WARSAW -- Pope John Paul II had such a passion for skiing that he carried on hitting the slopes -- incognito -- even after becoming pontiff, according to a memoir by his personal secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz.
In "A Life with Karol," which was published on Monday in the late pope's native Poland, Dziwisz recounted a ruse used by John Paul II in January 1981 to give his guards the slip and head for a resort in Italy's Abruzzi region.
"We left at nine in the morning, in Father Jozef's car, so that the Swiss Guards wouldn't get suspicious," wrote Dziwisz, referring to Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, who is today the papal nuncio, or representative of the Vatican, in Poland.
As the vehicle left the pope's residence at Castel Gandolfo, another Polish priest in the passenger seat "pretended to read a newspaper in order to hide the Holy Father," who was sitting in the back of the car with Dziwisz.
Once they reached the ski resort of Ovindoli, the pope acted "like just another ordinary skier," wrote Dziwisz.
"He was dressed like everyone else: ski suit, hat, goggles. He stood in the queue just like everyone else, although for security reasons one of us stood in front of him and another behind him.
"He took the lifts with a ski pass. It seemed unbelievable that nobody recognized him. But then who would have thought that the pope could go skiing just like that?"
John Paul II -- born Karol Wojtyla in the mountainous south of Poland in 1920 -- was elected pontiff in 1978. He died in April 2005.
Dziwisz was his secretary for nearly 40 years and is now the archbishop of Krakow in southern Poland.
The memoir takes the form of an interview with Dziwisz by the Vatican-watcher and Catholic writer Gian Franco Svidercoschi, and retraces the life of John Paul II over 230 pages.
Ahead of the book's initial publication in Italy last week, several extracts appeared in the Italian media. The revelations included how the increasingly-frail pontiff came close to resigning in 2000.