4.11.2015

This land is your land. Until it's not.


Utah can be a funny place. Funny like a how a Kurt Vonnegut story or a Coen Brothers movie can be funny, in that it is simultaneously beautiful, poignant and so strange it’s almost laughable --  if only it weren’t so serious. I was there in January, in Salt Lake, doing indoor business at an outdoor trade show. But I squeezed in a few hours to attend a meeting about a new Utah state law called the Transfer of Public Lands Act (TPLA). Depending on who you ask, this law is either a dinner party conversation gone on too long or the first step toward environmental Armageddon.

Signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, the TPLA demands the return of more than 30 million acres of Federal public land to state control. The backbone of the TPLA is a fresh interpretation of the 1894 law that made Utah a state (the “Enabling Act”), which essentially says that the Feds were never planning to hang on to Utah public lands forever, so they should just give ‘em back. What the TPLA “wants back” includes lands run by the Bureau of Land Management (22.8 million acres), the US Forest Service (8.1 million acres), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (112,696 acres), as well as the Utah portion of Glen Canyon Recreation Area (1.2 million acres), otherwise known as Lake Powell.


Step one in the TPLA was setting a deadline of New Year’s Eve, 2014, for all those lands to be wrapped up with a bow and handed over. The expected step two – since the Feds didn’t RSVP by Dec. 31– is the traditional American two-step of public relations and litigation. While the lawsuit party hasn’t started yet, the PR part definitely has in meetings like the one I attended, which have been going on throughout the winter and spring in various Utah communities.

To be clear, the TPLA is very real. This is not just some grandstanding badminton match with no real winners and no real losers. Inside Utah, backers of the idea are dead serious and moving forward. And outside Utah, the TPLA has inspired similar initiatives in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming.

While there’s some disagreement about the he-said-she-said interpretation of the 1894 Enabling Act, there’s no disagreement from anybody on any side what this is about. The State of Utah wants more oil and gas money, and they want it now.  “Wouldn’t it be great to believe that this effort to transfer public lands from the feds to the states is some altruistic, grassroots idea meant to manage those lands in a way that works better for everyone? Asked writer Tyler Hansen, in a recent piece on the subject for Hatch magazine. “Sadly, that’s just not the case. This isn’t a Sagebrush Rebellion, it’s a corporate bait-and-switch scheme meant to open America’s natural resources to immediate extraction.”

Take a spin around your Utah rolodex, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single resident of the Beehive State who truly believes that the TPLA has a snowball’s chance in the Kennecott Copper Mine of actually becoming a reality.  It doesn’t take a 900 buck-an-hour lawyer to see that the thing has serious and significant legal, financial and political obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is basic unconstitutionality. That notion of impossibility is a popular one, and is cited as the primary line of defense by just about everybody who opposes the idea.

But those same people who are up on the issue, who recognize the massive hurdles faced by the TPLA , and who would rather bet on Karl Malone coming out of retirement than any land ever exchanging hands, are also freaked out by this tiny sliver of possibility beneath an otherwise impenetrable door. Part of the anxiety is that… well, this is Utah we’re talking about.  And in this wildly unpredictable political arena, there’s no such thing as a surprise. The other reason is that, if this TPLA concept somehow gains traction and spreads to other fishy states, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to envision the massive environmental wrecking ball right behind it ...  "

The complete text of this article appears in the spring issue of The Drake Magazine.  Now available in fly shops everywhere, as well as at DrakeMag.com.  



4.09.2015

The Sweet Spot

  
(PHOTO CREDIT:  JONATHAN SELKOWITZ)

As it was the early 1990s, I honestly don’t remember why I decided to try telemark skiing. What I do remember is being vaguely disenfranchised by skiing in general, turned off by the euro-style stretch pants, the macho swagger that went along with 220 cm skis, and the hey-i-went-to-a-ski-academy perfect turners. It wasn’t a great snow year. I wasn’t a great skier. And those telemark freaks simply seemed to be having more fun than anybody else on the mountain. I was sold.     

I was fascinated by the rippers who were flashing their free-heels from the first chair to last call, and I remember the feeling of seeing my first telemark movie: tingly and exciting, like getting a love letter from a long lost girlfriend. It didn’t matter that my boots were too flimsy, the skis were too narrow, and I had zero idea of what I was doing, because the whole thing was contagious, refreshingly different and totally addicting.

More than 20 years of turns past that sweet spot, however, my Tua Montets (with Voile releasable plates) are rusting away in the garage, a real world analogy for the quiet end of an era that was brought to light last month when Mad River Glen hosted the last-ever NATO Telemark Festival. (LINK)

The Tele Fest at MRG ran for 40 years, bringing flocks of free heel faithful to the extreme variable conditions of central Vermont. If you’re doing the math at home, the thing started when Gerald Ford was president, a lift ticket cost $10, and people still drank martinis out of a Thermos while they drove their unseatbelted kids around. There were other festivals, sure, but the MRG Tele Fest was the first to the party and the last to leave, providing a complete bracketing of the rise, the sweet spot and the quiet demise of telemark skiing.

The question isn’t whether a sweet spot existed in telemark skiing -- or anything else –– but rather when it existed. And it’s not as simple as calling out the “peak” of participation, as that sort of misses the point. (The peak is when you played Wembley Stadium in front of 100,000 rabid moshing fans. The sweet spot is when you toured for a year, perfected your sound, and recorded that album that got you the stadium gig in the first place).

Pre-sweet spot, you’re in the undiscovered country. Post-sweet spot, you’ve jumped the shark.  And somewhere between the two, there is a sweet spot that emerges, gets noticed and makes fans.

The sweet spot is pure, electric and magnetic. It’s when charisma and energy combine, and when you can’t help but get sucked in. The more you get, the more you want, and the more you miss it when it’s gone.

But the fade of a sweet spot is also very real.  Everything has a life span, and quality has nothing to do with it. Was it too many people? Not enough people? Lack of expectations? Burden of expectations? The simple passage of time? Hey, even M.A.S.H. went off the air eventually

For telemark skiing (and skiers), there is a distinct yearning for a return to that sweet spot. Ironically, though the gear is better and lighter and more durable than ever before, the more it advances the further away the sweet spot seems in the rear view mirror.

That yearning for a return to the sweet spot exists for lots of other stuff … other places, other brands, other businesses, other trade shows.  It’s a normal, human and almost expected urge to want to go back to when numbers didn’t matter, when pure participation was its own reward, and when all the best accomplishments were still in front of you. Like daydreaming of seeing Yosemite before the crowds, of catching a steelhead before the dams went in, or seeing the boys from San Francisco before they were the Dead (LINK)

But that cooling cup of coffee isn’t going to warm itself. Enjoy it while it lasts, and don’t sweat it when it’s over.

When was the sweet spot of telemark skiing?  When was it at its pinnacle? At it’s moment of peak soulfulness, coolness and peak contagiousness?

Interesting question...I would say late 90s/early 2000s. As alpine skiing was going through an identity crisis (thanks to their insecurity brought on by snowboarding) that put Charlie Sheen to shame, tele skiers were getting down and dirty with face shot after face shot. Downhill and AT gear still sucked, while tele was still the best way to get into backcountry--and hence, ski powder--and it was strong enough to rip it inbounds. Enough people had been doing it for some time that they made it look amazingly stylish, but it hadn't yet been played to death. There were festivals all over the place that encouraged drinking and embracing your inner dirt bag. Alta, Steamboat, Crested Butte, Telluride, Grand Targhee, Bridger Bowl, Alpine Meadows and Mad River Glen were all hotbeds for tele, and it's no coincidence that these places were also where you'd find the most soul. The first nail in the coffin was rockered skis, which made skiing easy and cool and surfy. And the second, and perhaps final, was the improvement of AT bindings, rendering tele burdensome and a huge pain in the ass on the skin track. Thanks a lot, Dynafit! -- Matt Hansen, Powder Magazine senior editor

if you can take a five-year span, I'd say 1997-2001. Not coincidentally, this mirrors the peak in popularity of whitewater kayaking. It's not so much that telemarking and whitewater kayaking were both considered "cooler" then, though that was certainly part of it. It's that what came to replace each of them—far better/easier/fatter alpine gear and randonne gear for tele, and stand-up paddle boarding for kayaking—wasn't around yet.  Also, there were tele specific and whitewater kayaking-specific films being made at the time. Now? Not so much. --Tom Bie, The Drake editor (and former editor, Powder Magazine) 

If I had to pick a single year, it would be 1987. Why, you ask? The gear was getting better compared to when I started telemarking in 1980. Yes, Super Comps helped but wider, softer skis helped in the PNW snow too. I was working at a shop, and we were mounting 700 pairs of skis a year with 3-pin bindings so it was contagious, I guess. I was also 30 years old and probably at my best in terms of fitness, experience, ambitions, and mostly void of family or relationship responsibilities. There were like-minded kooks in every ski town ready to close a bar, at 1 am, and meet-up at a trail head at 6 am for a day of turns and laughs … (Interrupted here by a day of ski testing, for Off-Piste, with Dave Waag. During which time we discussed the question, at hand, while skiing AT gear, with no apparent irony)…. Dave’s epic year is more like 1995. This is not completely hinged on the fact that he is 10 years younger than I, but he makes a great argument that there was an epic bump in equipment refinement then, allowing us to make better, faster turns in any snow conditions. When did the first purple Scarpa T1 boots arrive: 1991-92? By 1995 everyone had a pair of plastic boots, maybe release bindings and wider skis, like the Voile Mt. Surf. We were skiing big lines, in deep snow, in BC, Alaska, etc with the ease and efficiency of AT gear while maintaining the "Tele" snobbery, that seemed so necessary then, and so useless 20 years later. -- Don Pattison, Off Piste columnist (and former outdoor industry heavy hitter)

Tele was at its most contagious when Terminator showed up, which was 1993. It took almost 10 years for the delusion of that moment to wear off and the reality of how hard tele is, and how inefficient it is for earning turns to set in. But the soul never left, just a bunch of wannabes who couldn't make the turn work for them left and those that stuck with it figured out the turn struck a chord with their soul and couldn't let it go -- Craig Dostie, Founder, Couloir magazine

“I think it was at its peak in the early to mid- 1990s…that’s when, like idiots, we’d all show up on these week-long heli-hut trips in British Columbia on our teles while the Canucks on their ATs looked on incredulously. We were beating ourselves up without even realizing there was a better way. I also still remember trading in a one-piece ski suit my mom gave me for Christmas for a pair of Fischer GTS skis.”-- Eugene Buchanan, Former editor Telemark Skier magazine

Two times- stick out.  Spruce peak in 1993, 6 inches of fresh and laughing in the liftlines and giggling as a bunch of ex alpiners rolled around on the snow and learned together, sharing tips and essentially teaching each other how to tele.  The other was Telefest at Mad River with Dickie in 97- surrounded by the tribe and feeling truly connected in a way with the tele movement and feeling part of the brotherhood.
Kenny Ballard, former Vermonter and forever telemarker

I'm going to go with 2002. Looking at the December 2002 Issue of Couloir and there are two pages of AT binding reviews (six bindings, including the Alpine Trekker!), and 11 pages of telemark binding reviews (including 17 bindings from the usual suspects--Rottefella, BD, Voile, G3, Rainey--as well as the likes of Bishop, Linken, Peak Rigs, and the Ultimate Telemark Co.!). I think there was a real garage band mentality still, and people were still inventing their own gear, and putting together rigs that were uniquely their own. It was still about the turn, too, and not so much about SKUs and selling free-heel in alpine shops, and access. Then the AT stuff got good (great!) and everybody started talking about how they had only tele-d because they had to in order to go OB, not because they loved making that knee deep waltzing turn. -- Peter Kray, author "The God of Skiing"


Telemarking might have been at its most soulful in the late-80s. How would I “know”…I don’t. My book was published in 1988 and was well-received. There was a place for it. We were very enthusiastic, missionaries preaching the gospel, and people were listening … (but) in terms of interest, buzz; I would say in the early 90s (1992) when the Terminator was launched. That created quite a dialog, well-deserved as it was a ground-breaking product. The Terminator really changed the sport … It’s still cool, BTW.
-- Paul Parker, author "Free-Heel Skiing"

Telemark skiing was cool in the mid to late 80’s when it was evolving and innovating.  Starting with Alan Bard and Tom Carter doing the Redline Traverse people started to see what could be achieved on free heel gear.  And the gear was constantly being upgraded and improved to allow people to push farther. But the true measure of its pinnacle was that being a tele skier gave you “cool points” with the chicks.  As any ski bum can tell you, in any ski town, the ratio of guys to girls is about 10-to 1. So anything that gives you street-cred with the few female skiers was pure gold.  -- Steve Gladstone, former marketing director Merrell/Karhu

 Any time you see Ellingson in the backcountry -- Mike Geraci, Pearl St. Bagels alumni



3.17.2015

If climbing is a mental game, Alex Honnold has won

Fascinating and inspiring.

What would you do, what could you accomplish, in a world without fear?


"... The world’s greatest climbers struggle to make sense of this mysterious sang-froid. “Most of us think dying is a really serious, scary thing, but I don’t think Alex does,” says Caldwell, who has climbed extensively with Honnold and considers him a close friend. “He’s wired a little differently from everybody else. The risk excites him, and he knows it’s super badass, but he doesn’t allow himself to go beyond that in his mind. The other great free-soloists always talk about this conversation with death. Alex is like, ‘I’m not going to fall, it’s no big deal.’ That’s what makes him so good ..."

LINK:  NY Times, "The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold"


1.15.2015

Success means never having to fake you're sick on a powder day




When you’re a dirt-poor ski bum who’s stealing toilet paper rolls from the newsroom bathroom, the picture of “success” is pretty damn simple  … A ski pass, two healthy knees, and a dog that actually comes when it’s called.
Once you head down the slippery slope to that first five-day job though, the hopes and dreams slowly and steadily start piling up. Like hoping to earn your age in salary, or having an open bar at the office holiday party, or finally scoring a car with seat heaters. Ask and ye shall receive, dude.

But for those who aspire to even bigger things (or blew out their knee in December), there is the outdoor industry.

Throughout the next month, the big tent that shapes that industry will be on display in trade shows from Nevada to Germany. Maybe you're headed out to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and the SIA Snow Show. And depending on how you swing, maybe you're headed to ISPO and SHOT Show too.

If you’ve never been a trade show lurker, it's not tough to imagine. Just close your eyes and imagine multiple nights of a massive college reunion, punctuated by seven or eight hours of wildly variable business meetings between 8 am and 6 pm every day. You’ve got your crowds and parties, you’ve got your billion thank-God-for-nametag moments, and you’ve got yer occasional unforgettable train wrecks (see also, First-annual, last-ever OIWC Drag Show).

The reunion anaolgy is also spot on because of the inevitable yardstick moments … when you bump into "that guy" on the plane, or "her" in the coffee line, and you subconsciously (or maybe consciously) take a deep breath and measure part of you against somebody else’s part. Insert innuendo here.

Some days that measuring up is merely rampant insecurity. On others it’s gleeful schadenfreude. And on the best days it’s a healthy dose of totally appreciated inspiration.

When I sent out a couple dozen high priority faxes looking for a few outdoorsy people’s personal, honest definition of success …I didn’t know what to expect.

And then I got this.

…”(Success?) It looks like a mess. When I try to figure it out, my instinct is to run out the door and ski into the hills with my dog. I have been incredibly frustrated with my lack of success and progress, and scared by my financial situation -- all my fault. For me, short term success is paying off a deep line of credit. Mid-term success is getting at least some of the jobs of which I am more than capable of handling…”

And then this.

“… I'm afraid "success = never having to work with idiots ever again" may not go over so well….”

For some folks, starting a casual conversation about “success” is the same as shining a spotlight on a 42-foot tall stress ball in the corner of the room. It’s taking that that yardstick out of the shadows and laying it right on the table for everybody to see.

In the outdoor world, success can be a hard thing to pin down personally, if only because of its abundance. There are many who’ve achieved real, concrete stuff — women who’ve founded incredible companies or skied an epic first descent, guys who have shattered barriers in physical performance, climbers who’ve Instagrammed successfully from the Dawn Wall, and freelance writers who've managed to stave off the beast of a full-time job for yet another year..

There’s also what seems to be an infinity chocolate fountain of mind-blowing travel tales. (The print zine Mountain Gazette dug into that idea a years ago in a thing called the “Readers’ Reverse Bucket List”. Truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever read.)

And finally -- and maybe a bit unexpectedly for the outdoor world -- there are many, many true careerists who are impeccably dedicated to their craft, whatever it might be.

The brutally honest definition of success can be a tough question to answer, out loud anyway. There’s the answer you give friends and family, and then ... there’s the answer you only tell yourself during those quiet morning moments on the trail. 

Maybe it’s “never lift a damn finger again.”  Maybe it’s “I have no fucking clue.”  But chances are good that it still includes a ski pass, two healthy knees and a decent dog.

WHAT DOES SUCCESS PHYSICALLY, ACTUALLY AND TRULY LOOK LIKE TO YOU? WHAT IS THAT THING IN YOUR HEAD THAT YOU’RE WORKING TOWARD, THAT PLACE YOU’RE DREAMING OF, OR THAT THING THAT WILL HAPPEN WHICH WILL SIGNIFY THAT YOU’VE FINALLY, TRULY PULLED IT OFF?

I think time is the most valuable thing we have, and we may not have as much of it as we think. Given that most of us spend an inordinate amount of our time chasing the almighty dollar to survive in this society, I figure that to succeed in life one must find a way to spend that time doing something they are truly passionate about. Otherwise, you just end up pining for a vacation that only comes a couple times a year.
-- Chris Figenshau, Photographer

Day starts with a trail run, accessible from our small mountain house, with at least one dog. Work—and by that I mean write—with a two-hour guilt-free slot for napping and reading. Have enough time and energy to make a good dinner, watch the sun go down, and sleep deeply.
— Dimity McDowell, co-author of Run Like a Mother + Train Like a Mother

My view of success is less materialistic and more associated with freedom. It is the ability to have freedom of choice. Not having to do things but doing them because I’m following my passions … I have this vision of a bison ranch on a trout stream with epic mountains for skiing in the back yard. For me it is symbolic of the freedom to do some of the things I love (skiing/fishing) and working a farm/ranch (passionate about land and food) while surrounded by friends and family sharing my passions. I hesitate to say that is my vision of success because things are dynamic and where isn’t as important to me as what (doing what I’m passionate about) and how (with friends and family).
— Erik Snyder, CEO Armada Skis

I have an intermediate thing in my head that defines success, and that's employing people. Knowing that their livelihood is on my shoulders makes me work hard; not in a fear-based way, but just in the sense that it's an enormous responsibility that I can't dick around with. In the long-term, success means retirement. I love my job, I love my work, but I have plans, man. I truly look forward to laying down the mantle of responsibility, getting the kids out of college on their own, and winding down my work in 15 years.  Because there's so much to do!  I suck at golf, have ignored tennis.  I haven't traveled enough, haven't bought a horse, and far too seldom look my wife in the eye and say, "So really, how are you?"  Those days will come, and when they do, that'll mean the ultimate success.
— Gordon Wright, President, Outside PR

My big thing is I still can't believe people pay me to do what I do--things that, in some cases, most folks would pay tons of money to do-- like being part of a historic kayaking expedition on the Congo or rowing a gondola in Venice. I feel so blessed and lucky that I've had these amazing opportunities over the years and the chance to share it with others through writing and film. My goal has always been to write a book, write a movie, and write a country song. I still have to write that country song.
— Mark Anders, writer and filmmaker

The bar is always moving. Ten years ago I was in the magazine business. Now I'm in the media business. And media is changing so fast, we're all trying to keep up.... The good news, and the thing I always come back to, is that at the root of my job, I'm trying to recruit new outdoors-people while still preaching to the choir of veterans. To inspire more people to love being outdoors, to be safe and happy and comfy out there. Cheesy, right? But true.
—  Kristin Hostetter, Gear Editor, Backpacker


Living abroad with my family. Learning to surf. Climbing at least 30% as much time as I spend at the desk. Windows down, golden sun, loud music, driving toward the horizon. Fish tacos on the beach. A cold pint pretty much always works, too, regardless of region/climate/IBUs.
— Shannon Davis, Editor, Climbing Magazine

We half ass too many things. For me success is putting my heart and full attention into something and then seeing it come to fruition, even if it didn't work out as planned. So when I stress and freak out and work without sleeping to put out a magazine or write something, I feel incredibly proud when I get it in my hands. We made this, despite how easy it would be to let it slide. I am, however, often scared to open it up and look inside because I will see nothing but mistakes and faults and things I think I could have done better. But sometimes, years later, I will pick up an old magazine or story I wrote and look through it and say... this was damn good. Just put your everything into it. As the comedian Bill Hicks used to say, "Play it with your fucking heart." — Doug Schnitzspahn, Writer and Editor (Elevation Outdoors, Mountain Gazette, SustainAbler)

I come to work every day and it is hard for me to leave. I never can believe I get paid to market the idea that you should make the most of every day, have fun and live your life to the fullest. I find the freedom for creativity and accomplishing dreams is endless here.  I would do this job for free. The paycheck is a bonus."
— Tyler Lee, KAVU marketing manager

I see only two enduring measures of success. One is internal and comes when you know you've lived or worked true to your values and beliefs. The second is external, when you see your good works reflected in others — but only when you see them reflected in actions, not words. It's easy enough to collect praise, but that's ultimately empty. Making a positive, tangible difference in someone's life is when you know you're on the right track
-- Steve Casimiro, Editor and Publisher, Adventure Journal


Although some part of me still believes that (Olympic and World Cup) medals are the true test of success, after all is said and done, I measure success by one simple rule -- did I work my hardest before the competition and did I ski/perform to my highest potential in the race when the pressure is on. If I did that, no matter what the outcome, I was successful. The medal or prize that you win at an event is not the goal. What that medal represents -- commitment to a goal, working hard, and performing at your peak --- is the measure of success.
— Doug Lewis, Universal Sports Alpine Analyst, 1985 10th place finisher Hannenkahm, 1985 downhill bronze medalist in World Championships at Bormio, Italy

Like most people, my dreams are a little conflicting – both simple and complex. I want to feel I’m impacting the world because of my professional work. I want to have a family that thrives, is connected and has a positive impact on their community. And I dream of spending my winters in a little house on a beach in Baja, traveling through all the warm places in the world, and summers in a cabin on a river. Ultimately, I just want to feel that I’m always trying new things, pushing my boundaries personally and professionally and that I am not complacent. As cliché as it may sound, I see "arriving" as a great journey, taking advantage of the opportunities given. For now, I’m too hopeful and excited about all the stops on the way to focus on the end game.
— Stasia Raines, Director of Marketing, Outdoor Industry Foundation

My dad had a great analogy that I'll share about this; there are 3 circles of truth; how all who know me see me, how I see myself, and the ground truth (how things really are). The more aligned these circles are (goal being directly overlaid, one circle really), the more honestly I'm living in the world. The more disconnected they are, the less in touch I am. It's another measure of success, I suppose.
Kenji Haroutunian, bass player, OR All Star Industry Jam Band

On a very rare occasion, I am able strike a balance where I am happy with my performance as a husband, father, manager, mentor, athlete and community member. These times generally are my most stressful, but most fulfilling.  I know when I’ve achieved this balance through interactions with family, friends, co-workers and teammates. (And I’m willing to sacrifice a good night sleep in order to accomplish this.)
— David Fee, VP Sales and Marketing, Benchmade Knife Co.

Success means being able to live where you want, in the way you want, without using more than you need. To be healthy, and to meet the unknown with open arms and an open mind. And I think I am actually getting a little bit closer. Though actually, getting to heli ski all the time sounds pretty good … maybe you should talk to my brother.
— Ted Wardlaw, marketing man

Every time I finish a freelance project I feel successful. Every time I see a story I wrote or photos I took published, I feel successful. It's not a lasting feeling, or really one that is even recognizable at times. But when the dice rolls my way and one project is knocked down after another, a feeling of accomplishment follows. I would liken it to the pursuit of winning individual stages of Le Tour, rather than the conventional concept of "success" being the finish line of said race, if that makes sense. Having said all that, life works in such a way that not all projects or all days go as planned--there are too many disappointments to count. It requires constant effort to achieve these small, minor, perhaps insignificant successes, though that effort is what makes each worth doing. Finding pleasure in the small wins may in the end translate to an overarching feeling of success at the end.
-- Graham Hiemstra, Senior Editor, Cool Hunting

“For the most part, my business ego has already been stroked. I’ve started a company, built the brand, and get enough inquiries about buying the company that I can gauge some value and worth to what I’ve done for the last decade or so. So success at this point is really about the next generation … getting my kids to adulthood. To a place where they can start making their own choices, good and bad, but not sacrificing any part of the great outdoor lifestyle that we enjoy now.” 

— Pete Hixson, CEO Pistil Designs

As a career mountain guide I've taken over a thousand people on various wilderness adventures, helping folks to achieve their personal goals, whether it be reaching a summit or the completion of a long trek. And I've seen that ultimately the common thread among people is not the fleeting act of, say, standing at the summit that is the actual reward, but rather that their accomplishment signals the completion of a process that includes dreaming big, working hard, and earning all of the life lessons and experience that comes along with the token goal. So I view success as the conclusion of a very personal adventure; an adventure that manifests within many levels, and where we can come away having bettered ourselves and perhaps paved the way for others to follow.
Colby Brokvist, GM/Senior Backcountry Guide, Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides


I’m in the Bahamas... Is that success?
— Porter Fox, Editor & Publisher, Nowhere Travel Journal

1.07.2015

The World's Worst PR Predictions for 2015


1.  You’ll hate social media more than ever

There’s an ubergalactic thumb-wrestling match going on right now to see who disdains social media more.

Is it the increasingly isolated user … whose news feed is morphing into a steady diet of promoted posts, kitten photos, first-world-problem bragplaining, and powder cuckolding?

Or is it the producer … who like the ever-hopeful freelance writers before them, have volunteered to hitch their careers on daily milk runs to the great cow of creativity.  But to add a new wrinkle, these new economy careerists have a new glass to fill every single day. (Did you hear chat rooms are back? ...Sorry about all that time you put into the Google Plus program; turns out the platform sucks and is going nowhere... Ramp up that Instagram posting frequency....  Should we be on Ello? ... Explain to me again why those other guys have a bigger Facebook audience?  ....You’re not answering your Snapchat account. ...My nephew just got retweeted by Vin Diesel. Why don't we do that?)

This Bud’s for you, community managers.  I feel your pain.

2. You’ll wish you invented something

Like triple-baked snowsealed work gloves. 

Or standup paddle anything. 


3. You’ll start making plans for when Outdoor Retailer moves to Las Vegas

According to something I found on the internets, the Outdoor Retailer contract at the Salt Palace Convention Center runs through the end of 2016. 

Also found on the internet is the nearest available hotel room to the upcoming 2015 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show … which is a short JetBlue connection away.

For the last few years, I found it pretty damn hard to believe that the show would leave Utah while Kenji was in charge. But, since Kenji has left the building, maybe that door has finally opened. Just sayin'.

4. You’ll be asked to produce a video

Good video costs good money.  And by “good money” I mean watch-yourself-while-you-kick-yourself-in-the-balls expensive. 

The concept, the scripting, the planning, the travel, the shoot, the lighting, the terrible first take, the make up to make you look like you’re not wearing make up, the editing … oh, God, the editing …. And then finally a finished product that looks pleasantly effortless like you just whipped out your iPhone and caught a perfect moment in digital amber. That shit is hard.  And those who understand what it takes, understand what it takes.

While there are a handful of brands that are already six exits down the video highway, many of the rest are quietly shuffling their feet, hoping that brand imagery that can be sent by fax will continue to be OK for their needs. Those folks are certainly not ready to spend $100k on a video program. Or $50k. And probably not $20k either.

“Visual storytelling” isn’t marketing bullshit. It’s essential. And since many of the excellent video producers have long since bailed on the outdoor world because of the lack of budget, guess who’s gonna be on the list for that that $2000 video RFP that goes out next month?

5.  You’ll stick your head through the drywall in your office

Actually, I don’t have health insurance and I’m not planning on getting any anytime soon. I’m a healthy guy and I’ve been pretty lucky in the past.”
 -- Comment made by a media guest on day two of a backcountry fam trip, immediately after telling the group about the numerous crazy adventure-based media fam trips he’d been on in the last 12 months.

6. You’ll walk out on a keynote speaker

It’s a red wine and salt kind of reaction for an outdoor local to be lectured on anything by a non-outdoor person.  Seriously, that Cabernet literally leaps out of the damn shag carpet.

Part of that reaction is outdoor DNA, a historic reluctance to take any advice (even good advice) from 90-day wonders. But part of it is also the industry’s legitimate pride as custodians of truly special and increasingly rare experiences. This group sees itself as exceptional  ... and truly distinct from other industries in its ongoing appreciation of natural beauty and non-competitive athleticism. And until the double-digit growth slows down, it's gonna be tough to tell them otherwise.

Data crunch all you want in your pretty keynote,” says the voice in our head, “But I’ll bet you a billion dollars that if it snows three feet on Friday your entire argument is toast.”

And that voice will be right.

7. You’ll like a post on Facebook which openly shames “bad” PR people

It’ll happen. Probably as soon as this post goes live.

8.  You’ll start blogging again

When blogging first hit the scene, it was mind-blowing cool. Man, writing that sentence sure makes me feel old.

But it was. It was long-format bantering on big meaty topics. It was one-upmanship. It was wordplay. People got excited. People got mad. People lawyered up.  It was like the rap-off scene in Eminem's “8 Mile” … if it had been done by mildly overweight insomniac startup marketing consultants with tons of time on their hands because the dot-com bubble had just burst.

Alas, blogging was hard, too. It was a long distance race rather than a sprint. You had to feed the beast with regular content. With graphic elements. With photos and colors and illustrations and links and …  

And then we found Facebook. 

Believe it or not, Facebook was truly cutting edge once upon a time. Especially for bloggers with writing block. It was slick. It was turnkey. It was unexpected.  Seriously … don’t laugh.   

The worm, however, has turned. Facebook wants your money, and is going to get it one way or another. And huddled masses of “alternative” SM channels keep on growing, faster than neglected cilantro after a spring rainstorm. 
 
So, people are dusting off their blogsAs the anchor for all social media content.  As a driving force for inbound traffic.  As a cool thing to do that builds value for a brand, not for an IPO-hopeful Twitter knockoff.

9. You’ll get a product request from a part-time SLC barista

At the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, there is understandably much fanfare about the “working media list” which is available to exhibitors and their representatives.

The list for the upcoming 2015 winter show – or at least the most recent one we’ve received – has an impressive 520 bodies on it, representing 271 media outlets. 

Out of that 271, a sizable 108 are classified as Internet-only outlets … and 71 are attending the show from the greater Salt Lake area.

The only thing harder than publishing is freelance writing. So when that barista calls, give 'em a break.

10. You’ll get stuck with a bar tab

And hopefully, my steak frites and double Crown & ginger will be on it too.