ON THIN ICE – WHERE HAVE ALL THE SKI MAGS GONE?

Almost a year ago to the day, the biggest, most influential ski publication – Powder Magazine – went pop. So where does that leave the rest of us, asks FL editor-at-large Jonny Richards?

The official statement on the website said it was a pause. A hiatus. But it didn’t look good from the start. And as a long-time Powder print-subscriber, it was months before any contact was made. Then it simply came in the form of a miserable postcard. We will now be sending you the Men’s Journal.

            God, this is awful I thought. No more absurd/brilliant/inspiring/surreal/heartfelt/insightful, and often very funny ski stuff. No more Jaded Local. No more ‘let’s poke Vail resorts, call them the Death Star (gobbling up smaller ski planets), and see what happens’. No more crackers trips giving up a whole winter to the Trans Siberian Express (and myriad of powder stops). Just George bloody Clooney and coffee machines…

            Founded by Dave and Jake Moe in 1972, Powder, like so many magazines, took a while to hit its stride. There were plenty of false starts, gammy covers and dalliances with racing. But by the early 1990s – when it inspired the creation of Fall-Line – it was galloping and glorious (about to pick up a further pace from the freeski revolution).

            Another Dave, Reddick – Powder’s long-time Director of Photography – joined at this time, stayed to the end, and from the outside at least, as editors came and went, ensured Powder remained true to its “we’re doing it our way, thank you very much” approach.

            The naked (male) skier on the cover (Vol 49.1) of the magazine’s last but one issue, is a good example. In short, you could call it super (or super self-indulgent, depending on your standpoint) but you could never call it… mainstream.

FALL-LINE IS NOW THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN IF YOU WANT A TRADITIONAL HAND-YOUR-POCKET-MONEY-OVER, MORE-THAN-ONE-ISSUE-A-YEAR SKI TITLE

            Which is all very well if you have a supportive publisher, which Powder definitely did not appear to have after TEN (The Enthusiast Network) sold it in 2019 to American Media Inc (publisher of tabloids like Us Weekly, and exciting stories about Tom Cruise and Scientology).

            Fortunately, Fall-Line is not in this position. But you can see where the problem arises. And how an unruly icon, that had a lot of influence in the ski world, but didn’t actually sell enough copies to keep a commercially minded owner happy, came a cropper.

            In terms of North America (the world’s biggest ski mag market) it’s not all doom and gloom. And for now there’s still Ski, Backcountry, The Ski Journal, Forecast, and maybe more. Things are less promising in the UK paid-for market with a huge WHSmith-shaped hole left by The Telegraph Ski and Snowboard magazine (that was previously The Daily Mail Ski and Snowboard magazine) shutting in early 2020. And while we are some way off the great snowboard cull of earlier this century (with the once mighty triumvirate of Snowboard UK, Document and Whitelines all gone) Fall-Line is now the only game in town if you want a traditional hand-your-pocket-money-over, more-than-one-issue-a-year ski title.

            It feels a little cliched, and melodramatic to say ‘your ski mag needs you’ and order Lord Kitchener ‘taches for all subscribers. But as I’ve found with Powder, you only really miss something when it’s gone. So please keep buying (which allows us to keep writing) and let’s not allow that to happen to Fall-Line.

Jonny Richards first contributed to Fall-Line in 1998, serving as editor in 2009 and 2010