The Ski Journal Launches — Is Ink and Paper Still Alive?

Post by blogger | February 7, 2007      

Ski Journal.
Inaugural issue of The Ski Journal.

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.)


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14 Responses to “The Ski Journal Launches — Is Ink and Paper Still Alive?”

  1. Fat Mack February 7th, 2007 1:22 pm

    Without the printed mags you don’t have any escapism pictures to tear out and tape to your bedroom walls. Ski Journal looks great and the comparison to Surfer’s Journal is apt. I hope it does well.

  2. Michael Blythe February 7th, 2007 2:11 pm

    This is from the same publisher that puts out Frequency, the snowboarder’s journal: So I think the limited ads are here (gone?) to stay.

  3. Ricky February 7th, 2007 2:24 pm

    Can’t wait for mine to come in the mail… I’m looking forward to the “user submitted content” they are claiming to want to promote. They seem to be will (at least from their site) to publish anything that worth publishing… so maybe well get some new writers/photographers out of the deal… maybe you should submit an article for the next issue Lou… I know you could write one on back country skiing. Just a thought.

  4. Lou February 7th, 2007 2:49 pm

    A couple of Ski Journal staffers have already emailed me about the blog. They said they’ll indeed be covering a broad spectrum of ski culture, including racing and backcountry, and that they won’t be turning down any North Face ads. Should be great!

  5. Jake February 7th, 2007 7:08 pm

    Hopefully the Ski Journal can nail the Surfer’s Journal trifecta. Excellent large format photos, minimal ads and collectible content. I’ve saved every issue of the Surfer’s Journal for 5+ years. A magazine that doesn’t get tossed after 15 minutes is pretty green.

  6. Michael Kennedy February 8th, 2007 5:11 am

    It’s also worth checking out Alpinist (, a magazine for climbers modeled on The Surfer’s Journal. The business side of these magazines is daunting – quality costs money and minimal ads means the reader pays more, a difficult proposition when so much great information is available for free on the web. What you get, though, is the sort of timeless, beautiful, collectible, and inspirational journal that Jake mentions.

    FYI, I’ve been an informal advisor and contributor to Alpinist since it started, and am currently doing some business consulting for them.

  7. Lou February 8th, 2007 6:50 am

    Michael, you’re right, Alpinist is perhaps a better example than Surfer’s Journal as it is more closely related to mountain sports, and indeed has the open design with minimal advertising that these sorts of publications aspire to. Of course it’s another matter how sustainable that is. Only time will tell. It actually amazes me that such pubs can even exist in today’s climate of fast-food media, and with the web taking so much of people’s reading time.

  8. Derek February 8th, 2007 7:50 am

    These types of mags are a nice progression. I can live without the banners of ’10 ways to improve your skiing’, and ‘top 30 ski towns’, interspersed with every other page being an ad for Hummers and personal locator beacons. That said, I think Alpinist was, or is running a little lean on the finance side of things. Hope this folks can make it work. Looks like a nice publication to sit down with a cup of coffee and spend some time reading.

  9. Rahul Dave February 8th, 2007 8:12 am

    The Alpinist is great; inspiring, helps on trip planning (atleast for smaller ranges like Bugaboos). How does a Ski journal with resort info hope to capture that?

    Web based formats can do well too. I like the Northwest Mountaineering Journal: it has ski mountaineering stuff too. But business model…I dunno.

  10. Greydon Clark February 8th, 2007 10:24 am

    Thanks for the review! Frequency is a great mag (I subscribe and I haven’t been on a snowboard in 10 years) so I have high hopes for the Ski Journal. And at $10 or $15 an issue, I’m glad it isn’t packed with ads.

  11. Michael February 8th, 2007 1:06 pm

    I got a copy of the first issue and thought that it was a refreshing alternative to the current selection of mainstream ski magazines out there. Assuming they continue to spread their wings and throw a unique editorial voice behind all aspects of the ski world, this publication has a lot going for it.

    Good editing and photography can take you a long way. The Ski Journal’s appeal to people who celebrate skiing as a lifestyle rather than just a vacation activity makes this a great idea. If the Snowboarder Journal has survived this long, I hope this idea can at least do the same.

  12. powstash February 9th, 2007 11:22 am

    Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I agree with what has been said about Alpinist. It’s not a magazine to me – it’s more of a coffee table or bookshelf “booklet” that relates to the mountain culture and the people that are pushing the edge farther.

    If Ski Journal can find their own voice that resonates with skiers (backcountry or resort, perhaps those who simply love sliding in them mountains) then they have a good shot at sticking around for the long haul.

  13. snowdrifter February 10th, 2007 10:15 pm

    I am a huge fan of alpinist, great publication. The skiers journal is good idea , but it’s too bad it’s not more geared toward ski mountaineering. So i guess this comment goes to micheal, would love to see a feature artical on ski mountaineering happenings in the world scene, or a “history ” piece in alpinist. Seems ski mountaineering would fit more closely in with alpinist than skiers journal. Maybe theres not enough hapenings out there to fill a whole journal numerous times, but there’s people skiing everest nanga parbat and the other unknown people out there. Good luck to skiers journal. (if anyone has an issue zero of alpinist i will PAY!)

  14. mike February 12th, 2007 9:45 pm

    I heard/read that Snowboard Journal is done. Not to get this confused with Frequency: The Snowboarder’s Journal.

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