As one of skiing’s most iconic magazines closes up shop, we pay tribute.
It was 2006 when Powder Magazine assigned me my first story. It was a profile on a then up-and-coming pro skier named Ian McIntosh, out of Whistler, British Columbia. At the time, Ian was a pizza delivery guy who ripped on skis. Now, nearly 15 years later, he’s a veteran pro skier with countless TGR movie appearances and a storied career. When I wrote that story, I was barely out of college, had just wrapped up a year ski-bumming in Tahoe, and had high hopes of someday becoming a real magazine journalist. Writing for Powder was the ultimate gig.
Over the years, Powder lobbed me enough stories that they eventually had to put me on the masthead (“senior correspondent,” aka—someone who loves to ski and can sling together coherent sentences about it). But it was really as a reader, not a contributor, that I fell hard for Powder. We all did. This was the magazine that didn’t tell fluff stories about skiing’s fanciest resorts or newest posh hotels. It captured the culture of skiing at its essence. It told the kind of funny, irreverent, character-driven stories that made us all become skiers in the first place.
And the photos. How could we forget about those striking photos? Double-page blower pow shots from photographer Lee Cohen at Alta that transported us right into the white room. Or gritty urban shots from Erik Seo that reminded us that skiing can happen in cities, at night, too. Powder’s Director of Photographer Dave Reddick has driven the imagery at this magazine since 1992 and he is a mastermind. He has literally built the careers of some of the ski industry’s finest photographers and for decades, he has carefully selected the images that have us all daydreaming about skiing on those hot August nights.
Last week, Powder Magazine announced that after 49 years of the publication, their parent company, A360 Media, would be placing the entire editorial staff of Powder (as well as sister publications Bike, Surfer, and Snowboarder) on indefinite furlough starting in November and that operations of the magazine and website would be on hold until further notice. “We do not know if or when this hiatus will end,” Powder’s current editor Sierra Shafer wrote.
I called up Derek Taylor, who worked at Powder from 2002 until 2012 and served as its editor for five of those years, to get his perspective on what this closure means for skiers. “For me, it was that Powder was never the magazine that was speaking about how to do the sport, or what to buy. It was always about the culture, talking about what it’s like to be a skier,” Taylor says. “When I moved to Colorado from the East Coast and I found Powder, it was like, this is why I want to be a skier.” Taylor points to stories like Rob Story’s 1995 feature, “The Planetary Snow Bohemians Will Save Us All,” as an example of that.
Taylor got his start as an intern at Bike, in the same building as Powder, and worked as a freelance writer for Powder for years before joining the staff. He describes working there as like being part of a family, with late nights in the office, heated debates over the lightboard on which photos to print, lots of travel to snow-drenched places, and a shared passion over the same snow-chasing lifestyle.
Yes, losing an industry staple like Powder will be sad, but Taylor makes a good point. “Powder has been a reflection of the community. We will lose that looking glass, but the important thing to remember is that Powder was a product of the passion and soul of the ski community,” he says. “Taking that away isn’t going to change how the people who are passionate about skiing feel about it. What we may lose, for a lot of people, is that rite of passage that Powder helped create. I don’t know how many people moved to ski towns or moved out West because of what they saw in Powder magazine.”
Skiing isn’t going anywhere (unless, of course, climate change renders it obsolete—so don’t forget to vote this November). But ski publications will if we don’t support them. (For the record: Flylow has been buying ads in Powder and other ski magazines well before the company could really even afford to be doing so.)
Last year we featured Jeff Galbraith, publisher of The Ski Journal, The Snowboarder’s Journal, and The Fly Fish Journal in an episode of our series Westward. When we were firing up Flylow back in the mid 2000’s and everyone was saying there’s no way an independent ski apparel company will survive in this world of mega-companies and private equity funded outdoor brands, we thought they were wrong. When everyone was telling Jeff, print is dead – you’re crazy, he went ahead and did it anyway. We think it’s a powerful story of zigging when everyone else zags. You can watch the episode here:
Ski culture won’t be the same if we don’t have magazines like Powder capturing and telling those stories. Online videos of ski crashes and pond skimming stunts or clickbait articles about mega storms aren’t the same thing. Disconnect. Put down your phone. Pick up a magazine (a few still exist—see our list of favorites below) and read a damn story. Don’t forget to subscribe.
Outdoor Magazines We Love—That You Can Still Subscribe To