcast. I don’t remember any that addressed the issue of offering explicit interpretations in radio documentaries.

    Just a thought.

    Austin, Texas

  5. By Rob Rosenthal on May 11, 2011

    Hey Rich,

    Great question. At what point can or even should a journalist offer their opinion? And, how much weight should it be given? Clearly, Greg gave his interpretation a lot of weight.

    What if that interpretation wasn’t there? Would it have been as satisfying?

    Yes. This should be tackled at some point in a Saltcast.

    Thanks for writing!!


  6. By Rick on May 27, 2011

    I’m not in broadcast; rather I retouch celebrity portraits, which fundamentally is simply the process of editing a photo: how does one make the foto understood by the viewer; how does one finesse it into a piece of art by adding elements of design and tension. Working for hi end folks, a single image frequently might takes me 20-25 hrs. I do not find my style much different than what you teach. Like you said – time is perhaps the most efficeint tool to put perspective to one’s work. In lieu of time, I rigorously define regions of each photo – looking at the regions individually and collectively as a whole. I try to understand the message and intent for each section in terms of hue, contrast, and context. Indeed, I try to understand the context in which the image will be viewed, as that has as much influence on a typical viewer as anything the photog’er or retoucher does.

    If each section does not hang as a consistent story, then it is adjusted until it does. Sometimes, I take areas to black, like you would add moments of silence. Other times, I have to add background material as a composite, like you create supporting sound. Still other times, an area is morphed to add punch or inflection. And of course, there is no better teacher than a few well publicized mistakes.

    Thanks for the podcast. I love comparing the lessons of any and all art forms.


  7. By Linda Rubin on Jul 24, 2011

    I’m new to the podcast, just listened to Endless Winter. In first couple of sentences, Greg Warner says Paul has been skiing every day for 22 years for a total of something like 3697. Just looking at that figure you can tell it can’t be right. 10 years would bring you to 3650, 22 years makes the figure 8030. In the epilogue, the host stated another figure in the 3,900 range at the time of Paul’s death. Why hasn’t anyone caught that?

  8. By Rob Rosenthal on Jul 25, 2011

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for taking the time to do the math. That’s dedication!!

    I think, however, your calculations may be off. Here’s why.

    If the ski season in Maine is, say, 5 months long and there are 30 days in a month, that’s a potential of 150 days a year of skiing. If you multiply 150 times 22 years, that’s 3,300 days.

    So, I grant you, that’s not 3,697, but keep in mind the ski season may run longer. It starts, some years, in October and ends in late April.

    As for the 3,900 at the end of the piece — Paul skied two or three more years *after* the piece was produced.

    Hope that helps clarify. Thanks for listening.


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