If you're looking for Minnesota native and "most decorated skier of all time" Lindsey Vonn to spill the tea on her relationship with troubled golf great Tiger Woods, he never appears in her new memoir, "Rise."

And it's not just him. Romantic relationships are pretty much off-limits here — with the exception of ex-husband Thomas Vonn, and he is probably mentioned only out of necessity: He was one of her coaches for a time. Mostly she has "no desire to … spread any salacious juicy gossip about my past." Sadly, she succeeds. Would it have hurt to dish even a tiny bit?

Instead, Vonn sticks to the slopes, where she's most at home for obvious reasons. She was practically born on skis: When she was a baby, her dad skied with her snuggled in a backpack; when she was 2½, he put her on skis for the first time. Her early training was at Burnsville's Buck Hill, and then at 9 years old, she told her dad she wanted to ski in the 2002 Olympics. "Okay," he said. "Then this is what we need to do." Her eye was on the prize from that moment on.

Vonn credits her dad with keeping her focused on the "big picture," something she recommends "whenever anyone wants to know if I have any wisdom to pass along for their children." His 10-year plan didn't hurt, either, especially if, as he advises, you want to maximize every opportunity as an athlete "before your body falls apart." But mostly he helped her never lose sight of why she was on the slopes in the first place — the love of skiing.

When it's time to sacrifice for your sport, to choose the hard thing over the fun thing, Vonn writes, it's good to know why you're doing it.

Sacrifice is an overarching theme, of course. Her family — she is the oldest of five siblings, with whom she remains close — sacrifices when they pull up roots in Minnesota and move to Vail, Colo., so she can train, and when her parents eventually divorce, Vonn partially blames herself. She sacrifices in almost every way, from having any kind of home life to her physical and mental health. Regardless, "The ski slope was where I belonged — life just made more sense when I was going downhill fast, so I spent as much time doing it as possible."

The memoir is at its best when Vonn writes about what it's like being a woman in a sport mostly dominated by men. The double standards she butts up against, particularly how aggression is viewed, gall her, but when she tries men's skis and finds them more suitable for her style — despite the resulting hue and cry of "who does she think she is, skiing on men's skis?" — she discovers that "breaking down different gender barriers was often an unintended but very welcome consequence."

The memoir struggles, however, when introspection is called for. Lindsey Vonn is fearless, her fortitude knows no bounds, and she comes across as honest. But she doesn't seem to like digging too deep and tends to rely on self-help platitudes — "Simply put, for many years, I really didn't understand how to value myself," "I lost sight of who I was," and "The previous season had taught me that when you're in a good place, it means you need to work even harder."

She also depends on vague phrases — "in a lot of ways" and "in some ways" — to give the impression of depth without having to divulge anything.

Even in moments devoted to skiing Vonn sometimes fails to provide engaging details, keeping readers at arm's length. The closest she comes to a you-are-there experience is in the prologue. Here she effectively captures what happens in competition before racing down a hill at 80 mph: the nerves, the rituals, the sense of urgency and excitement at the start, the spitting. "I spit a lot," she writes. "That's the trigger for your body to produce a natural boost of testosterone; it's why a lot of athletes spit." (Who knew?)

From there, it's a slog of races, injuries and recuperation. Each time more platitudes about mental toughness, her hard-core work ethic and learning that "the experience changed me in a lot of ways," and then it's down the mountain again. It's all rather unrelenting, which is how Vonn must have felt about it sometimes, too.

Her nearly superhuman drive and conviction invariably come through, however, and when her confidence ebbs, there's always Häagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry's — "Ice cream has always been comforting to me, especially in times of hardship" — just the kind of dish I can get behind.

Maren Longbella is a Star Tribune writer and editor.


By: Lindsey Vonn.

Publisher: Dey Street Books, 336 pages, $28.99.