The Future of Skiing on Paper

Post by blogger | September 19, 2006      

Seen the press release for the new skiing magazine? “The Ski Journal” is due to launch in January. Sounds like it’s an attempt to use paper print media for one of the few things that now differentiate it from the web, that is, displaying graphics in stunning high quality. According to the PR and website, the rag will feature the “highest quality paper, printing and design in the industry…the world’s highest quality ski publication.” I can see the possibility of the former, but already has dibs on the latter (smile).

Seriously though, this gets me thinking about what’s been going on in the publishing industry for quite some time now. The web took nearly everyone by surprise. At first most publishers viewed the Internet as a gimmick that could never compete with a pub you could “carry around and read anywhere.” Boy were they wrong. Ink and paper publishers have been struggling for nearly a decade to figure out where their tree based products fit into the electronic mix that takes ever more of their advertising dollars and readers, and behind the scene it hasn’t been pretty.

One print publisher recently told me that “basically, the web is taking away my means of making a living.”

Fact is, web can provide nearly anything a magazine does — and do it better — and faster — and cheaper. That’s why and other skiing websites have readers and sell advertising, and are doing quite well at it thank-you-very-much.

But the web can’t provide high quality art that has the look and feel of ink on paper. More, the nature of editorial web publishing is speed speed speed — frequently at the expense of quality (mea culpa). Thus, printed media can still provide two things: Stunning artwork, along with carefully edited and fact checked copy that’s intended to stand the test of time (since mistakes can’t be corrected once the publication is distributed.)

Is your printed pub providing these two things? If not R.I.P.

Back to the “Skiing Journal.” It’s interesting to look at the masthead list in the PR. Now defunct Freeze Magazine staff Mark Epstein is the editorial director. Will his experience with a failed magazine come in handy? I’ll bet it will. Something didn’t work with Freeze, so perhaps those lessons will be of use. (Ergo, open question is if Liftie of the Month helped the Freeze bottom line — or caused it’s demise. )

Skiing Journal photo editor is Grant Gunderson, a top young photographer (according to the PR) and prolific web forum denizen who posts on numerous boards under the moniker “Mtbakerskier.” (Grant is clear in his posts about who he really is, which is appreciated and refreshing.) I’ve always wondered what it would be like to switch from photographer to photo editor. Do you just buy a bunch of your own work? Or perhaps you can’t use your stuff, otherwise risking accusations of bias? But mostly, how much backcountry will we see in the new rag, as opposed to park and pipe? Comments are on. Grant?

Ski Journal website


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16 Responses to “The Future of Skiing on Paper”

  1. Tim M. September 19th, 2006 9:48 am

    Hi Lou,

    Enjoying the site, as always… but why not play nice with the new guys in the neighborhood? It’s not becoming of you.

    Your wide-ranging offensive on the new “rag,” and ski and snowboard print publications and the publishing industry as a whole, and two of the TSKJ personnel, and so on, suggests a certain uneasyness with the standing, status and perhaps future of the Internet as a viable platform (yours, perhaps?).

    While the Internet obviously has its place in the ski/snowboard media universe, and its peaks and valleys too, to say “print” differentiates itself from Internet only in photo quality is absurb. Later, you reassert this notion, then go on to dismiss whatever strong writing and reporting that might appear in said print “rags,” simply as, “carefully edited and fact checked copy…” Well, that’s more ludicrous. (Check out the New Yorker piece, Aug. 17 & 24, “Amateur Hour: The doubtful rise of Internet journalism.”)

    Yeah, the publishing industry is struggling. But the Internet-as-king theorists out there aren’t necessary helping — what with their snidely and rhetorical drums beating at all hours. Your points also speak to another issue — why most ski/snowboard Internet sites don’t pay shee for contributed work, whether photos or mere “copy.” In short, they put no value in value, and instead pass off free candy to passersby and then call ’em hits. Of course, I’m speaking broadly here, but orange for orange.

    In any case, I don’t know anything about this new venture (though I once did meet “The Jerk”), but I applaud their efforts and wish them well. And as one freelancer on the lookout for work (website or print, this mercenary don’t care), here’s hoping the ski/snowboard world comes up with another Alpinist to hurl in the innards of websites’ ad-rev machines. Now that would really bring up the whole neighborhood.

    Best regards,

  2. Lou September 19th, 2006 10:25 am

    Wow Tim, go back and read what I wrote! You’re reading way too much between the lines.

    And as far as who pays what, I worked for 10 cents a word for years — in print, and I’ve had some of my best income from writing on the web. Sounds like you found some good print media markets and crumby web ones. Better keep looking! A lot about freelancing is developing markets for your work (including, politics, good ol boy system, and publishing yourself on your own website if that works). It doesn’t just come automatically for most folks, though there are those out there we can be envious of who seem to have been born with the silver spoon in their maw.

    As for the new mag, I too applaud their efforts and as I TRIED to say in my manky Internet writing, I think they’ve got the only print formula that will keep working — SO GOOD FOR THEM. And, least we forget, their website is published, print still on the horizon. What’s that say?

  3. Ricky September 19th, 2006 12:33 pm

    I’m going to have to defend Lou here, Tim. I believe the post came off as pro- Ski Journal. So much so that I went to the site and subscribed (I hope they’re giving you a kick-back for all this free publicity your giving them Lou). It will be nice to have a classy ski magazine that gets left on the coffee table as opposed to basket in the bathroom. Bring more quality really is the best way to compete with the quanity issue the web brings to the publication industry.

    I just don’t know if 4 issues a year will be enough… maybe some other ski mags might get the hint and start producing some quality.

  4. Mark Worley September 19th, 2006 12:47 pm

    Sounds like a nice format and level of quality harkening to the Alpinist approach. If it is received like Alpinist has been, and I think it has been received quite well, it might work.

  5. Lou September 19th, 2006 2:26 pm

    Ricky, nope, no affiliate deal with Ski Journal. So as far as kickback it’s more like a kick in the rear I’ll be getting, at least according to Tim . Indee, quantity vs quality — good way to look at it.

  6. chskier September 19th, 2006 2:37 pm

    Let me preface this by saying that is wonderful and I check it every day and I enjoy publications such as Alpinist, however, I am totally unbiased. I feel no need to defend anyone, here and my read felt like Lou was pretty even handed, although the term “rag” is usually applied in a derogetory way. It emotionally charges the whole post and Lou has a tendency to this from time to time.

    I think that “magazine” could have easily been used instead and it would have made the whole article feel more professional. All the other stuff sounds great. You can hear his tone quite well and it comes off pretty cool; pointing out strengths and weaknesses of both media.

    Alas, the “rant” tone mode is easy to fall into and I felt like that’s where this post was going because of the use of the word “rag”.

  7. BJ Sbarra September 19th, 2006 3:25 pm

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. As someone who worked for a magazine for 4 1/2 years, I saw the reluctance to recognize and utilize the internet first hand. A mag today can’t provide up-to-the-minute news, but it can give us great images that are often lacking on the web, and superior writing. Rely on old publishing models and you’ll die a slow death. It’s refreshing to see a venture that may have finally figured this out. Took ’em long enough.

  8. steve romeo September 19th, 2006 3:25 pm

    I think the Ski Journal is a great idea…and I bet it will be much more successful than award winning Alpinist Magazine, who I have urged to occasionally include ‘hardcore’ ski mountaineering pieces. The ski community is much more broad than that of climbing and many skiers acually have money to spend=;)

  9. Steve Seckinger September 19th, 2006 7:16 pm

    I’m not sure how to resolve this dichotomy, but I have probably read more written pieces on the web in the last few years that were originally published on paper, then archived on the web, than in actual print vessels themselves. At most times, I can’t tell if I’m reading written-for-web pieces, or written-for-print, but I definitely read more on the web.
    My family has had various writing/publishing businesses since the mid 1800’s, and I would imagine they’d all agree the web has become an ideal media for both print and image. Even though I love to get the mags in the mail (or get anything cool in the mail), WildSnow rocks!

  10. Lou September 20th, 2006 5:26 am

    Chskier, some of my friends within the industry use the term “rag” in a self depreciating kind of slang when speaking of various magazines including their own. I’ve gotten in the habit of that, and use the term more as meaning something like “the imperfect but interesting and entertaining publication that a group of individuals work their tails off on for too little pay.” Magazines are also called “books” in industry speak, but I don’t use that term in public writing because it has too much of the opposite connotation.

    You’re right, I probably should have just used the word magazine since I was just musing about the internet vs print, not trying to rant about something I’ve never seen.

    Thanks for your comments!

  11. David September 20th, 2006 8:20 am

    In addition to the internet, another dynamic at play here is the splintering of interest groups. Similar magazines, like Surfer’s Journal and Snowboard Journa, seem to do well with the older crowd that has outgrown the more mainstream and more youth oriented publications.
    To some degree this probably holds true for the Alpinist as well. It’s actually surprising there hasn’t been a Ski Journal before now.

  12. chskier September 20th, 2006 8:43 am

    Yeah, Lou, After I finished reading your post it was clear that your use of the term was not meant to insult. I figured it was an industry term but, I suppose that your use of it would not be unlike a food critic using the phrase “slinging hash” for preparing a meal, which folks not in the food service industry might interpret as derogatory.

    I appreciate your writing style but that style might be too subtle for some readers. But, hey, just like in the restaurant biz, the lowest common denominator can be a killer!

  13. Lou September 20th, 2006 8:49 am

    Chskier, I should probably go back and edit. No reason to imply offense where none is intended! I’d rather do that when I intend it!

  14. Grant Gunderson September 20th, 2006 4:29 pm

    You are correct. The internet has all but killed most of the magazine market. Newsstand sells are dead, and it is quite obvious that most advertisers are starting to catch on to the fact that most publications (esp certain larger ski pubs) have resorted to giving there subscriptions away for free in order to gain ad dollars in the short term. Why would you want to pay to have an ad in a publication that you cant even give away?

    The only way to survive in the print industry is to A, have a niche, and B do it very well. Powder does very well as does Backcountry and Couloir. However all of these mags are still struggling. The key is to successfully integrate web content (I.E. news, snow reports, gear reviews etc) on an interactive and compelling web site, and leave the hard copy for compelling well written substance and content rich articles combined with ultra high quality imagery.

    The Ski Journal, isn’t going to be another version of the existing mags. Instead our goal is to create a journal of skiing and to capture the soul of the sport. To us, skiing shouldn’t be classified into separate divisions, but Big Mountain skiing, Backcountry skiing, Racing, Jibbing and ski mountaineering are all valid aspects of the sport and are all an essential part.

    Just as the journal will reflect the diversity of the sport, the editorial staff we have chosen reflects diversity in the industry. We purposely assembled a crew of industry veterans and new face, and selectively chose individuals with different opinions, views and experiences to maintain and editorial lineup that will be as diverse as possible, yet chronicle the soul of the sport. Sure Mark’s experience at Freeze will come into play, so too will Galbraith’s experience as a former editor of Snowboarder and current editor of Frequency. Kris will bring his experience editing Aspect Journal and his experience working with new faces.

    Oh, and to answer your question about switching to the photo editor side of things, I don’t think it is that big of a deal. I will still be shooting, and I will still be stoked to look at awesome images. To me, good photography is good photography, no matter who shot it, so expect to see a lot of images from both well known industry veterans, as well as new names.

  15. Lou September 20th, 2006 5:52 pm

    Nice comment Grant, thanks, and congrats on the new rag, err, mag.

  16. Peter May 9th, 2007 8:25 pm

    I think it sounds like a great new player in the Ski Magazine scene. Ricky had it right – Id love to have a ski mag to leave on the coffee table.

    As a young twenty-something, Ive slowly lost interest in keeping up with park skiing and who can spin faster, but my love for the soulful side of skiing has only grown – By the sounds of Grant’s reply, they’re trying to capture the essence of what makes us want to get up early and get out there. I love that.

    As for the web vs print debate, again, as a fairly young guy, I only have one or 2 magazine subscriptions. With the explosive growth of blogging, and its slow but steady march towards becoming more grown up in both credibility and professionalism, the old arguments against it will soon have lost their oomph. As many people have said, the ideas that will keep the print industry alive in are really well written articles and fantastic photography on high quality paper. It sounds like they want to focus on this. I’m definitely interested.

    I can see that this article is nearly a year old. I’ll have to look into it and see how things turned out.

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