Just Three Years Ago - An Origin Story of MountainGazette.com

Just Three Years Ago - An Origin Story of MountainGazette.com

Just three years ago a guy living in a van in Montana and I—full disclosure, we had never met in person at that point—launched a website. Or I should say we re-relaunched a website. MountainGazette.com went live in the most uncertain of times. June 2020 was a dark time in the pandemic with hope on the horizon that maybe the summer would ease the spread. There still wasn’t a vaccine. Businesses, especially outdoor media companies, were beginning to close their doors. 

At that time I kept repeating a phrase my friend Cody Townsend would tell me again and again during my first years in North Lake Tahoe. The snow those early years was hard to come by and it was easy to stick to the groomers we were used to. But Cody went off piste, into the trees, off of the Red Dog lift. From a distance the terrain and snow looked like dog shit. To nobody’s surprise it skied that way up close. On a second lap, Cody went right back to the trees. “Calm seas never made strong sailers,” he said. Although he was born in Santa Cruz, C.T. has always had the spirit of an East Coaster. 

And so, with the dog shit of the pandemic and an economic free fall around us, Merritt and I launched MountainGazette.com with limited offerings. You could purchase posters or subscribe to the magazine that at that point hadn’t existed in over eight years. Good friends told me I was crazy and my acquaintances likely said worse over Zoom calls. My wife Meghan and I anxiously watched to see if anyone even wanted a print title in 2020. The world was in chaos but in those stormy waters I aimed the magazine forward. 

We were to be a print title, only. The website? Just a storefront. The magazine? A window with a great view into the cracks of outdoor culture, far and wide. The first person I asked to contribute was Gina Danza, a young photographer shooting macro images of the world around us. She saw that the world existed in the details. That felt right for the first issue back. We took a chance on each other. The rest of Mountain Gazette 194 was filled with articles and photos from friends I’d made over a close to 20 year career in skiing and outdoor writing. Acquiring the magazine is a tale all of its own

And then something extraordinary happened. We found you or maybe it was the other way around. You found us. If you’re reading this you’re likely a subscriber to our magazine. And you probably shared the magazine, not in an internet sense but in a real, human way, with friends and family. The world started to open up as did our doors and hearts. We welcomed the world back in. One by one you gave Mountain Gazette a chance and for that I’ll be forever amazed and grateful. 

Today we measure our subscribers in the thousands, but that doesn’t really say who we are. Mountain Gazette is on coffee tables and kitchen counters in all fifty states and around the world. We’re growing, but never quite fast enough to forget where we came from three years ago in a global pandemic, twenty years ago under John Fayhee, or 57 years ago under founder Mike Moore. They say, after all, three times is a charm. 

The waters are calmer and the dog shit is behind us for now. We’ve built something that we hope can last from this generation to the next and beyond. But just in case a storm returns, rest assured, we know how to handle the rough waters.

This isn’t my magazine. It’s yours. And from the bottom of my heart, as we approach the release of Mountain Gazette 200 this fall, thank you for allowing us to make this magazine for you. It is the honor of my life. 

When in Doubt, Go Higher,
Mike Rogge, editor 

Photo: George Sibley, essayist and educator, has written Part of Winter 5 for Mountain Gazette 200. The first Part of Winter series appeared in Mountain Gazette in 1972.