I was supposed to write a comic this week. I storyboarded out plot line after plot line, made lists of stereotypes, racked my brain until I was left doodling little Slayer S's in the margins like a bored middle-schooler. The news that Powder, Bike, Surfer, and Snowboarder are shutting down over the next few months sucked all of the energy out of my storytelling. These magazines, especially Powder and Bike, had such a huge impact on me and my cohort of friends. I'm not qualified to eulogize them, but I sat down and made four paintings in an attempt to capture what they meant to me.
The first issue of Powder to show up every year is a big deal. It signals the start of the real season of anticipation. When that issue shows up in the mailbox you're allowed to wax your skis and start walking around the house in your ski boots. It's a tangible reminder that winter is near.
Before I was even a skier, before I knew what ski magazines really were, I had a friend whose parents had a stack of old issues of Powder in their bathroom. At their house I'd make excuses to visit the bathroom over and over again just to flip through their pages, learning about new skiers, new skis, new mountains. I'd never even seen a chairlift but I was a sponge for all things skiing and Powder delivered my fix.
For me, Bike magazine was always meant to be read in shops. Sure I had a subscription on and off, but it was best consumed at a sticky bar, nodding as a crusty mechanic regaled me with tales of their youth. I can't think of Bike without smelling chain lube and stale yellow beer. I'd disappear into those pages, imagining the dream trips I'd take, learning the intricacies of different suspension linkages, and soaking in the distinct flavors of every riding area they covered.
Finally, I think this holds true for a lot of people on this site, we didn't just read these magazines for entertainment, they served as inspiration. How many young skiers dream of appearing in a two-page spread? How many aspiring photographers sent off their submissions year after year, confident that any acceptance will signal the high point in their budding careers? How many college essays have been written by aspiring ski journalists imagining that they're submitting their work to this hallowed institution instead of to a tired college professor? Personally, as I've written, shot photos, and painted for other outlets, Powder and Bike were always in the back of my mind. "Someday I'll get that shot that they can't refuse." "Someday I'll be good enough at drawing to see my work show up under that masthead."
As these beloved titles close down and hopefully regroup in some fashion, we're left to contemplate how big of a hole their absence leaves in the fabric of our culture. No, they weren't perfect, but neither is skiing. They shaped generation after generation of skiers and riders, inspired us to go out and try new things, ski new lines, create new art. And for that, I'm eternally thankful.