If you’ve been following the world of special operations forces for any amount of time, you are almost certainly aware of the work of New York Times best-selling author and friend of SOFREP, Eric Blehm. He’ll be Rad’s guest on an upcoming episode of SOFREP Radio, so be sure to keep your eyes (and ears) open for that. You won’t want to miss it.

He’s got a new book dropping on February 27th, The Darkest White: A Mountain Legend and the Avalanche That Took Him. It’s about the life and death of snowboarding icon Craig Kelly, “the Michael Jordan of snowboarding,” and contains never-before-revealed details of the 2003 avalanche that took his life and the lives of six others.

Craig splitboarding in the Aalborg Mountains, Iran, 2000. Photo Credit: Eric Blehm


I’ve written on SOFREP about his book Fearless, which chronicles the life of SEAL Team Six operator Adam Brown. That biography delved into Brown’s life, from his troubled youth and battle with drug addiction (crack cocaine) to his remarkable turnaround and ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Blehm’s account provides a detailed look at Brown’s determination to overcome his past, his deep faith, and his commitment to serving his country at the highest level of military excellence.

The book is celebrated for its raw and honest portrayal of a man who fought his demons with the same vigor he battled his country’s enemies, making it a poignant tribute to a hero’s resilience and redemption.

You’ll note the theme of heroes and heroism running through Eric’s works. In his book Legend, he tells the almost unbelievable tale of Green Beret Roy Benavidez and how he saved the lives of several men in Vietnam despite nearly being mortally wounded himself.

On a personal note, I started in military journalism after reading Fearless and being strongly moved by the content and storytelling. For those of you who have tried writing, you know that storytelling isn’t easy, but Blehm makes it seem effortless. The same is true of world-class athletes; they make it look simple when, in reality, it takes years of hard training and the type of natural talent that extremely few have been blessed with.

Before the SOF Books

Why would Blehm switch from writing about our nation’s bravest and most elite warriors to covering the frost-covered world of snowboarding and their finest? He was once editor and chief of the world’s largest snowboard magazine. He used to be a sponsored competitive snowboarder himself. He has lived the life. He knew Craig Kelly personally. Writing the book was a labor of love, and he truly wanted to discover the circumstances around the story of his friend’s death. A story that people were keeping largely to themselves until Blehm gathered the details.

This didn’t happen overnight; he spent five long years dedicated to the research of this book. During that time, he traveled to the site of the Durrand Glacier Avalanche that took Kelly’s life. Mountain guide John Buffrey summed it up well,

“There is no one better suited to tell this story. He’s captured the nuances of the culture, the snow science, the mountains, the avalanche, but most importantly—Craig.”

Kelly in Action

Check out this clip from Eric’s YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe and give it the thumbs up and all the other good stuff that goes along with that. Bonus points for comments.

Full Disclosure

I’ve read through an advanced copy of Eric’s book, and we’ve discussed it at length on the phone. By “read through,” I mean I’m about halfway done with it, sitting down and knocking out several pages at a time after I’m done with my duties here at SOFREP. Honestly, it’s almost impossible to put down. The narrative is immersive, and the reader always wants to know what comes next. Eric’s storytelling style is like the two of you are sitting around a roaring fire after a long day on the slopes, sipping a favorite beverage, when he launches into a fascinating story about a fascinating man and the sad reality of how he met his untimely end.

Earning Confidence

The story is reminiscent of how Into the Wild ensnares its audience with tales of wilderness escapades gone awry. In The Darkest White, Blehm tells how he masterfully earns the confidence of Ruedi Beglinger—the guide implicated by many in the tragedy that claimed Craig and six others. He also wins over the assistant guide and most of those who lived through the avalanche, gently encouraging revelations they hadn’t shared for over fifteen years since the disaster struck. By meticulously examining the avalanche site’s physical strata and the intricate web of human interactions preceding the catastrophe, he unveils discrepancies in the widely accepted narratives of that fateful day.

His narrative digs into the magnetic pull of high-stakes adventures, highlighting the quirks and perils inherent in such endeavors. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys inspiring stories about the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of the unforgiving forces of Mother Nature.

Craig Kelly hugs the mountain. Image Credit: Instagram

Don’t Take My Word for It

I’m a pretty reliable guy (no pun intended), but I’m no Tony Hawk, Shaun White, or Jack Carr. Here is what they have to say about this soon-to-be bestselling book:

“Eric Blehm offers an insightful perspective on how Craig Kelly became the effortless icon that we all revered as well as sobering details of how his heroic journey tragically ended. The Darkest White is a must-read, not just for fans of snowboarding, but for anyone looking for inspiration from an unlikely hero.”— Tony Hawk

“When I started snowboarding, Craig was already a true legend in the sport. Growing up, I always looked up to him. He inspired me and so many other riders. I just wish I got to ride with him more.”— Shaun White

“Eric Blehm took on this biography as I imagine Craig Kelly took on the halfpipe. He studied it, chose his line, and pulled everything off—even tough parts—with grace and style. It’s not just a terrific story of an amazing life, not just the origin story of an entire sport, but a riveting disaster narrative that builds tension masterfully. The Darkest White grabbed me and didn’t let go.”— Jack Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Terminal List series

Blehm on the slopes, enjoying a day on the powder…his roots as a writer. Photo Credit: Callia Blehm

So there you have it, straight from people who knew the man, know the sport, and have read the book.

The Darkest White is one of the greatest sports biographies ever written…and so much more. Go out and buy yourself a copy today. Prepare to be inspired.