Finally, a ski magazine that takes me more than fifteen minutes to read. The aptly named “Ski Journal” inaugural issue is a stunning premiere that attempts to do with skiing what pubs such as Surfer’s Journal do with other adventure sports. That is, use a larger format that can beat out the web in terms of photo display, along with copious and well edited writing and an open layout that doesn’t assult the senses with clutter.
I’m an advocate of web publishing. It’s greener than ink and paper, more democratic, and frequently more fun. On the other hand, as one who grew up in an artistic family and has always enjoyed visual art that’s more substantial than light emitting from an LCD, I can appreciate good photography presented in a useful format. To that end, the larger than usual size (11 x 9 inches) of The Ski Journal is the answer to competition from the web (at least for now). Powder Magazine went to large format a while ago, as have other adventure pubs such as Rock & Ice. One glance through such magazines and you get the point. The photos blow you away, and larger text is relaxing to the eyes.
For me, the most stunning visuals in Ski Journal #1 are a set of the late Carl Skoog’s photos presented by his brother Lowell. Carl, who died in a ski mountaineering accident in 2005, had a unique eye and the pics selected by the Journal are definitely beyond the repetitive “ski porn” you see ad nauseam in other magazines. Along those lines, the profile/interview of freeskier Eric Pollard is also refreshing as it presents Pollard’s artwork, which he appears to be as passionate about as his skiing.
The part of the book I found less compelling is a series of four ski resort profiles that seek to report on how hip the resorts are, and how some are trying to keep them that way. I always find this sort of editorial to be iffy. After all, the soul resort you enjoy today is most likely a far cry (with perhaps a few exceptions) from the soul resort people were enjoying when said place put in their first rope tow or ski lift, usually before you were born. Reality is that things change, and what you’re usually looking at is just a snapshot in a continuum of change. We of course need to be good stewards of the special places we have, but really, how special is a small postage stamp of land with a few ski lifts, located in a vast backcountry area that’s nearly infinite in possibility?
Speaking of backcountry, that’s the one area where I found the Ski Journal lacking. While the mag has plenty of emphasis on what shape you can pretzel your body into for a photo or video, there is a distinct lack of ski alpinism in this issue. I’d expect that to change a bit, but it’s obvious that this magazine’s niche includes a healthy dose of riding stair railings and ski lifts, and that core ski mountaineering will be sauce rather than meat.
A refreshing and somewhat amusing idealism also shines through. According to publisher/editor Jeff Galbraith, the Ski Journal is something “outside the traditional sphere of $5 ski media…something with less ads and more inspiration…”
Issue one indeed demonstrates a light ratio of ads vs. content, but one has to wonder how much of that is by intent, or by default of this being a magazine launch. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a new magazine having a conversation like this with The North Face:
North Face: “Hey Journal, TNF media buyer here, we really like your mag and want a 2-year contract for a double page spread, can we out-bid k2 for the inside front?”
Ski Journal: “Nah, we like k2 so we print their ad, but we don’t plan on having much advertising, so talk to us in a couple of years…”
Well designed advertising doesn’t mess up a magazine. And if Ski Journal is forgoing ad dollars because they don’t want to appear too “commercial” then that’s specious, as most of the skiers they’re writing about couldn’t operate without numerous commercial “spancers,” so why not a magazine? But that’s the genius of companies such as Oakely. You don’t see their ad in the Journal, but they still get a mention in one of the articles. Too bad some of Oakely’s money didn’t help print a fine magazine such as Ski Journal — it doesn’t all have to go to teenage park riders.
In all, with a bit more backcountry content and perhaps an occasional glimpse at truly extreme endeavors like World Cup downhill racing this could be a must-read. As it is, I still enjoyed it and highly recommend.
(Note to North Face and Oakely: Buy advertising.)
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.