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The Editor’s Dilemma

Greetings from the desk of Satan. It’s a bit warm for skiing here in the south, but all in all it’s a lovely day. Let’s see what’s on the “to do” list…elevate Mariah Carey to superstar status…check…put Newt in charge of the House…check…retire Calvin & Hobbes…check…destroy all secret spots and cool little ski areas by publishing them in Powder Magazine…check. Wow, that was easy—I even have time left to pop in on Nixon.

If you believe some of the letters we get, Powder is the embodiment of evil and the great destroyer of all that is cool and undiscovered. A week doesn’t go by that some reader doesn’t complain about something, the recent nadir being October’s “Little Areas that Rock,” which generated an amazing outpouring of contempt and vitriol for drawing attention to out of the way places.

Human nature being what it is (smug, self-righteous, and egocentric), it’s easy to dismiss people who disagree with us as kooks and cranks, but this time I have to concur with the kooks and cranks: By reporting on undiscovered little areas, whether resorts or backcountry, we risk ruining them forever. A few killer photos, reports of freshies lasting days after a storm, and—wham—the powder’s gone by 10 and Starbucks has a drive-thru on the access road.

This is our great dilemma. Obviously, the very existence of Powder depends on publishing new and interesting places to ski, and words like “undiscovered,” “untracked,” and “unknown” are mighty attractive to skiers jonesing for face shots. But we’re skiers, too, and the last thing we want is to return to a favorite haunt a few years from now and find it crowded and condo-infested, especially knowing that one of our articles might have contributed to the change. Far too many little ski meccas are falling to the blade of economics and the mediocrity of consolidation without our help.

But what to do? Stop publishing? Stop publishing stories on little areas? Only let people who promise not to ruin things buy the magazine? Every time I ask, the Magic 8-Ball says, “Answer hazy. Try again.”

Confusing matters is the fact that telling you about a place doesn’t guarantee its downfall. Indeed, the reason we publish many of our stories is that we want to celebrate (and hopefully preserve) the idiosyncratic, character-filled little areas that rock, and maybe along the way remind you how fragile funkiness can be. But, as good as our intentions are, once the mag’s in the mail or on the newsstand, there’s nothing we can do except trust that you’re trying to keep cool things cool as long as you can in the face of inevitable change.

So, in the absence of clear solutions, we just muddle along, using our instincts, keeping the sacred things secret and treating the rest with respect, never violating a trust and never giving away a stash. This will never be enough for some people, but I hope that most of you will realize we’re just skiers, skiers who want to protect more than we harm, and who more than anything else want to preserve untracked snow for everyone…especially ourselves.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 24.6, February 1996. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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