Two years ago today, I hit “send” on the first Storm Skiing Newsletter, a podcast interview with Killington General Manager Mike Solimano. The date, October 13, was deliberate. It was on this day, some years before, that I had entered the workforce as a bagger at Meijer, the 24-hour superstore best described to outsiders as Michigan’s version of Super Walmart.
The date was easy to remember. It was stamped on every paycheck as my “anniversary date.” On this day every year, my vacation time reset. Paid vacation at 16 years old – that’s what a union job will get you.
But that’s not the reason I’ve clung to that date. No one had wanted to hire me. Over several months, I’d put in dozens of applications, including several each at McDonald’s and Meijer. Never even a call-back. A 16-year-old with no experience and no connections – tough sell. But October 13 was the date I broke through. I stayed at Meijer for five years, and I’ve been steadily employed ever since.
Maybe, with The Storm, I could break through again. Not that I’m a cosmic calendars guy or anything. But that date seemed like a good anchor.
But it was just a starting line. The Storm, as I saw it, needed to accomplish three things to break through. It needed to be consistent. It needed to be good. And it needed to matter.
Consistency was the easy part. With skiing, there is plenty to write about. Even in summer. I don’t get writer’s block. I probably have the opposite problem – an editor would be helpful. And besides, writing is almost impulsive for me; any moment that I’m not writing, I’m teetering on the edge of an existential panic attack. That first year, I sent out 119 emails. This past year, 101. Credit Covid lockdowns with year one’s prolific output. My goal is 100 emails per year. Enough but not too much. Consistent.
Making the newsletter good was somewhat more difficult. Because that’s hard to define, first of all. Does being “good” mean that it’s entertaining? Accurate? Funny? Shareable? Comprehensible? Fair? Researched? Does reason trump passion without dulling it? Does the newsletter establish its own culture and inside jokes without sliding into self-referential nonsense? Do people want to read it? It would seem so – the subscriber list keeps growing. But the answers to these questions very much lean on personal taste and worldview, and most of you are in a far better position than I to say whether I achieved this.
Making The Storm matter has been the most challenging piece. On Oct. 13, 2019, I had no press credentials, no name recognition, no sources, no body of work, no budget. But I did love skiing, had long been a student of it, driven by an unhinged curiosity about how ski areas grew, shrank, adapted, evolved, thrived or failed. It was that impulse that led to the podcast – talk to people who run ski areas. No one else seemed to be doing this. If I cared about lifts and expansions and megapass coalitions, then other people must too. And since I did not have the contacts to break news, the newsletter would complement the podcast with analysis of the trends in lift-served skiing.
I spent five months mapping out the cadence, structure, tone, and technological backbone of The Storm prior to launching it. To make the whole thing more manageable, I decided to focus on the small but important region of the country where I live and do most of my skiing. My initial tagline: “Exploring the business, history, and culture of Northeast skiing.”
That worked for a long time. It helped me build The Storm from a concept into something tangible. In some ways, I’d broken through: I made contacts, built a library of work, occasionally broke news. I’d found, it seemed, a formula for both growth and relevance.
But somewhere in there, my focus started bleeding out of the Northeast. First with Covid, following the initial 2020 shutdowns. Then with megapasses. Then with season passes in general. The boundaries I’d drawn around my coverage area began to seem, not restrictive, but unnecessary. I’d grown up in the Midwest. Had been skiing the West consistently since a roadtrip to Copper Mountain in 1995. I knew these places. The formula that worked in the Northeast – mountain manager interviews, written trends analysis – could be applied to the entire country.
And so, The Storm has gone national. Effective, well, about five or six weeks ago, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. But the anniversary presented a nice opportunity to explain myself.
There will be mistakes. Such as when I made what I thought was a very funny joke about Palisades Tahoe possibly renaming their Squaw Creek lift “Resort Chair”:
And Cody Townsend was like “hey Dumbass you have no idea what you’re talking about,” (but in a very understated and matter-of-fact way):
So, yeah. And they did rename it “Resort Chair.” Of course.
Many of you know as much about skiing, and as much about your locals, as Cody Townsend, and I have learned a lot from the messages we’ve exchanged. Encouragement from skiers outside of the Northeast was, in fact, probably the biggest factor driving the pivot to national. So today I would like to ask for your thoughts: about this pivot to a wider coverage area, about the focus or format of the newsletter and podcast, about the irregular (but consistent) publishing schedule, or anything else about The Storm.
I’d like to know, because I’d like to continue to evolve The Storm. As a platform, yes, but also as a business. Eventually, I will need to generate some income off this. It takes an enormous amount of time, energy, focus, and commitment to keep this going. We left hobby status here a long time ago. Eventually – probably within the next year – I will enable paid subscriptions. Some content, including the podcast, will remain free. But some will not. I welcome any thoughts on this potential change as well.
I’m not there yet. For now, I am focused on growing the newsletter audience. That means knowing what The Storm is and what it’s trying to achieve – and acknowledging when it has become something else. Even as I’ve expanded my scope, I’ve narrowed my focus. I don’t write, as most of you know, about ski racing, gear, weather, dining, après, ski cars, pro skiers, parks, or backcountry. The “culture” part of my initial tagline – again “exploring the business, history, and culture of Northeast skiing” – was, I decided, the component I’m least interested in and least-capable of talking about. So rather than replace “Northeast” with “United States,” I created a new motto for The Storm:
I thank you, very sincerely, for reading. I have smart readers - you are as much the brains of skiing as the people running the mountains (well, some of you are running the mountains). Some of you have been with me since those first weeks, a fact that I find both incredible and humbling. I’m not sure where The Storm will be in two more years, but I hope you’ll be with me to find out.
I discovered The Storm in the early months of this year while (religiously) browsing Liftblog, when one of your podcasts was linked in one of the News Roundups. Discovering the podcast was incredibly exciting for me, as skiing, aerial ropeways and the ski industry in general has always been a major fascination of mine ever since I was a kid. To give perspective, 13 & 14 year old me had two hour long discussions with the lift ops manager of Sun Valley Idaho two years in a row, as I went to the major skiing conventions in Portland Oregon every year when I lived there. It was interesting - higher ups for ski resorts would often be the ones representing their ski resorts at that convention, and Sun Valley sent out their lift ops manager a couple years in a row, and there was 13 year old me, chatting with him about the technicalities of Sun Valley's lift fleet for hours! I also remember a great chat with the Mt. Hood Meadows vice president at age 14, discussing future plans for the ski resort while I was up there for a summer marathon.
So finding a podcast and journal that actually does a deep dive into the ski industry is as exciting as it is fresh - most snowsports related journalism focuses on its soul, which is great, but a lot of us are searching for the brains of it too, like your slogan says. You've filled a major gap in snowsports journalism and I know for a fact the readership and listenership will continue to skyrocket, as there are many passionate skiers & snowboarders out there that will naturally become curious about the inner-workings of the industry for their favorite activity.
I've learned a ton from The Storm. I'm on the opposite side of the country skiing in Washington & Idaho while you're based in the Northeast with roots in the Midwest, so all of your podcasts and writing has given me so much information about the two regions of US skiing I'm most in the dark on, which is Midwest and East Coast skiing. I knew a little bit about East Coast skiing, Killington and its sister resort Pico have been on my bucket list since I was a kid, but I knew basically nothing about Midwest skiing, and I never could have guessed how interesting that region is! Ski areas that can be described as 350 feet of vertical, 350 lifts, 350 snow guns, and artificially landscaped terrain sounds so different than what I'm used to!
Also, the humor that appears in most of your articles never fails to crack me up, even if I'm laughing like a buffoon in my workplace break room filled with people silently sitting around. Here's to hoping we get another great satire piece like your golden "Single-Day Lift Ticket at Vail Hits $1,556" article when April Fool's 2022 rolls around!
Funny story, I apparently live under a rock and I quite literally never had even heard about the Mountain Collective, Epic, Ikon and Indy Passes until I discovered The Storm... before that, I only knew about the Powder Alliance. In early 2020, I had a huge Whistler Blackcomb trip planned out and I had a ridiculous lift ticket bill, but (thankfully?) the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled and henceforth refunded those plans. Now, when I get to Whistler Blackcomb, Stevens Pass and Sun Valley next season (with Park City and Snowbasin UT, or Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood CA as backup plans if I can't get across the Canadian border), I will have an Epic Pass and not be shelling out $72-$142 each day... your enlightenment saved me a ridiculous amount of money and honestly I wouldn't have such ambitious plans for this and the 2022-2023 ski season if I didn't know about these passes. My fiance and I are rocking the Epic Pass for the first time ever this season and we are incredibly excited, and the 2022-2023 season will likely see her and I rocking the Ikon Pass. Now, with the probably thousands of dollars my fiance and I have saved learning what we have on The Storm (The Pass Tracker 5000 is Snowbel Prize worthy), I'd happily pay a couple bucks a month or however you see paid-subscription in the future going because your journalism kicks ass! 99% of the time I click away when I see a paywall or use outline.com to bypass the paywall, but I'd happily subscribe and support the continued growth of The Storm. I think if you gave new readers a couple articles or couple weeks of a free trial, they'll definitely end up wanting to read more and stick around. Your influence and presence continues to grow, now we have ski resorts regularly tweeting at you or reaching out directly, and your Instagram following has pretty much tripled ever since I started following not too long ago. Cheers to continued growth and success of The Storm Skiing Journal & Podcast!
If you have any curiosities and questions about west coast skiing, feel free to reach out to me! I'm most familiar with Oregon, Washington, and Idaho which in my opinion feel like truly underrated ski regions. Save for a few stragglers way out in the middle of nowhere, I've skied almost every resort in Oregon and Washington. I remember on your podcast with Doug Fish when you were asking why White Pass, WA was one of the top resorts in Indy Pass redemptions, and I wished that one day you'd have the opportunity to check out that place - it's a complete blast! Honestly it's one of my favorite ski resorts of all time, and I'm saying that having been to big name places like Whistler Blackcomb, Sun Valley, Heavenly and Mt. Bachelor to name a few.
Man, we need a Stuart Winchester cameo in winter sports games like Steep and Rider's Republic. Lol
I really enjoy getting the alert that there is a new podcast ready to go. That's my time to decompress, open a cold beer and be transported to an awesome place I have yet to ski or revisit some great places I've been to. For 60 minutes or so I can open up the trail map and follow along with conversation, look up interesting facts and hopefully add the ski resort to my itinerary for the coming season. Unlike most media these days, I feel like I actually learn something from the Storm. Your essay about the abandoned Tuxedo Ridge was effing Pulitzer Prize worthy. Congrats on two years and thanks for putting this whole thing together.