Consumed: A Note from the Editor in Chief

Andrew McLean submitted his story on p. 76 of the Spring Issue as a Facebook message.

It was late January, and the well-known Utah-based ski mountaineer, reflecting on the 20-year history of his iconic guidebook, The Chuting Gallery, was writing from the coast of Antarctica, where he was guiding skiing from a 280-foot yacht. “For some reason, this boat can stream conference video and World Cup soccer but has trouble with email,” he wrote me. Like it often does, Facebook connected us over opposite ends of the globe.

Andrew McLean cooks up another medium for revitalization in Alaska’s Revelation Mountains. [Photo] Jim Harris

A report last August found that more than three billion people actively use social media, and according to the Pew Research Center, seven in 10 Americans use various platforms to stay connected, engage with news, share information and find entertainment. The first in that list is certainly the medium’s best virtue—especially when it helps on deadlines. But the other reasons can make Facebook feel like a schizophrenic cross between a politically charged shouting match and a highlight reel of ski-season edits. Only through some twisted content algorithm does a fact check on the State of the Union address fall alongside a review of the 10 Must-Have Ski Socks for 2018.

I’m not one to get nostalgic—nor have I been around much longer than The Chuting Gallery—but as Allan Bard, the late Sierra ski guide, once wrote, “Maybe it’s a sign of oncoming age that the days of my youth seemed a simpler time.” He was lamenting a confusing explosion of cross-country ski offerings in the ’90s; I’m talking about the distractions at our fingertips frantically vying for our attention. The average person spends upwards of two hours a day consuming social media—I’m sure I do. But stories that consume us can’t be found on Snapchat or Twitter. Only such depth exists in print.

That’s led us to make some changes, starting with the look and feel of our Spring Issue. (If you hadn’t yet noticed, compare the cover design to that of last month.) We’ve included more stories than usual, given them more space and separated them with fewer ads to focus beyond the now and onto enduring people and timeless ideas. Call it a response to today’s overload of quick-hit information. We’re taking the opportunity to do more with our medium, to value human stories over computer algorithms, to play to the strengths of the long-form word and the large-format photo.

In his essays published in the Spring Issue, Allan Bard sermonizes about the refreshing value of becoming immersed in the outdoors. “Skiing and mountains are only the medium for this revitalization, not the message,” he writes. “The message we receive is the importance of a quiet mind and satisfied soul.” Those virtues can be found not only by setting out into the alpine but also by settling into a story.

Moving forward, we’re going to dig deeper to make our minds a little quieter. And, if you like it, we’ll continue on this path. So let us know.


Tyler Cohen, Editor in Chief

This story first appeared in Backcountry #121, the Spring Issue. Buying a subscription is the best way to show your support, so click here to subscribe and to experience the new Backcountry.

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