25th Anniversary Editor’s Note: Tripping Forward

Twenty-five years? Backcountry? You’re kidding. No? That’s 175 dog years—a long stretch, regardless of your species. And yeah, it’s cliché, but what a long, strange trip it’s been. Long, yes, but primarily strange. I have 2.75 years until I retire from teaching, but who’s counting? I am. And perhaps it’s due to the inauspicious commencement of my career at Lamoille Union High School in northern Vermont—the same year Howie, now CEO of Height of Land Publications, was a freshman.

Back then, he was Adam Howard, and he was not a model student. He missed a lot of school, and when it snowed, he was absent…and so was I. I hope I didn’t have much else in common with a ninth grader, but we did share skiing. If we passed each other on the slopes when classes were in session, I didn’t see him, and he did not see me; by the time he was a senior in AP Literature and failing to read Crime and Punishment, I was chasing him and his buddies through backcountry pow at Smugglers’ Notch. Mum was the word.

Jump ahead a few years. I was teaching elsewhere. I got a call in 2002, and Howie was on the line. Would I be interested in copyediting a magazine he had acquired? He cited my draconian correcting of the papers he sometimes handed in and told me I’d be paid in pizza, beer and gear. I was in. It began in the cramped attic of a run-down building in Jeffersonville—the crew finishing stories, me crossing out words and adding commas, pizza boxes everywhere and a pair of new gloves for my efforts. The mag was stapled on the spine back then.

How people and places have changed. I’ve seen a slew of editors, ad men, graphic designers, managers—Howie, Dostal, Dostie, Drew, Tyler, Lucy, Mike and Mike, Justin, Jeff, Lance and Holly. I have forgotten more than I remember. Then there was the upgrade to the ratty office with a microwave and a real refrigerator. Then on to the first floor of the building now owned by Backcountry, which boasts offices with a real reception area. There were the Gear Test Weeks at Jay Peak, Vt. and Powder Mountain, Utah, complete with rooming with Dostal, lectures by luminaries, plastic pink flamingos, mullets and meals by Howie’s mom. I even sat in a hot tub with an old student and his wife and kids. Talk about strange. And the gear? I have pants, jackets, skis, bindings, boots, poles and junk I cannot even identify. The magazine is now bound in glue, and is bigger, thicker and better than ever.

It’s been quite a journey. I am proud to have been a member of the team and proud of that kid who didn’t do his AP reading but somehow managed to resurrect Backcountry and make it the flagship of the industry. Thanks for the ride, Howie. It’s been a trip. —Rob Bohn, copy editor, 2002-2019

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