Out of Service, Within Reach
Circulation hacks may have saddled them with the clunky adjective “enthusiast,” but the magazines dedicated to specific activities that dominated newsstands throughout the 1990s were more like bibles. As such, they directed pre-Internet action-sports fans to whom to look up to, what to wear, what tricks to learn and where to travel. Pages were read and re-read, and whether depicting heroes or zeros, the photos were used to turn bedroom walls into shrines of adulation, inspiration, and aspiration.
In transforming the way we consume news, messaging and entertainment, however, the rise of digital communication in the new millennium had a crushing impact on print publishing. Losing massive advertising revenue to the Internet, many media outlets now prioritize digital, video and social media to reach the Generation Z demographic.
In Europe, multi-language snowboard magazines like Onboard thrived during print’s golden era, when huge circulations and magazine-backed films helped spread the sport’s popularity but couldn’t survive, posting a 150-issue record before closing in 2015. Likewise, in 2020, a corporate owner in North America shuttered four sacred titles — Bike, Powder, Snowboarder and Surfer. Powder — “The Skier’s Magazine” — had documented the soul of skiing since its inception in 1972, and Surfer had been the global voice and conscience of that sport since the early 1960s. In short order, other American snowsports magazines abandoned print, including Transworld Snowboarding, Skiing, and SKI.
Nevertheless, print isn’t dead in the outdoor space. High-quality mags on both continents still bring pages of beautiful photography and engaging long-form stories. The Internet may offer endless up-to-the-second content, but as Adventure Journal founder and editor Steve Casimiro puts it, “Special magic happens when a group of passionate, talented editors, writers, and photographers pour their hearts and souls into telling stories designed to stand the test of time.”
Here’s a taste of what’s out there:
After decades of editing hallowed outdoor titles like Powder, Bike and National Geographic Adventurer, Steve Casimiro launched his own ode to the outdoors in 2010. An immediately popular online platform, Adventure Journal published outdoor stories from around the world. But Casimiro’s roots were showing. “As a reader, I was dissatisfied with the digital experience,” he says. “I wanted something I could hold in my hand and treasure.” In 2016, Adventure Journal added a quarterly print edition. Clean and sleek, it covers the gamut for every outdoor sport. For example, skiing might see a story about its origins in China or an appreciation of a small hill in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Launched in 1966 as a literary chronicle of the American West featuring legendary writers like Hunter S. Thompson and Edward Abbey, Mountain Gazette built a dedicated following. But it wasn’t immune to cash-flow problems and shuttered in 2012. Revived by veteran ski journalist Mike Rogge in 2020, it was reintroduced as a large-format bi-annual with stunning photography and captivating long-form stories about everything from adaptive street-skiing in Denver, Colorado, to climate impacts on Central Park and L.A.’s burgeoning coyote population.
Longstanding German snowboard mag Pleasure relaunched as a quarterly in 2021. “We changed to a bigger format, added an English version [and] we’re using high-quality, sustainable paper — it’s pretty much a new magazine,” says managing editor Stefan Götschl. And while producing the ‘new’ Pleasure is more expensive and time-consuming, “Our only priority is to have timeless stories,” he maintains, “and feedback has been great.”
Founded in 1994, Vermont-based Backcountry covers snowsports outside the ropes with some of the best ski and snowboard photography going, and stories that both educate and entertain; pieces about avalanche safety skills, gear reviews, and executing the perfect hut trip appear alongside tales of mountain adventure from far-flung locales. With six issues annually, Idahoan Betsy Manero is the editor-in-chief.
The Ski Journal
Founded in 2006, The Ski Journal is a consistent quarterly of 112 pages filled with cutting-edge photography and compelling stories. “We cover the sport as a whole,” says Kade Krichko, editor-in-chief. “The good, the bad, and especially the weird. We aim to bottle up as much ski culture as possible and send it to coffee tables, doorsteps, and ski-shop waxing benches globally.” It has covered the crackdown on women’s skiing in Afghanistan, skijoring in the American West, and even scoring turns in a New Jersey shopping mall.
Flipping through Skialper — the Italian magazine dedicated to ski touring, skimo racing and mountain culture — is like looking at a piece of art. But while its large format, clean design, high-quality paper and great photography might be a feast for the senses, Skialper is best known for its comprehensive annual gear guide that includes essays, rigorous gear tests and thorough reviews. First published in 1997 as Fondo e Telemark, the magazine changed its emphasis to ski touring in 2015 and also covers broader mountain sports topics with profiles and trip reports.
Scandinavia’s most prominent ski mag since 1975, Åka Skidor, is known for world-class photography, elegant design, travel features, and reputable ski and gear tests. With a vast following in Sweden and beyond, Åka Skidor publishes a whopping ten issues yearly, more than any other ski magazine globally. A few years ago, it was designated “European Magazine of the Year” and earned “Best Design” from the European Publishing Awards. Longtime contributor and seasoned journalist Niclas Sjögren is the editor-in-chief.