Powder

POWDER THE SKIER'S MAGAZINE

WHILE LANDING AT THE JACKSON AIRPORT on my way to Powder Week in February 2007, the plane’s brakes failed. With the flight attendants screaming, “Crash positions! Assume crash positions!” and the passengers looking at each other and wondering if we missed the part in the safety demonstration about crash positions, we shot off the end of the runway into a field of deep snow. The 737 ground to a halt 100 or so yards from the tarmac, and as we evacuated, the wing burst into flames. It was, in a word, terrifying.

By the time we made it up to the mountain, much of the Powder Week crew had turned in for the night, and those who were still up hadn’t heard about the plane. We spent a few minutes convincing everyone we weren’t messing with them, at which point their raucous incredulity turned into shock and concern.

This went on for a while, but eventually the booze did its thing and the night began to feel like Powder Week. So did the rest of the event—four days of lapping Granite Canyon, making up excuses for not hitting the big cliffs, and a Gelande Quaff that I won (if by “win” you mean “didn’t throw up on anyone”). I didn’t much think about the brake failure again until my flight home descended into Los Angeles, when I had a mini panic attack.

But it didn’t last. While I could viscerally recall the feeling of the wheels touching down and the plane refusing to decelerate as expected, I couldn’t focus on it. After all, I wasn’t coming home from a trip where my plane crash-landed; I was coming home from the best ski trip of the year. So what if it all started with a little brake malfunction?

By now, you know the Powder staff is being furloughed and the future of the magazine is unclear. It’s one more shitty note in the cacophony of misery that is 2020, and I’ve done my share of wallowing in what it all means. But the truth is that the reasons aren’t that interesting: it’s not making enough money, and the current ownership—as of press time—doesn’t want to sell it.

You know what is interesting? It’s getting cold in the mountains. Pretty soon, it will start snowing, and not long after that there’s going to be winter’s first dump, followed by your first powder day. You’ll froth your bits right off and spend the rest of the season chasing that feeling. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch it three, four, or 15 more times before spring. If you do catch it 15 more times, you’ll probably be unemployed or single or both, and you won’t even care.

Maybe our crack observers of global ski culture won’t be out there gathering beautiful imagery and crafting insightful words with which to make a new volume of magazines, but they’ll still be out there. I’m not saying all that we’ve written and photographed about skiing over the last 49 years hasn’t mattered (it has, as you will gather from the following letters of tribute), I’m saying it hasn’t mattered more than the skiing itself.

And I know as well as anyone what Powder means. My career basically started here, in the summer of 1995, when my college roommate and I won the guest-editor contest and joined some guy we thought was the most Tahoe Bro to ever Tahoe Bro, but who turned out to be soon-to-be-legendary ski filmmaker Scott Gaffney, at the offices in San Juan Capistrano, California. Meeting editor Steve Casimiro, director of photography Dave Reddick, and senior editor Rob Story and realizing that even my parents would have to admit they kind of had real jobs—despite the fact that they had all surfed that morning and somehow still had goggle tans in June—changed the trajectory of my life.

Over the course of that path, I’ve been forced many times to relearn two lessons: Don’t take anything for granted, and don’t take anything too seriously. The Powder family has lost far more than our share of members through the years, and Powder itself has been a source of many of the laughs that have gotten us through dark times—or did you think the dude in military arctic whites and white face paint was serious? That same dude is the one who once went to work in his birthday suit, because it was his birthday.

In a roundabout way, it’s why I managed to spend those four days in Jackson without giving the plane crash a second thought. After those initial beers that first night, the group consensus was: Sure, that was heavy, but shit, man, there’s skiing to do!

Writing these words during a pandemic, on the eve of an election that feels like it might tear the country apart, there’s plenty for all of us to worry over at the moment. Which is why the last thing I want to

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