The iconic mountain-town publication is about to ship its fourth issue under new ownership. And according to the editors, print is not only alive, it’s thriving.
In an era of outdoor media conglomeration, the staff of an independent print magazine is hustling. And it’s crunch time.
“We’re actually shipping the mag next week, so it’s head down and ready to rock,” said Mike Rogge, owner of Mountain Gazette. Anyone who has faced a print deadline knows, the pressure is on.
But unlike some in the print world, Rogge said he sees a bright future in his publication, which saw its first profits just 4 months into his leadership.
We caught up with Rogge and Austin Holt, director of marketing for the magazine, to learn more about the rebellious, indignant underdog of outdoor print media.
Mountain Gazette: The Craft Brewery of Outdoor Media
For those unfamiliar with the publication, it’s time for an introduction.
Mike Moore launched the magazine in 1966 as “Skier’s Gazette.” And while skiing has always been at its heart, Mountain Gazette covers much more.
In the ensuing half-century, storied artists such as Edward Abbey, Hunter S. Thompson, Galen Rowell, Dolores LaChapelle, and Royal Robbins have graced its pages. And the magazine has remained staunchly independent.
But long-form editorial and independent ownership have come with ownership changes and temporary shutdowns at Mountain Gazette. The magazine has traded hands multiple times. But while the names on the masthead have changed, the soul of this fun, funky publication dedicated to deep storytelling has remained.
“I wrote about coyotes, mutant skis, ski racing, Europe, night driving, hypocrisy in climbing ethics, climbing Half Dome, acid trips, road trips, mind trips, hesitation, Gary Snyder, Buddhism, the Disney Corporation, speed skiing and medicine. Twice I sent Moore hundred-page manuscripts which he published,” wrote Dick Dorworth in Survivor, the long (down and dirty) history of the Mountain Gazette.
If you’re interested in outdoor media, the history is really worth a read.
As issue 197 ships to subscribers in May, a brief visit to the table of contents recalls this golden age of print reporting. The summer 2022 editing touches on subjects ranging from convicts dodging the law in Aspen to the intense battle between Jackson, Wyoming, backcountry skiers and environmentalists.
The issue contains Jimmy Chin’s photo debut in the publication, too.
Issue 197: Shipping in May
While much of the outdoor media landscape has merged into a few large publishing houses, Mountain Gazette stands alone as an independent publication. That allows it to maintain its heritage and roots in small mountain towns.
It changed hands to Rogge in 2020 “at Outdoor Retailer at a crappy bar across the street,” he said. Note the date: Rogge picked up Mountain Gazette just months before the world shut down due to COVID-19. Rogge needed time to focus on the publication to get it off the ground. “I told my wife I needed 3 months or nothing would happen. The universe provided dude.”
Thus, his first issue was born and promptly sold out. After upping the print run for his second issue, Rogge said he is sitting on less than 100 copies. As the fourth issue under Rogge’s leadership hits the stands this week, he and his team are as excited as ever.
Outdoor Print Media Revival?
Austin Holt, director of marketing for the magazine, said the fourth issue is a strong representation of the publication. It’s printed on 11×17 matte finish paper with 100% renewable resources.
“Front to back, you get to read long-form reporting and photography. It won’t be broken up by quarter-page ads,” Holt said.
Rogge thanked his subscribers for helping the magazine grow toward long-term goals that will result in deeper reporting in the outdoor world. He and his team hope to grow subscriptions to about 25,000 people.
At that size, it will “create an opportunity for journalists to spend multiple years on stories for the magazine and give photographers the proper budget to deeply explore a subject.”
But as it grows past the 5,000 subscriber mark, Rogge thanked his early supporters.
“This magazine isn’t possible without the first 1,000 subscribers who took a chance on us before we’d ever printed Mountain Gazette 194, our first issue back and the one we completely sold out of. I actually only own one copy myself,” he said.
“Everyone who subscribed since has allowed us to take on bigger assignments and topics, go up in page count (twice), and ensure this magazine is a happy, healthy place to work … free of outside investment. We don’t look to maximize profits so much as maximize the enjoyment folks get from our magazine. This isn’t my magazine. It belongs to our subscribers.”
Mountain Gazette is available largely by subscription outside of two or three small shops. Subscribe here for $60 for two issues annually.