Powder Magazine shuts down after 49 years in print

I’ve written and edited many obituaries in my tenure as an editor at Backcountry and now as editorial director at Height of Land Publications. It’s part of the job, covering outdoor adventure sports. But the last year or so has marked an odd shift in the pieces we write in memoriam.

Last August, two competing titles of Backcountry’s sister publication Cross Country Skier closed their doors within a single week of each other. A few months later, right at the beginning of 2020, Dirt Rag—a close competitor of our sister mountain bike title, Mountain Flyerannounced its closure. The losses hurt like the passing of an individual, and seeing them stack up has become a disturbing, too-close-to-home trend.

The latest publications to fall in this pattern include Powder, Bike, Surfer and Snowboarder, which Adventure Journal reported over the weekend will be closing down over the next few months.

I wasn’t surprised on Saturday to hear rumors that Powder might be closing—the economic fallout of the pandemic has been hard on the publishing industry, and ever since Powder and the other titles of The Enthusiast Network (TEN) were rather tumultuously acquired by American Media Inc. in February 2019, I’ve been curious about what a company known for publishing tabloids, including the National Enquirer, would do with an icon of core action sports media. But I was surprised by how quickly the rumors were confirmed, and how swiftly the closures will occur.

Adventure Journal reported Sunday that print and digital products for Bike, Powder and Surfer and print for Snowboarder will be closed; staffs for Bike and Surfer were furloughed Friday, while those for Powder and Snowboarder will be furloughed in November. The story, written by Adventure Journal founder Steve Casimiro, a 12-year editor of Powder and the founding editor of Bike, shared that this news came from company insiders and friends at the closing titles.

Powder confirmed this news on Monday, October 5. “Effective November 20, 2020…operations of the magazine, our website, and our social channels will be paused,” Powder editor Sierra Schaffer wrote. “We do not know if or when this hiatus will end.”

American Media didn’t say if the closures are permanent, Casimiro noted before eulogizing so well the influence and impact that these four titles have had for decades on their respective sports and communities. As always, his reflections on the situation feel spot on, including his encouragement of readers to support—with their dollars—the small, independent publishers who are fighting the good fight, including his Adventure Journal, our titles at Height of Land Publications, the newly reborn Mountain Gazette, Funny Feelings (Fly Fish Journal, Frequency, The Ski Journal), Big Stone (Rock and Ice, Trail Runner) and The Surfer’s Journal. I’d highly recommend reading Casimiro’s story and checking out the recent letter that Backcountry’s editor-in-chief, Lucy Higgins, penned to our readers.

While we think and talk of other magazines like Powder and Dirt Rag as competition, they—like us—are each critical threads in the fabric of our sports’ cultures and communities. And the staff who work(ed) there are motivated not as much by money as by the work itself and the lifestyle that goes along with it. As I wrote following Dirt Rag’s closure, competition pushes everyone to be better; it offers diverse readers different outlets with which they can identify; it provides multiple spaces for writers and photographers to ply their craft and earn at least some of their living; and it represents a robust industry, in which there’s support for honest, quality journalism.

This competition is a healthy rivalry that leads to progress and the pursuit of betterment—we dissect covers, analyze pricing, compare our stories and photography and paper quality, which ultimately leads to a better magazine and experience for reader. Regularly evaluating Powder in part led to Backcountry’s new logo and cover style, redesigned last year; it’s pushed us to include more stories in each issue; and it’s why we began our long-form Contours profiles of mountain ranges a few years ago. Powder helped shaped Backcountry, far beyond Height of Land CEO Adam Howard’s internship under Steve Casimiro’s tutelage.

When a competitor is struck from the newsstand, there’s no windfall for anybody, really—not for us or photographers or writers or, most importantly, the community. There’s one less magazine to draw you excitedly out to your mailbox. There are fewer stories that deeply capture the places and people and events that are central to the sports that define our lives. There are fewer large, crisp printed photos that transport you from your living room to the mountains. There are fewer pages to become immersed in.

For 49 years, Powder did all these things and did them very, very well. And skiing will be less rich without it.

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Comments

  1. Glad you are still fighting the good fight.

  2. I have a digital subscription to Cyclist, the excellent ad-free UK magazine, that costs $50 a year. I think my Powder digital subscription was less than $10. ( I thought it was a great bargain for such a well-done publication). Cyclist thrives because a lot of older, affluent folks are avid cyclists. There are not a great many older, affluent skiers who venture out-of-bounds in search of powder, unless they are riding a helicopter. They are skiing with their kids in bounds at resorts. Powder was publishing for a fairly small and young audience, most of whose members are not motivated to pay for content about skiing when so much of it is free. While I really enjoyed reading Powder, I always wondered how they were making it. I also wondered at times why I was paying for it because it seemed to me that all the content was eventually posted for free on the website. Here’s hoping the talented staff can find other work in publishing.

  3. STEVEN BOROS says:

    NOOOOOOOOO

  4. Chris Hendrickson says:

    This sucks more than a huge bowl full of frozen chunder chicken heads in whiteout fog!

  5. Terry B McClellan says:

    Unbelievable an iconic magazine like Powder is going down the tubes. With all the advertising pages in this magazine it’s hard to believe they weren’t making money.

  6. Powder got political and quite frankly I like to read about skiing.. it’s a shame yet maybe the editors will finally step back and cover topics skiers want to read about .. Skiing is a break from the constant day to day bs about how we are suppose to live our lives.

  7. Well said.

  8. Todd Eastman says:

    Thanks Tyler for your comments. Prior to BC Mag becoming the player it has become, Powder Mag filled the gaping void between Alpine and Nordic. As some of us have spent nearly our entire ski lives striding between these two realms, I can only be glad that there are still publications that bring these fine pursuits to the public.

  9. Tyler—thank you so much for the acknowledgment. One of the biggest challenges we have as publishers is reminding (uh, nagging?) readers to support us. There’s so much inertia to opening your wallet when “content” all around you is free. But as I point out in my piece at AJ, nothing is free. The level of quality you’re achieving is hard work and requires dedication. There’s simply no comparison between the level of Backcountry and the content mills that seem to get all the traffic. Readers, if you haven’t yet subscribed to Backcountry, do it now.

    Also, proof of how dynamic our industry is, in the week since you wrote this, Rock & Ice et. al. have been purchased by the owner of Climbing. Death, consolidation, or independence, pick one.

    • Tyler Cohen says:

      Thank YOU for the acknowledgement of our titles in your writing, Steve! And for being a leader in telling readers just how important it is to support print. Just bought my mom a gift subscription to AJ for her birthday!

  10. You pay for the product or you ARE the product.

  11. Frank (tele.skier) says:

    I ordered another year of backcountry today to support you guys. Hope you all stay healthy and get plenty of snow.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Il direttore editoriale della casa editrice di Backcountry, Tyler Cohen, ha scritto un interessante articolo sulla chiusura di Powder. «Il monitoraggio regolare di Powder ha portato in parte al nuovo logo e allo stile di copertina […]

  2. […] Along with Powder, it was reported and confirmed that Surfer, Bike, and Snowboarder magazines would …. Although A360 Media has not indicated which closures are permanent, there is no doubt that the decision to halt the production of these four major magazine titles has had an adverse effect on the readers and those employed by these publications. […]

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