Behind the Memes: Uphill Fiend share more than just jokes

Uphill Fiend follows their passion of poking fun at tele skiing. [Meme] Uphill Fiend

Three years ago, an eight-year-old explained memes to me. I wish I’d written his definition down, because I’m sure that it was better than my own descriptions of the combinations of pictures and captions to create culturally relevant jokes. Now, in 2021, there are memes for every niche, from movies to politics to—you guessed it—backcountry skiing. In the past year, two anonymous memers under the Instagram handle Uphill Fiend have entertained us backcountry skiers and riders and now have over 10,000 followers. But the fiends have more to say than just poking fun at tele skiers and splitboarders. With ever posting, they take the time to think about how to educate the backcountry community and create a more inclusive space in the mountains, and I was recently able to interview one half of the anonymous duo. —Betsy Manero

Backcountry Magazine: What’s the Uphill Fiend origin story?

Uphill Fiend: It all started when we were sitting around drinking beers. We both love memes and climbing memes, but we were like, “There’s no backcountry ski memes! Why aren’t there? We want those!” And then we were thought that maybe we should just make them ourselves. That was how we started it because we couldn’t find the content we were stoked on, ironically. That was a year ago. Then I think maybe we just got more in tuned with that specific meme culture, but I think that it definitely started some momentum, and I guess it makes sense with the pandemic, but last spring and this summer and fall, there was definitely an uptick.

BCM: It seems like sending each other memes was the way that we could stay connected for a little while.

UF: Totally! Once we were in lock down, we were skiing so much. It was just all that we were doing, so [memeing] was a great outlet. Kind of a perfect coalescence of timing.

BCM: When you started it, was suddenly, overnight it felt like you had a ton of followers, or was it a slow trickle and suddenly there was one moment where you got a big break?

UF: It was pretty slow and steady from the start, and then I think when Len Necefer got involved—he’s the meme king. I think he reposted one. And then Cody Townsend reposted, and that was when we were freaking out. We were so excited. Those where some major moments in our meme careers. And, Voilé, they’ve been interacting with us from the get-go.

BCM: Did you ever think you were going to hit 10,000 followers?

UF: Oh, god no. This started as such a joke with making each other laugh and making our friends laugh. But then when we started to get into the thousands, we were like, wait, that would be kind of cool. That would be fun. But, no, that was very unexpected for sure.

BCM: How much of your time does this take up?

UF: Not that much time. I think we’ve had a couple nights where we sit down and bang out some memes just so that we have a stockpile. It’s definitely gotten harder because it’s hard to be funny consistently. But honestly, the best memes, those just come easily. You’re scrolling through Instagram, and you’re like, oh, that’s funny. Let’s do our version, as memes go. You see something that gives you inspiration and you put your own spin on it. I wouldn’t spend more than 10 minutes a day on this.

BCM: With this winter being as crazy as it was for some many different reasons, how do you think that your page has helped to keep the backcountry community together and positive?

UF: I truly don’t know. I just hope that people get a chuckle and think it’s funny and relatable. That’s the biggest goal. It’s hard to assess the influence of a meme on something so big as the backcountry community…. I know that we definitely helped educate some people, which felt good, and that just having memes for entertainment’s sake, but also interspersing them with education and awareness and different issues in the backcountry, whether that’s inclusivity or staying safe in the backcountry or that type of thing. I think humor creates a safer place to have those dialogues because it’s less intense. We can all laugh but we can also all be introspective.

BCM: I have noticed that you do post about diversity and education and are really thoughtful when you reply to comments about people being sexist or racist on your page. Is there a future backcountry community that you would like to see?

UF: I’m pretty new to backcountry skiing to be honest, which is also a funny thing, so it’s hard to know what was there before. And I’m fairly new to skiing in general, which is also kind of funny. But obviously there’s so much historic racism and sexism in the ski industry, and accessibility issues in the ski industry and in backcountry.

I think that backcountry’s a really powerful sport because it requires you to be intentional in a way that resort skiing doesn’t. You have to plan your route, trust your partners, figure out snow conditions, figure out beta and you also have to grapple with fear and taking chances. I think all those tools can be applied to solve bigger issues in the world. Like, if you’re able to stand on the edge of a 50-degree couloir and risk your life then I’m sorry, but you should be able to stand up for equity. If you see something racist or sexist, then you know that you can be scared, so know that you can take that chance. Learning to embrace reasonable fear is a powerful tool, and I hope that backcountry skiers can lead the ski industry and address some of these systemic problems and the socio-economic aspects of skiing.

Resort skiing is just so unreasonably inaccessible to most people, and also requires vast amounts of resources and just exacerbates climate change in a lot of respects, especially with people flying to come to the resort and spending all this money and spending all these resources, so I think backcountry offers a super viable alternative to not spend as much money, not be such a huge user of fossil fuels and hopefully also using the skills and the thoughtfulness to address systemic inequities that exist.

BCM: Was there ever a meme that you guys didn’t post because you were afraid of cancel culture?

UF: No, I’m not really scared of cancel culture because I think usually if you’re being really sexist or racist or misogynist. We aspire to never be those ways and I stand by our memes. We’re intentional and will talk things over. But mostly we just live to push the buttons of splitboarders and tele skiers. That’s our true favorite thing. I love getting under the skin of an agro person because it’s so silly. What we do, skiing and snowboarding, is such a silly sport and to get so angry about it is so funny to me. I think we just need to keep what we’re doing in perspective. This is skiing. This is recreation. This is supposed to be fun, and if it’s not then you’re doing something wrong.

BCM: Do you have any ideas on where the memeing is going to go next? What’s coming up on the horizon?

UF: Both of us are moving from the ski town that we live in to go to grad school, so I think that that will mean that changes are on the horizon. I’ll be way removed from skiing in general, unfortunately, due to where I’m going to school and the other fiend, he’ll be more in touch. But I don’t know, we’ll have to assess as the year progresses. We have a couple ideas for more long term, because I don’t know if we can be funny forever. Or if memes will be relevant forever. But this is just for fun, so we don’t spend too much time analyzing anything.

BCM: Anything else to add?

UF: Something that I sometimes struggle with is living in this ski town where everyone I ski with is so good. My friends literally were in the Olympics, and it’s comparing yourself to really insane standards. Just remember that everyone has a place in the community. If you love to backcountry ski, then you’re a backcountry skier. We’re poking fun at people, but we love backcountry skiing so much. This has just been such a fun way to be a part of the community. We’re stoked to spread the stoked.

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  1. Arnav Chaturvedi says:

    If you are going to highlight a page for its ski memes and put the fact that they post about racism and sexism in the industry you should highlight the pages that have done that along side them. Uphill fiend often reposts things from womb cork/womb tang and skiingisracist which are both pages ran by women or POCs which deserve a spotlight and are more at the forefront of this battle against a racist and misogynistic industry/culture. They are well deserving of a shoutout here and arguable are responsible for the impression that uphill fiend is a part of that battle as well.

    • Jim Horst Laaser says:

      Es geht um Klaustrophobie! Leute die sich nicht aussen können weil sie es nicht verstehen. Beim Sport ist das was anderes!

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