Issue 1.1 Preview
In the beginning...

Our friends and development platform Mag+ put together a great little preview of our first issue. Check out the full story here.

Lee Cohen
On shooting early season with Sam Cohen in Toledo Chute, Alta, Utah backcountry.

Sam Cohen smells Lil's fine dining  in Toledo Chute, Alta, UTah. By Lee Cohen
Skiing the backcountry
in the early season always has a bit of a sketchy side to it. The snow pack has not consolidated much so you need to be heads up. If there has been consistent snowfall it smoothes things out a bit, and south facing aspects usually settle down within a day. But early season the hazards still lurk underneath, so it’s back to the heads up factor.

This shot of Sam ripping Toledo Chute seemed like a pretty good time to hit it, even though it was early season snowpack. One cause for definite heads-up is that before the snow pack builds up there is a sump of sorts at the bottom, a depression that would make a burial a much bigger problem than later on when it fills in and no longer exists. So it was still with a little trepidation that I watched Sammo ski the untracked line. You know, when you see something that could go wrong it causes a little pit in your stomach, even if you don’t think anything will happen. It’s the “What if?” factor that you need to always try to see, to consider what the course of action will be if something goes awry.

Toledo Chute is a perfect line, you look at it from Alta and you just want to ski it. First tracks are tasty. It has a considerable east facing tilt to it, but it is on the south facing side of the ridge separating Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons.

With all the attention to error and accidents, and people pushing the limits, I feel, as I have always felt, it is my duty as a photographer to try to keep things safe. I understand there are things athletes can do that I sometimes will question, and I try to understand the fine line between them knowing their own abilities and what is safe or unsafe. Much of the cutting edge has to do with athletes being in tune with their own abilities, and for those of us without those abilities it can be tough to discern what is or is not doable. I have learned to have faith in my skiers’ judgments but will not hesitate to voice my concerns. None of us are always right and hindsight is always 20-20. Things can go wrong in skiing even when things are going right, it is a very fine line. Nobody sets out to do something wanting to get hurt. —Lee Cohen

See a clip of Sam ripping Toledo Chute here.

Sam Cohen in Toledo Chute by Dubsatch Collective from Indie Skier on Vimeo.

Searching for Samodiva
Myths, Powder and True Love, Bulgarian Style
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  • Myth, religion and superstition have all shaped the Bulgarian mentality. Here, an Orthodox Christian church in Sofia.
  • While many faces in the country are lined with the efforts of surviving through communism and the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Bulgarians are also quick to smile.
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  • Sometimes you don’t get what you want, but you get what you need. At least the mystery meat was served hot. Ben Wannamaker and Joe Schuster digging into dinner at the Rila 7 Lakes.
  • The remnants of Communism are apparent in shuttered factories and socialist block apartments.
  • Joe Schuster launches into the void in a backcountry zone outside Bansko called The Promised Land.
  • Joe Schuster deep in the Promised Land.
  • Pillow lines, cliff drops, steep tree skiing. Yes, thank you please. Ben Wannamaker making the most of a trip to Bankso’s Magic Forest.
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  • Macedonian Pines make for pretty good tree skiing. Joe Schuster sampling the Magic Forest.
  • Joe Schuster. Still searching.
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  • No, this isn’t Switzerland. But Ben Wannamaker doesn’t care.

The Magic Forest, we were told, was dangerous. There were cliffs, terrain traps and avalanche prone gullies. There were dead ends, buried logs that would snap your shins at the boot top and snow-covered creek beds that would swallow skiers whole. There were head high limbs that would guillotine you, sudden drops that snapped knees and hidden boulders that would appear at the last moment, blocking forward progress and resulting in bloodied faces. And then there were the Samodiva.

The endless tide of Bulgarian history has left a rich cultural bouillabaisse in its wake. Myths, legends and fairy tails dominate Bulgarian folklore, particularly the seductive Samodiva. Hauntingly beautiful, their victims are struck with an engrossing passion for these beings that leaves no room for any other thoughts, a true love that knows no boundaries or limits. Denizens of the forest, the Samodiva live and dance in the woods, flitting through the dark spaces between trees and possessing the ability to transform into monstrous birds that cast fire upon their enemies.

READ THE FULL STORY. DOWNLOAD VOLUME 1.1 – Winter 2014 on your iPhone or iPad here.

A Fresh Visualization
Map geeks, weather dorks, programmers, and skiers unite—a new way to look at snowfall is here.
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The two most important things a skier cares about are where it snowed last and where will it snow next. For them, FreshyMap is here—the web’s leading real-time snowfall visualization and forecast map built by skiers for skiers.

Chris Helm, currently of Salida, Colorado, grew up in south Denver pounding bumps every weekend at Mary Jane with the Eskimo Ski Club. He later moved on to Steamboat for a stint and eventually gravitated back to the Front Range to call Arapahoe Basin his home hill and the legendary Pallavicini chair his lift. While working as a spatial software engineer in the late 2000’s at Golden’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Helm hired Brendan Heberton as an intern to work on a project mapping photovoltaic systems across the country. The two connected and Helm taught Heberton to program. In 2010, Heberton’s internship ended, and Helm took a position with a D.C.-based startup called GeoIQ working on an open source mapping platform called GeoCommons in a basement office under Denver’s Union Station not far removed from a college-style dorm—four walls with posters and stuff all over. “What we were trying to do was change the face of Geographic Information Systems and do it on the web,” says Helm. Meanwhile, Herberton, who has a serious passion for weather, running a blog called, was landscaping and wanted nothing more than to keep programming. A phone call got him working with Helm again, this time at GeoIQ. A year later the two were hacking around and, as happens in all good black-lit dorm room environments, minds began to expand. The two started toying around with the idea of real-time data and how to use it to visualize current weather, snow conditions, and forecasts. Ideas and technology coalesced and they began mapping Colorado snowfall. FreshyMap was born.

“FreshyMap is a new way to explore the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding snow,” says Helm. “We’re basically trying to get people addicted to skiing. We want people to always know what’s happening at a resort and be obsessed with coming back and being motivated to ski by it.” The resulting interface is a transfixing meld of art and utilitarian visualization backed up by legitimate data. At the core of the map are dots representing a growing list of ski destinations soon to include backcountry zones. These dots expand and contract with either current 24-hour snowfall totals or base depths pulled from resort reports. Around the core dot is a blue ring representing the five-day forecast pulled from National Weather Service predictions—the bigger the ring, the bigger the predicted snow totals. Real time wind direction, velocity, and current Doppler radar fill in the matrix of the map allowing users to draw their own conclusions about what is happening in the “United States of Freshies” and beyond.

Helm was candid when asked what FreshyMap brings to the table that other weather and snowfall visualization websites don’t. “I think we combine our love of the sport with our love of the data. So often with what’s out there you’re going to have someone doing it on one side or the other. Either they’re academics looking at weather data and looking at snowfall, like my buddy Drew Slater, up in Boulder with the National Snow and Ice Data Center. He does a lot of awesome mapping of snow-water equivalency, and he does it all because he loves to go skiing. He wants to know where to go skiing, but at the same time he’s not trying to create these types of interactive data visualizations that reach out the masses. He’s passionate about the data and the actual modeling. And then you have people like Joel Gratz at who are passionate about forecasting and sharing the information and breaking it down for the simpletons to ingest it easily. He’s doing an amazing job and we love his work, but OpenSnow is lacking this idea of enhanced real-time visualizations. So what FreshyMap brings to the table is a combination of the two. We can dream up an idea and then go code it. What we want is for people to be informed but also inspired. Part of our vision is that what people see on Freshymap at 8am will always be different than what they see at 1pm. The data that drives FreshyMap is consistently evolving all by itself. We’ve built FreshyMap to be an engine that is always mining for new data, and it never sleeps.”

Dig a little deeper into the metrics within the map and you’ll see that FreshyMap takes its analysis a step further with what they call the Freshy Factor. It’s an algorithm that takes into account 24-hour snow, 5-day snow, the time of day, and the day of the week to try to give skiers a quantifiable likelihood of actually finding fresh snow. Admittedly, there is some sway in the Freshy Factor. Eventually FreshyMap hopes to incorporate real-time crowd-sourced observations to make each location’s Freshy Factor more accurate.

When asked what FreshyMap’s shortcomings are Helm explains, “We’re reliant on resorts to be good citizens of the industry, like if a resort like Silverton doesn’t update their snow report. I love skiing there, but they close on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That way, if they report 24 inches on a Sunday, then Monday through Wednesday is always reporting 24 inches and that’s not right. So we go in there manually and fix those. We’re working on getting around all that by utilizing SnoTel data to keep resorts honest.”

What co-founders Helm and Heberton have embarked upon with this iteration of FreshyMap is truly the tip of the weather and location-specific data visualization iceberg. Incorporating crowd-sourced data can only help. For skiers this is a great thing. For non-skiers or for the off-season it is as well. Helm says their application can easily be adapted to summer recreation including fishing, kayaking, and surfing.

WANT MORE? Download the rest of our premier issue on your iDevice  – v1.1 Winter 2014.

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We are thrilled to announce that our premier issue is live on the Newsstand for both iPhone and iPad today!

Inside Issue 1.1 – Winter 2014:
Tom Leitner; Fernie, BC; The Alta Shuffle; Lovin’ on Berthoud; High in the Andes; Bulgaria; Serward, AK; and a fresh map.

Download it here:


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Independent Skier
noun, [in∙de∙pen∙duh nt  skee-er]
plural: in∙de∙pen∙dent  ski∙ers.

1. An autonomous being or thing that skis.
2. A small, privately owned business devoted to telling stories about skiing.

We believe skiers are skiers. It makes no difference how old they are, what their education level or income is, if they live in the mountains and ski 100-plus days a year, or take one ski trip a year.

Our readers are all over the map. What they care about is high-quality storytelling to fuel their love of their sport and lifestyle anywhere, anytime.

Mission: To provide the highest quality mobile storytelling possible to skiers worldwide, for free. Always fresh, always deep.

We Are:

- A digital lens focused on covering all aspects of skiing: the sport, the lifestyle, and the mountains through words, images, video, and audio.
- An app that features the highest quality storytelling with the best production values and user experience available.
- Available to everyone for free, on iPads and iPhones anywhere in the world via the App Store.
- Four issues released throughout the winter of 2014 and one to follow in summer 2014.

We Are not:

- A website polluted with top ten lists, pay-to-play content, forced slide show galleries, and irrelevant ads, pandering for every click.
- Another ‘core-brah’ publication.
- Out to win any popularity contests.
- A print magazine limited by page sizes and paper quality.
- Going to take ourselves, or our sport, too seriously.


Tom Winter  -  Editor, Co-Founder

Tom’s ski journalism background includes positions as the founding editor of the influential skiing title Freeze Magazine, Editor at Large for Freeskier Magazine and a Senior Contributor to Powder Magazine. In addition to his work as a journalist, Tom has created, designed and organized some of the most important freeski events in North America, including the Berthoud Pass Bad Ass Championships, the Colorado Freeride Championships and the New Mexico Extremes, a 4* Freeride World Tour Qualifying event. He’s also acted as a judge for the Freeride World Tour (FWT) at events ranging from Sochi, Russia to Squaw Valley, USA.

Tom’s skiing background includes ski mountaineering descents of Ecuador’s Chimbarazo (6,268 meters) and Cotopaxi (5,897 meters) volcanoes as well as first descents on smaller peaks in North and South America. His writing and photography has been featured in ESPN, Skiing, The Ski Journal and others, and he is a three-time winner of the Howard Hirsch Award for snowsports photography.


Mark Lesh  -  Creative Director, Co-Founder

A geologist by training, Mark is drawn to telling the story of mountains and how we live and play in them. Mark currently art directs, designs, and illustrates for various publications and websites including The Drake, Inspirato, 5280 Magazine, and He has served as an Art Director and Photo Editor at Skiing Magazine. His work has also appeared in Ski, Powder, and Mountain Magazines.

Mark grew up ski racing in Utah in the early 1980’s as a founding member of the Waterford Ski Team, worked on the Race Crew at Park City Mountain Resort, cooked at the Alta Peruvian Lodge, and taught skiing at Eldora Mountain Resort.

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True to our name, we’re not part of a bigger company or the pet project of a few deep pockets. We’re just a few skiers who love figuring out new ways to tell great stories. We are completely community supported right now through many generous Kickstarter backers and talented contributors.

We cannot do what we do without our community support. We gladly take donations and beer whenever offered and are happy to review your story ideas and media. We’re doing our darnedest to product the highest quality storytelling for mobile devices for free and appreciate your support greatly. Thank you.

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If you’ve got a story to tell we want to hear about it. We’re looking for essays, narrative features, profiles, business stories, history, travel, periphery, and culture. We want your words, photos, videos, and multi-media experiences.

Please, no fiction, how-to, instruction, fitness or resort guides. Keep it real.

Send your pitch queries to

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