Thank You For One Year of The Storm
You are the steamboat pilots of our time
In 1883, Mark Twain dropped a little-remembered tome of miscellany and adventure called Life on the Mississippi. Romanticizing the vanished culture of pre-Civil War-era Mississippi River steamboat pilots, Twain wrote:
They were likewise welcome because all pilots are tireless talkers, when gathered together, and as they talk only about the river they are always understood and are always interesting. Your true pilot cares nothing about anything on earth but the river, and his pride in his occupation surpasses the pride of kings.
It was to connect with people who knew skiing and ski areas as deeply as Twain’s pilots knew every sandbar and stream on the 1,000-mile stretch of the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans that I launched The Storm one year ago today.
I didn’t know if anyone would read it. I’d never worked in the ski media or industry and I didn’t know anyone who did or had. I’d never lived in a ski town. I’d spent the past two decades, instead, in New York City, a onetime ski media hub that the industry had decisively fled decades ago because, well, there is no skiing here.
I nearly quit the whole operation before I started. There was a moment last June when I had compiled a list of the general managers and CEOs and website founders and journalists whom I hoped to interview on the podcast. I had them sorted and prioritized and hypothetically scheduled in a notebook I had bought for that purpose.
And then I realized I had no way to contact any of them. And that they had no reason to respond if I did.
This whole thing, I thought, is idiotic. No one is going to talk to me.
Imagine it: you run the largest and most important ski area in the Northeast, and a guy you’ve never heard of cold emails you with an interview request for a yet-to-be-launched podcast. Why would Killington General Manager Mike Solimano say yes to that? But he did and that conversation became the first piece of content ever released under the banner of The Storm.
That email went to two people. One of them was my wife. But the list grew rapidly, first with the help of the Northeast Skiology Facebook group and New York Ski Blog, then organically. When Covid hit, subscriber numbers froze for three weeks, then tripled as The Storm pivoted from general-interest ski life to current events, to the pandemic and to diversity on the slopes and to the rapidly evolving season pass landscape.
Somewhere in there, The Storm became a real thing, cited in Powder and occasionally breaking news. Last month, Mountain Gazette signed on as the podcast’s first sponsor. In this strange year, there has been plenty to write and talk about. This one-year anniversary message is the 119th mailing from The Storm.
Just about every time I sent out an email, at least one of you replied. Sometimes you have thoughts or additional information to share. Sometimes you just want to chat about skiing. Sometimes you want to tell me I’m a dumbass. I try to answer every one. Often these turn into long exchanges. Why wouldn’t they? I have found the people who talk only about skiing, who care nothing about anything else on earth, who are always interesting because of it.
I’ve been surprised at how many @skiresort email addresses have subscribed; how many of you have written this Northeast-focused newsletter from the Midwest, the Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, California; how civil and thoughtful 99 percent of the emails have been. The Storm is a community, dispersed and walled off from the social media bar brawl but faster than the four-times-per-year magazine, where we can sit on wooden barrels smoking pipes and riffing on the issues of the day, a snowy digital approximation of Twain’s 19th century river hounds.
Unfortunately, we live in an era in which there is less quality writing about our sport than ever before, as the imminent closing of Powder tragically underscores. True, the social media vortex spins out an endless stream of content. Most of it is garbage. I hope I am making something that is not garbage. I hope it sates that hunger we all have for this thing that is seasonal and fleeting and invigorating and hard to understand by those who are not a part of it. I hope it is worth your time.
I often recall a college professor, citing a Shakespeare play I can’t remember, explaining to our class that time is the most valuable gift we can give. We all get the same amount. It is free but not infinite, though the things we may do with it are. To share that resource with someone is therefore a treasure beyond imagining.
So I extend, to each of you, a sincere thank-you for your time, for reading, for listening, for sharing, for writing back, for being part of this thing that could not exist without your willingness to share with me your one most precious resource, and to unite over the truly remarkable thing that is skiing.
Before I sent a single email from The Storm, I spent five months planning the whole ecosystem, plotting out a (since abandoned) content cadence; researching, booking, recording, and producing the podcast; choosing an email platform; finding a logo; and writing. I wrote because I was afraid I would run out things to write about if I didn’t and I wrote because it was something tangible I could do in those uncertain days before I’d booked my first podcast guest and I wrote because it’s probably the only thing I know how to do at more than a lower-intermediate level other than skiing. These nine columns, which I peppered throughout the first few months of The Storm, were the results of that desperate energy. Since the majority of you joined after their release, I thought I’d share them again today. If you’re wondering, I do plan to write more like this in the future:
COVID-19 & Skiing Podcasts: Author and Industry Veteran Chris Diamond | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | NSAA CEO Kelly Pawlak | Berkshire East/Catamount Owner & Goggles for Docs founder Jon Schaefer | Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis Cofounder Jeff Thompson | Doppelmayr USA President Katharina Schmitz | Mt. Baldy GM Robby Ellingson | Alterra CEO Rusty Gregory | NSAA Director of Risk & Regulatory Affairs Dave Byrd
The Storm Skiing Podcasts: Killington & Pico GM Mike Solimano | Plattekill owners Danielle and Laszlo Vajtay | New England Lost Ski Areas Project Founder Jeremy Davis | Magic Mountain President Geoff Hatheway | Lift Blog Founder Peter Landsman | Boyne Resorts CEO Stephen Kircher | Burke Mountain GM Kevin Mack | Liftopia CEO Evan Reece | Berkshire East & Catamount Owner & GM Jon Schaefer | Vermont Ski + Ride and Vermont Sports Co-Publisher & Editor Lisa Lynn| Sugarbush President & COO Win Smith | Loon President & GM Jay Scambio | Sunday River President & GM Dana Bullen | Big Snow & Mountain Creek VP of Sales & Marketing Hugh Reynolds | Mad River Glen GM Matt Lillard| Indy Pass Founder Doug Fish | National Brotherhood of Skiers President Henri Rivers | Winter 4 Kids & National Winter Activity Center President & CEO Schone Malliet | Vail Veterans Program President & Founder Cheryl Jensen | Mountain Gazette Owner & Editor Mike Rogge | Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows President & CMO Ron Cohen | Aspiring Olympian Benjamin Alexander | Sugarloaf GM Karl Strand – Parts One & Two | Cannon GM John DeVivo