Since 2009 Elevation Outdoors has been celebrating the outdoor lifestyle in Colorado and the Rockies. Here’s everything we’ve learned (and all that has happened in the outdoor world) on this long strange trip.
Issue Number One
Famed alpinist and Adventure Film Festival founder Jonny Copp shot the cover of the first issue of Elevation Outdoors, which hit stands in February 2009. His image of Luke Miller telemarking the A-Basin steeps, called out a “Stashes and Steals” package with inside beta on Colorado resorts. The first contributors to the magazine included Dougald MacDonald, Erinn Morgan, Rob Coppolillo, Eugene Buchanan, and Bevin Wallace. Publisher Meredith Demaso used her home on Boulder’s Spruce St. as the first office, and editor-in-chief Doug Schnitzspahn began a decade haunting local coffee shops with his laptop.
Intern No More
Intern Jayme Moye (then Otto) showed up and said she wanted to work on the magazine for free. By the time the first issue hit the printer she was already assistant editor on the masthead and getting paid. She would eventually become EO’s first managing editor and go on to a successful freelance career winning awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and writing the book, On the Nose: A Lifelong Obsession with Yosemite’s Most Iconic Climb, with Hans Florine in 2016.
Approximately 1.8 million people watch in front of the Capitol as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are sworn into office. Obama makes history as the first African-American president.
Unemployment in the U.S., which has been steadily growing for several months, reaches 8.1% in February 2009. This is the highest rate since 1983.
Slacklines hit peak popularity in 2009 with Gibbon making the once fringe sport easier to access for anyone bored with hacky sack in the local park, thanks to a slackline kit with thick, 50-mm-wide webbing and a built in ratchet.
Feel the Upslope
One of the first advertisers in the first issue of EO also launched in 2009. Founded by Matt Cutter, Danny Pages, and Henry Wood, Upslope Brewing Company has been growing strong and we have had a big bromance going on ever since.
In October, the federal government announced it will no longer prosecute those who use or sell marijuana for medical reasons, if they are complying with state law. Colorado had been a medical marijuana state since 2000, when voters approved Amendment 20.
Radha Marcum’s “What a Girl Wants” column in Issue One included Cloudveil’s Hoback jacket, “a marriage of Gore’s super light and breathable Pro Shell on the outside and warm, dry Primaloft insulation on the inside…” and Karhu’s Jiil ski. Both companies are now gone.
In early June, Boulder climbers Jonny Copp, 35, Micah Dash, 32, and Wade Johnson, 24, were reported killed in an avalanche on 21,713-foot Mount Edgar on the isolated Gongga Shan massif in China’s Western Sichuan Province. In memoriam, we wrote: “Sure, they could climb far better than you, but they never held that against you. What set them apart, what made thousands of us across the globe mourn them and the Boulder Theatre post ‘Long Live Jonny, Micah and Wade’ on the marquee when they were gone was that they were like us. They were part of the tribe of those of us who live to be outside and value what we can bring to the world more than what we can take from it. Climbers, dirtbags, artists… they instilled their infectious joy in each of us who came into contact with them whether they were on the rock or sea kayaking or just downing espresso. They were our friends. Something feels absolutely irreplaceably empty in me now that they are gone, but, at the same time I feel them here with me, every time I’m outside living fully, every time I smile.”
Everyone Deserves Music
Michael Franti graces the cover of the first annual edition of EO’s Festival Guide (a tradition that had long been in place at sister publication Blue Ridge Outdoors). The guide includes listings for the Teva Mountain Games (now the GoPro Games), Jonny Copp’s Boulder Dirt Days, the now-defunct Monolith Festival at Red Rocks, 5Point Film Festival, and an essay about ducky boat racing by Charles Bethea, who is now at The New Yorker.
“It was skiing that made my best friend Julia breastfeed my first son Scout,” wrote National Magazine Award winning writer Tracy Ross in the The Road column in the October/November 2009 issue of EO. The story focused on how mountain town women can shred and still raise kids if they believe in community. Ross, the author of the heartwrenching memoir The Source of All Things, has continued to write for EO for the past decade and joined the editorial team as our indispensable copy assassin in 2017.
Legendary Colorado jam band Leftover Salmon reunited to celebrate 20 years of noodle dancing and tasty riffs with New Year’s Eve shows at the Boulder Theatre. “If any band defined the Colorado trend of taking traditional bluegrass and beating it over the head with rowdy long-hair revelry, it was Leftover Salmon. When Vince Herman walked on stage and yelled, ‘Festivaaaal!,’ it didn’t matter if he was in Town Park or the Fox Theatre,” wrote EO’s longstanding Hear This music columnist Jedd Ferris in the December 2009 issue.
A Big Win for Public Lands
On March 30, President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 into law. The biggest public lands bill since the Carter Administration created 2 million acres of new wilderness and substantially increased federal funding for research into ocean science, including an ambitious ocean and coastal mapping program and interdisciplinary research into the causes and management of ocean acidification. It preserved 517,000 acres in Idaho’s Owyhee Canylands, a project EO editor-in-chief Doug Schintzspahn had worked on in 2000.
The God of Skiing himself, Peter Kray begins to pen his beloved Elwayville column for the magazine. “I don’t like that this new Josh McDickless coach seems to think he’s so much smarter than the rest of the world,” he wrote in the August/September 2009 issue. Elwayville has been an integral part of the mag ever since, with the Denver-raised Kray telling New England fans to follow McDaniels back home, swooning over his dogs, dreaming of the untracked powder lines in his future, learning from his blue-eyed wife, chasing ghosts and bashing climate change deniers on the back page of the magazine with art from Kevin Howdeshell.
Meet Devon Balet
Photographer Devon Balet scores the cover for the magazine’s May/June 2010 bike issue with a shot of Jay Henry of Tokoyo Joe’s in the midst of the muddy Pro race at the Mountain States Cup in Crested Butte. Balet has continued to shoot covers for Elevation Outdoors, becoming a major part of the magazine’s look and ethos.
The biggest mofo-ing legend in all of skiing, Shane McConkey —Pain McSchlonkey—may have passed away in 2009, but his leagcy lived on in rockered skis that float through powder. McConkey not only made us laugh (often at ourselves), he also changed the way we skied. Everyone was building big floaty skis in 2010, and we gave an Editor’s Choice Award to the McConkey-inspired K2 Darkside in the February/March 2010 Backcountry issue of the magazine.
The First of 16
Breckenridge-based photographer, Liam Doran shoots his first cover for Elevation Outdoors. Doran, whose work has appeared on the cover of Powder and appears regularly on the Sigma photo blog (sigmaphoto.com/photographer/liam-doran/) has gone on to shoot 16 covers for EO in the years since… and counting.
Freelance writer, videographer, photographer and adventurer, Cameron Martindell (who lives digitally at OffYonder.com) joins the team, earning a place on the masthead after a meeting in the then-EO world headquarters—a.k.a. publisher Meredith Demaso’s breakfast nook. Martindell has been a constant force in the magazine, eventually picking up the title of managing editor and running the Quick Hits section in the front of the book.
Fort Collins climber Alan Arnette summits Everest in May 2011 in a quest to raise $1 million for Alzheimers research, and makes us reevaluate the reasons why people climb mountains and the motivation behind cause-based climbs. “I find myself not as concerned about his topping out on all eight summits as I am about his raising $1 million. But mountains, despite all the danger to them, have the ability to heal, to put us in the moment and away from death, disease, politics. So the summits represent something important in Arnette’s larger quest—the possibility of reaching seemingly impossible goals,” editor-in-chief Doug Schnitzspahn wrote of Arnette in the July issue.
Water on the Brain
Author and conservationist Jonathan Waterman, one of the people whose life’s work has inspired the mission of Elevation Outdoors, talked about the water crisis facing the West in the May 2011 issue of EO. “It would be unconscionable for any outdoor athlete today not to take a stand against further depletion of our compromised planet. The mountains and rivers and oceans we play upon are all changing for the worse and we have an opportunity to serve as role models to make the buck stop here,” he said.
On November 6, Colorado voters approve Amendment 64, by 55.32% to 44.68%, making recreational marijuana legal in the state. Since February 2014, Colorado has taken in $1,043,961,209 in tax, license and fee revenue on marijuana.
Howdeshell Are You?
Artist Kevin Howdeshell (TheBraveUnion.com), who provides the art for Peter Kray’s Elwayville column, illustrates the cover of the annual May Festival Guide, a tradition that’s still going strong seven festival guides later.
This Is What a Ski Town Looks Like
In the first of an ongoing series of reader polls to determine local bragging rights, readers voted Crested Butte the best ski town in the state and local photographer J.C. Leacock proved why with this cover that is still an office favorite. It’s a reminder that we need to remember to keep shit weird in this outdoor world.
Peak Gear Awards
In December 2013, we introduce the Peak Gear Awards, representing the best equipment we actually put to test in the field. To determine who got the hardware, we asked our contributors: “What was the best gear you used over the past year? What gear can’t you live without? What gear changed your life?” The first winners included DPS’s Wailer 112 DPC ski, Flylow’s Labcoat shell, Evolv’s Cruzr shoe and Giant’s Defy/Avail Advanced SL1 road bike. The awards have continued to be a staple of the magazine with summer and winter editions featured in following years.
The God of Skiing
EO’s editor at large Peter Kray publishes his novel The God of Skiing, a mash-up of fiction and non-fiction loosely based on Fritz Stammberger that the legendary Dick Dorworth called “a must read for all skiers” in a Backcountry magazine review. “The God of Skiing is a reverent, ribald, realistic mixture of fact, fiction and fantasy about what some refer to as the sport of skiing but which high priests and devoted acolytes alike know as a way of life.” he wrote.
In September advertising exec Elizabeth O’Connell becomes the publisher of Elevation Outdoors, guiding the business and sales end of the magazine for the next four years. She says: “EO is real. Editorially it brings both masters of their trade and up and comers to the table sharing a diversity in voice and experiences that few other magazines achieve. Our readers are loyal. You’ll notice I still say ‘we’ and ‘our,’ a habit I doubt I’ll ever break- because when you give your all to something and a team—it doesn’t end like a normal job.”
The first person to ski all of Colorado’s 14ers in a year, Chris Davenport wins the snow category in the first ever edition of our Colorado Resident Badass poll. But ultrarunner Stevie Kremer beats the ski legend out when the readers vote for Colorado’s Ultimate Mountain Athlete. One main concept that has endured in this poll is that there are no separate categories for men and women, all genders compete on equal ground.
The Dawn Wall
In January, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgesen free climb the Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Cap, capturing the imagination of the world on national news over the 19 days it took to pull off one of the greatest achievements in rock climbing. We said: “In the midst of ISIS, gun debates and partisan politics gone amuck, it proved that there is still something basic and good in dreaming in the American wilds, something inside us all, even if we can’t compete on Tommy’s level. Best of all, when he finished, Caldwell called for better protection of those wild lands that allow us to dream big.” EO readers voted Caldwell the winner of the Resident Badass title in January 2016.
Inclined for Speed
On September 25, Joseph Gray sets the speed record on the Manitou Incline, racing up the brutal .88-mile, 2,011-vertical foot trail in 17:45. Gray, who has been named USATF Mountain Runner of the Year nine times, was featured on the cover of the September 2016 issue of the magazine, EO readers voted him Colorado’s Endurance Badass in the January 2019 issue and he wrote about overcoming injury in the June 2019 issue.
Colorado Outdoor Rec
In June, Gov. John Hickenlooper appoints Luis Benitez the first director of Colorado’s brand new Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. In an interview with EO’s Kelly Cassidy, he said: “Colorado has access that is unmatched in most other states for individuals, but, when it comes to trying to start an outfitter and/or potentially a wilderness education school, or a mountain bike guide service, basically anything that requires permitting, it’s incredibly hard. My goal is to help start this conversation for Colorado as a state, and, hopefully, federal level to see if we can have a different conversation about access.” Fifteen states now have offices of outdoor recreation.
In July, Andrew Hamilton blows away the supported speed record for climbing all of Colorado’s 58 mountains over 14,000 feet, ticking off the feat in 9 days, 21 hours and 51 minutes. In 2018, Hamilton becomes the first to climb all the Fourteeners in winter.
Joy in Elwayville
On February 7, The Denver Broncos, led by an aging Peyton Manning and a lockdown defense, win the Super Bowl, beating the Carolina Panthers 24-10.
On December 8, President Obama signs the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016 into law. The bill ensures that outdoor recreation will be counted as a part of U.S. GDP by the federal government. In an insane election year, the bill saw bi-partisan support. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner said: “This bill would allow lawmakers to make informed policy decisions to further enhance the industry by understanding the impact recreation has on our economy, and I look forward to working to ensure this commonsense bill moves through the legislative process. Congress could use a little fresh air, and this bill shows the value of it.”
Best of the Rockies
The magazine premieres the Best of the Rockies reader poll, which has become an ongoing tradition. The winners in the first edition included Steamboat Springs-based Big Agnes taking home the bragging rights as Best Outdoor Gear Brand, a title it also won in 2018 and 2019; Jackson, Wyoming’s Mangy Moose as Best Après Spot; the Hardrock 100 as the Toughest Race; Carbondale Colorado’s Backbone Media as the Best Outdoor-based Company to Work for and Leadville, Colorado, as the Best Place to Engage in Illicit and Nefarious Activities.
Stand at Standing Rock
In April, indigenous people, many declaring themselves Water Protectors, and conservationists begin mass protests against the construction of the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline, especially on the Standing Rock Reservation. It is the largest concentrated gathering of Native People in the U.S. The protests run until February 2017, when the Obama administration denied a key permit for the pipeline. A few months later, the Trump administration reversed that decision and approved construction.
Determination on Denali
Senior editor Chris Kassar’s story about climbing Denali with her partner and a group of vets recovering from PTSD in the March issue of EO wins silver at the North American Travel Journalists Association awards. Kassar’s EO work also won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2014 and 2015 and won at the Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards in 2018.
Bear Ears national monument
On December 28, 2016, President Obama proclaims the 1.3-million acre Bears Ears National Monument. Five different tribes (Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Ute Indian Tribe) consider the area sacred and joined together for the first time in their histories to advocate for the monument.
OR Goes CO
The Outdoor Retailer trade show announces it will move from its longtime home in Salt Lake City due to the state legislature’s and Gov. Gary Herbert’s anti-public lands policies that include selling off and overtaking federal lands in the state. The show, which accounts for $110 million in economic impact announces it will move to Denver, Colorado, in August.
Stand Down the River
Morgan Tilton’s story about being the fist group to stand-up paddlebaord down Utah’s Escalante River wins bronze at the North American Travel Journalists Association Awards.
Boulder’s Margot Hayes becomes the first woman to climb 5.15, ticking off La Rambla in Spain. We celebrate Hayes and other women climbers in the August Mountain issue of EO in a piece by Georgie Abel. She wrote: “In my experience, women’s climbing communities celebrate two distinct types of success—one, moments like Margo Hayes sending La Rambla, and two, a new type of triumph that the climbing world hasn’t yet seen in mainstream media. Women are not just celebrating the first female 5.15, but they are also celebrating their first lead after having a baby, their first solo-trip, their first trad lead and most notably, they’re celebrating each other.”
President Donald Trump slashes the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah by 2 million acres. Bears Ears shrinks to just 15 percent of its original size and Grand Staircase, which was created in 1996 loses half of its land.
At the first Outdoor Retailer show in Denver, Elevation Outdoors hosts a party with The Motet at the Ogden Theatre, welcoming the industry and championing conservation, diversity and public lands. Polar explorer Eric Larsen serves as emcee and partner Colorado brands include Upslope Brewing Company, Nite Ize, Osprey Packs, OtterBox, Boa Technologies, Haibike, Lems Shoes, Native Eyewear, Copper Mountain Resort, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Chocolove, Backpacker’s Pantry, Deuter, Ascent 360 and Lewis, Roca, Rothgerber and Christie Law Firm.
The brand new Ikon pass gives skiers access to 26 (now 35) resorts. The pass—which includes Steamboat, Winter Park, Eldora, Crested Butte—rivals Vail’s Epic Pass in the sheer amount of skiing and riding it offers.
As ski touring continues to get lighter and faster with more powerful boots, Dynafit introduces its Hoji Pro Tour, representing years of collaboration, design testing and tinkering between freeskiing beast Eric Hjorleifson and Low-Tech binding inventor Fritz Barthel. The boot wins over EO’s hard-charging staff and wins a Peak Gear Award.
In August, VF Corporation, which owns The North Face, JanSport, Smartwool, and Eagle Creek, announces that it has decided to move its global headquarters to Denver, bringing 800 high-paying jobs and making the city the center of the outdoor recreation economy. The company begins to hire Colorado outdoor luminaries including Luis Benitez of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Department, Amy Roberts of Outdoor Industry Association, and Kali Platt of Verde and Catapult Communications.
Brown Girls Climb
Advocates for diversity, equality and inclusion continue to make their voices heard in the outdoor space. In June, Outdoor Afro puts the first team of Black American climbers on the summit of Kilimanjaro. In the August issue of EO, Brown Girls Climb ambassador Sasha McGhee writes: “Brown Girls Climb and other outdoor diversity organizations have exposed what some may have already known but others (me included) were shocked to learn: People of color, and specifically women of color, have been climbing and crushing for years. Only recently have they begun to see traces of a spotlight.”
The New Gov
Jared Polis is elected Colorado Governor, the first openly gay man to be elected to the office in any U.S. state. In the March 2019 issue of Elevation Oudoors, our readers vote the environmentally and socially forward thinking Polis “Best Politician” in the annual Best of the Rockies poll.
Massive Lands Bill
In March 12, President Donald Trump (what?!) signs the biggest public lands bill of the past decade into law. We wrote: “The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act … creates 1.3 million acres of new wilderness and 350 miles of wild and scenic river. It designates 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas. It withdraws 370,000 acres from oil and gas development in Montana and Washington. It creates five new national monuments (a dizzying concept since one of Trump’s first actions in office when it came to public lands was to shrink monuments despite massive public support). It even expands the idea and the area of national monuments dedicated to the history of African Americans. It protects something in some way in every single state in the nation. No joke.”
Climber Erin Parisi, the first openly transgender woman to attempt to climb the Seven Summits, stands atop Aconcogua in March and sets her sights on Denali, Antarctica’s Vinson Massif and Everest, documenitng her climbs on TranSending7.org. She tells EO: “I want an opportunity to stand high above North America on the 50th anniversary of Pride to celebrate the strides our society has made, and bring awareness to the fights we have ahead.”
Joshua Berman interviews Colorado Latino Outdoors coordinators Bianca Garcia and Natalia Ospina in Spanish and English, the first time the magazine has run bilingual content.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announces that it will move its headquarters from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado, in order to be closer to the lands it administrates. “This announcement is a step in the right direction and a testament to the work of local leaders,” said Sen. Michael Bennett. “But the details released today also suggest more needs. To be done to establish a true national headquarters in the West.”
The New Boss
Conor Sedmak who has been working as an account executive since 2017 becomes the new publisher of Elevation Outdoors. With experience in the outdoor industry at Dynafit and Warren Miller on his resume, Sedmak is the mag’s biggest fan.