Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An open letter to the publisher of Skiing Magazine

It used to be that each of the major ski publications had its niche: Ski is for East Coast skiers and people in Texas and Ohio who take a big ski vacation to Colorado or California every year. They usually spend the entire time skiing groomers and are more concerned about their accommodations than the snow conditions. Ski is also exceptionally lame and has fashion features like “how to complete the Telluride look.”

Powder is the edgy, hardcore skier’s magazine for those who live, eat, and breathe skiing. It’s target audience is Western skiers who live near the mountain and are there every weekend if not midweek. They may travel to ski somewhere new, but they spend more money on gear than on travel. They’re happy crashing on someone’s couch if it means more money for lift tickets.

Skiing found a happy medium, wherein it appealed to the middle 80% by still being relevant to the Ski audience without putting off those of us who live in the West and just want some stoke when we can’t be on the hill. 20 years ago, I read and re-read my copies of Skiing while I waited for Saturday to arrive. Today, I prefer Powder.

Somewhere along the way, Skiing decided that it needed to leapfrog Powder and become the most core publication in the industry. You failed. Using F-bombs doesn’t make you core. It indicates you lack the vocabulary to come up with something witty to say.

References to illicit drug use have nothing to do with skiing. Sure, plenty of ski bums like to ski loaded. I’ve had a contact high just from riding up the chairlift with one. But as much as I want my kids to be good skiers and to really love and connect with the mountain, having a magazine tell them which panel in a beater car to remove to hide a stash from authorities has nothing to do with that.

Whoever had the idea that to be core you have to be juvenile was wrong. Core is getting up at 4:00 a.m. to hike for turns on a work day. Core is spending your last few hundred bucks on some new sticks.

Core is NOT going to an exclusive ski camp at Snowbird just so you can rip on the instructor (who is way more core than you) and check the snow report on your iPhone. If you’re at Snowbird just to ski, then skip the clinic and just buy lift tickets. But bagging on clinic participants just because they’re looking for something else from the experience is sophomoric.

From a business standpoint, this editorial shift makes no sense. Who are you trying to appeal to and who’s going to advertise to them? Ski has their audience, Powder has theirs, and Skiing used to appeal to the widest swath of the industry. Sure, what you’re writing now may be cool to 17-year-old kids, but they don’t have any money.

I’m just as into the sport now as I was when I was 17, the difference being I can afford to buy new gear every year and would travel to ski if the best snow weren’t already on my doorstep. Why don’t you try asking your advertisers which audience they’re more interested in?

As if the deterioration of content were not enough, I recently wrote you a letter indicating that I was interested in renewing my subscription but was hesitant to do so without some assurance that I could feel comfortable leaving the magazines where my kids or even my wife would read them. Your response was to offer to renew my subscription for 80% more than the price indicated on my renewal card. Get a clue.