The Last Day
2015-03-14 11.38.04
 The day before closing. Red Mountain, BC. Still pretty damn fun.

The view gets better—until you can’t see for the darkness. That’s what the mountains have taught me. The lesson wasn’t learned quickly. It took years and years. The old timers don’t tell you this, the fact that wisdom is a slow seeping spring that spits out knowledge drop by drop. If you don’t notice, you miss the opportunity to quench your thirst. And if you don’t realize you’re thirsty, then you don’t stop to drink, careening into another kind of darkness, the blackness of selfish ignorance.

The awakening was planted at the end of a long cold season. I sat on a deck with a grizzled local who’d seen a lot of ends, looking out into the vastness of the snow-covered peaks. Young and hungry it seemed as though shuttering the lifts was a crime. There was too much snow left, too many days in front of me to worry about the future and all that mattered was to keep arcing turns and riding the chairs as the bullwheels spun a mindless song of happiness and no worries mate, because another storm is on the way and the beer is cold at the bar and they’re not going to run out—at least not soon.

I was pissed at the mountain for closing down. Pissed but sorta happy that I was out of work and happier still with the couple hundred bucks I’d managed to save. Squirreled away despite rowdy evenings with pitchers of beer and rounds of shots for friends and too many slices of pizza late at night.

The slopes were empty on that last day, it was a lot quieter in the village back then, at least it seemed that way, with half the mountain shut and only the last of the hardcores lapping the soft bumps until it was time to go sit on the deck and drink beer and look into the great emptiness of the future. We didn’t think of hiking up the mountain then, maybe we were lazy or dumb or just too in love with the slow triple that hoisted us up the ridge, the delicate creak of the fixed grip bumping over the shiv wheels at each tower.

That chair was heaven to us, the storm days dark and deep and always empty as the tourists fled to the front side out of the wind. It’s gone now, a victim of progress. But back then we thought that it would be there for us forever, iconic and special like the Statue of Liberty, a gateway to freedom and bliss.

“It’s fucked,” I said to the old local. “They shouldn’t close.” He looked at me with brooding, bloodshot eyes, taking his time to speak.

“It doesn’t matter.” Another long pause. “Want another beer?”

I did, of course, but didn’t realize that he was right. Then I thought it mattered. And maybe it does.

But from the top of other mountains years down the road, the realization came that it didn’t matter. There would always be more mountains, and more places, than I could ever dream of and that no matter what was happening, if you really wanted snow, all you had to do was go chase it. If you looked hard enough, it would be there: cold, familiar, and yet strange and exotic down in Patagonia or far north on an Alaskan glacier.

And so we go. Chasing snow as the snow melts and the planet spins and the clock ticks. Until, as the old timer says, it really won’t matter any more and the great darkness swallows us into the void from which no one has returned.

Breakable Crust
SKIING’S TOP TEN LIST: Who wants to actually link thoughts together with words and ideas and stuff when a simple list would do?
who wants to actually link thoughts together with words and ideas and stuff when a simple list would do?

Top Ten reasons to run the worst stock photo ever:

1. Big smile. Cheese.
2. Arm-over-head form clearly means extra fun.
3. Photoshopped sunburst powder spray.
4. Progressive outerwear.
5. Skinny euro skis.
6. Stock Photo is tagged with keywords like excitement, lifestyle, cool, dangerous, impetuous, extreme, natural, white, travel…Perfect.
7. Helmet art extra speedy.
8. Anonymous goggles with logo photoshopped out.
9. If only he was looking at the camera.
10. runs stuff like this all the time, so why can’t we?

Oh how we’ve learned to despise the humble Top Ten list. The stating-the-obvious click-bait-fodder that spawns across Facebook pages and websites. The lame compilations of worthless information which provide the lazy journalist the “content” to cop out when it comes to doing actual work. Why, after all, would your average outdoors writer put in the the kind of effort that it takes to actually research a place that no one has heard about? Or why would you come up with your own content at all when you could just rip it off someone else? Throw in a quote from a local or two, and – bam! – you’ve got yourself some filler that pleases your editor and panders to the masses.

So in the spirit of laziness, incompetence and stating the obvious, we’re proud to announce our Top Ten list of Top Ten Lists, comprising five of worst and five of the best, and exactly what you’d expect from a half-assed effort fully representative of the genre.


Five Lists We Hate:

Top Ten Best Ski Towns 

So, you’re going to rehash the same old tired guide to what ski towns are the best? Really? Here’s the problem with this inevitably North American centric bit of tripe. We already know these towns. We’re familiar with Crested Butte. We’ve heard about Sun Valley. Stowe has been around forever. If we were interested in living in one of these places, we would already be there, and we’ve already skied at all of them. Now shut up and tell us about someplace we’ve never heard of, like that town in the Italian Alps with insane lift access, where homes cost less than 60,000 euros and where the best local bar serves free pizza at après ski. Oh wait, we’ve already been there. . . and we’re not going to ruin it by including it in a Top Ten list.

Top Ten Steepest Resorts

This list makes an appearance every three or four years, with Outside Magazine being the worst offender. Why does this list suck? Because mountains change at a geologic pace, which is about the same rate as you could expect any new information to appear in any of the infinite versions of this list. Do we really need to learn that yes, Jackson Hole is steep? Everyone figured that out the 11th time you published this list, but thanks again for pointing it out.

Top Ten Ski Resorts for Powder

Mt. Baker gets the most snow. Except when it doesn’t. Alta gets the best snow. Except when it doesn’t. Here’s a tip for those of you who might be dumb enough to plan your next ski trip around a Top Ten list about snow: take a look at the weather report and chase storms. Even Alta sucks if it hasn’t snowed in a week, and Taos can be the best ski area in the world for powder when it snows three feet on a Wednesday and you’re sharing that snow with a handful of locals. With so many last minute travel deals on the web and advances in forecasting, there’s absolutely no reason to use a list about what might be when you can dial up what will be.

Top Ten Skis For Anything

Lots of magazines love to churn out Top Ten lists about carving skis, powder skis, big-mountain skis. . . yawn. Here’s the truth about ski tests. Most are pay to play affairs. That means that if you are a brand and want your skis to be “tested” then you have to either be an advertiser in the magazine or have less of your skis tested (Skiing Magazine) or you shell out $5000 (about what Powder Magazine charges) to attend a test week.

This, of course, favors the large established brands over the many innovative and interesting small manufacturers who are more likely to introduce something truly new and out of the box. Of course, small manufacturers are also more likely to create a dog as well, but shouldn’t tests be there to provide a level playing field for every brand and then report on the skis regardless of how much money a company is spending to line the pockets of a magazine publisher? Anything less is a disservice to their readership and an insult to common sense and intelligence.

Top Ten Best Cities for Skiers

There are a handful of fantastic, livable cities close to large mountains with great skiing. Want to know which ones they are? Look at a map.


Five Lists We Like:

Best Ski Town Hostels

We’ve seen this list once or twice. It’s a good list because we are cheap bastards and any time we can save a nickel or two on a place to sleep gives us more cash for actually skiing. In North America, there aren’t too many hostels, but in Europe, they’re all over the place. What’s even better is that European hostels often have rooms set up for four people, meaning you can rent the whole thing for yourself. Best of all, you don’t need no stinkin’ top ten list, just go here and start planning your next trip.

Free Apres Ski Food

This is a list that you’d expect more writers to pen, but guess what, they don’t. Why? Because most of those writing lists are ripping of the same version of someone else’s Top Ten list or they’re doing research from the comforts of their cubicle at the magazine they work for. Free food in ski towns isn’t advertised much, and you may not be enjoying a balanced diet if you try to live on an a daily caloric intake comprised of cheese sticks, cheap salami and greasy chicken wings, but who cares. The money you save can be spent directly on beer to wash down said chicken wings, making you full and happy. And everyone likes to be full and happy.

Any list that ranks skiing in Europe as better than North America 

European ski areas are cheaper, have more terrain and less rules than North American resorts. Throw in massive vertical and better food and it is a win. Any list that doesn’t admit this is lying.


Free couches, $500 Subarus, old Rossignols for $40 and “hook up with a random stranger who could be a prostitute” postings. Craigslist has those and more.

Monoman: Don Paeth

Monoskiing will always be something that lurks on the fringes of our sport. A funky addition to the global world of glisse that lives on, despite advancements such as fat skis and rocker. Born, like similar innovations such as snowboading, ballet skiing and Bud Light, monoskiing is from the United States. Depending upon which source you choose to believe, the first ski should either be credited to Denis Phillips, a Hyak, Washington skier who used a modified water ski to surf the high water content snow of the Cascades in the 1950s, or to a dude by the name of Jack Marchand who “invented” the monoski in 1961, drawing interest from Howard Head, the inventor and designer who launched Head Skis and who was the creator of the innovative Head Standard, the first metal ski.

Monoskiing wouldn’t gain traction until the carefree days of the 70’s, when pro surfer Mike Doyle would champion the monoski. Doyle’s involvement led to media exposure, including a feature on the new sport in Ski Magazine in November of 1971, photos in Powder Magazine and film projects spearheaded by pioneering cinemetogrgapher Dick Barrymore. Barrymore’s efforts were particularly appreciated by the French, who provided – and remain today – the most enthusiastic participants in monoskiing

With the spin machine fully ramped up, manufacturers responded. Bahne patented a monoski design in 1973, and contracted with Hexel to manufacture single skis. French interest exploded in 1978 after the introduction of Bahne to Chamonix, spawning interest as well as copycats. A seminal moment for the sport remains the winter of 1979 when Jean-Paul Frechin used a Petite Jennett – a French manufactured knock off of the Bahne – to chalk up the first monoski descent of the north face of Mont Blanc.

By the early 80s the monoski concept was firmly entrenched in France, but the development snowboarding was destroying the potential market for the skis in North America. European manufactures such as Rossignol, Blizzard and Head were building skis in addition to specialty monoski brands such as Duret. Production for Rossignol peaked in 1986, with 10,000 units, By the mid 1990’s with the growth of snowboarding exploding, production of monoskis by mainstream brands collapsed, with Rossignol halting distribution of their single skis to the North America in 1995 and finally abandoning the manufacturing of monoskis altogether in 1999.

Still it’s possible to find monoskis for sale, built by a handful of specialty brands and distributed via the internet. And it’s also possible to find monoskiers. We caught up with one of them, Don Paeth, on a sunny spring morning at Loveland Ski Area to ask a few questions about the state of the sport and what single ski sliding is all about.

Can you describe what monoskiing is like?
“It’s the best of both worlds. Works awesome in the powder but I tend to prefer carving. Monoskis are current with other ski technology, in sidecut, flex and construction. You can get skis for fall line skiing or bumps, powder boards or an all mountain ski, or for speed and everything in between.”

How did you get started?
“I got on a mono 11 years ago just had an amazing time. It’s akin to skiing, how you pole plant, your knees and ankles.

The first time was 1994 we entered a powder 8 contest at Mt. Hood Meadows. I was on skis but we had called our team Mono e Duo and my friend who was on a monoski told me, ‘monoski or forget it.’ I had one hour to go practice and then we ended up coming in 4th. Seven years later I came across it again on the internet and then made one myself from and was like, ‘wow this is fun!’”

You guys are like endangered species, we never see you around, what’s up with that?
“The majority of the monoski community in the United States is only one or two riders at each resort. Here at Loveland Ski Area there are only about three people who ride and there are two or three at Arapahoe Basin, there’s one at Winter Park, that’s the way it is. The Seattle, Washington crowd is the best. They have three to five guys every time they go out riding.”

Where in the hell can someone buy a monoski?
“As far as I know there is no ski shop that carries monoskis. We are trying to change that next year and we hope to get some retail presence. Right now there is a gal in Lyons, Colorado who imports some of the brands: Duret, Aluflex, Blackburn, Snowshark and Koda. That’s about the only option for anyone besides finding a used one on Craigslist.”

How do people respond to you when they see you sliding around?
“A lot of people just don’t get it, they are like, ‘huh that’s weird.’ Or they ask you how easy it is. But most people look at it, it’s cool but they don’t want to try it. I’m not sure I understand why not…”

Monoski Resources:

The Monoski DirectoryYour one-stop shop for mono including a history of the sport, forums and instructional tips and a brand directory.

MonopaloozaPubic group on Facebook for all things mono, including an annual “gathering of the tribe.”

Monoski Freeride — Crazy straightlines, powder slashes and more in this YouTube video.

Mondial du Monoski — Annual monoskiing celebration held in France each year and organized by the Association Française de Monoski. Watch the teaser for 2014 here.

New England’s Season In a Nutshell…
Off-Piste at Mad River Glen, Vermont, USA - Skier: Ian Forgays
Ian Forgays at Mad River Glen, Vermont. By Brian Mohr/Emberphoto

Old Man Winter kicked things off with a bang and then treated the Northeast to a steady drumbeat of primarily light to moderate snowfalls—and a few surprise dumps—and some truly wonderful snow quality. This was aided enormously by a long stretch of powder-preserving temperatures and relatively gentle winds below tree line. For two straight months starting in mid January, it was possible to lay fresh tracks in beautiful powder snow every day for 60 straight days in many parts of the Northeast. Some days have been truly bottomless—most have been simply creamy and dreamy. Late March and early April have been marked by continued fresh snow in the mountains, with a few remarkable corn harvests in between. While our overall snowfall totals are more or less average, the lack of our usual mid-winter thaws have left us with a snowpack deep enough to access terrain and lines we rarely get to enjoy. No doubt, it’s been a very magical winter to be a skier in the Northeast. And more snow is on its way as I write this…

—Brian Mohr
Moretown, Vermont



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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 publication devoted to telling stories about skiing.

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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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