What do Robert Redford, the Moon, local celeb Bobbie Burns and an elderly Austrian woman have in common?
Each has graced the cover of Powder Magazine.
These four covers are only a small spattering of the radical and iconic nature of the publication, which celebrated 40 years of skiing – photo shoots, parties, comps, trips West, trips North, guides and reviews and a whole ton of nonsense – this weekend in it’s birthplace, Sun Valley.
Starting with the already legendary Powder Prom on Friday night, the festivities continued Saturday night with an exhibition of these four covers and 76 more at OCHI Gallery on Lewis Street in Ketchum. Four decades worth of face-shots, kickers at sunset and sunrise, ominous storms and bluebird skies were on display and up for sale to benefit the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.
Left: 2003, Volume 32- Issue 4. Right: 1987, Volume 16- Issue 2.
(As much as I personally wanted one of these beautifully mounted covers, most of them were blown up and too big for the small walls of my apartment. The price was of no object as these are undoubtedly ski artifacts and heirlooms as priceless to us as Barrymore’s films or the bamboo poles of Jean Claude Killy.)
As a small consolation however, I found free Tecate, Old Milwaukee and Olympia beer in every corner. Like I said, Powder is radical. So as I walked around, sipping gingerly, attempting to contain my excitement (as many of the photographers, skiers and editors were standing RIGHT next to me) and trying to find a favorite cover, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What makes Powder sooo cool?”
Powder Mag's very first cover, from the winter of 1972.
The uniqueness of the magazine, which has always been the groovy alternative to stuffier ski rags, isn’t difficult to trace. Starting with its snow-loving founders, Dave and Jake Moe, who had nothing more than a dream of bringing “Powder to the People” and started doing just that with the first issue in 1972. Their choice for their premiere cover? Three skiers making turns on a cosmic powder day, the Earth and Moon prominently in the background. Black and white. Very cool and truly telling of the creative direction that the magazine would continue to pursue throughout its 40-year duration.
Left: 2004, Volume 32- Issue 5. Right: 1984, Volume 13- Issue 2.
But let’s not forget the contribution of content. Words are cool too, and Powder articles are consistently fresh and enlightening works of prose. If it hadn’t been for a piece some years back, about lumber-jacking ski bums, squatting their winters in National Forests, I’d probably be in grad school right now and not ski bumming in Sun Valley. So maybe it’s the killer photos, maybe it’s the prose, or perhaps it’s the art that is born out of a combination of the two. Whatever it is, it is a kind of art that makes one buy the magazine.
What makes Powder so iconic? Just what makes it so cool? It’s history? It’s humor? It’s stories? More than anything it is probably the creativity of the entire project, coming out of the ’70’s and continuing today to set a new expressive standard in skiing. But this gallery show proved that perhaps it is the uncommon photography that truly sets the tone of the magazine. And only the best photos – from Redford to the Moon to Sammy Carlson and Shane McConkey – made those 80 covers that adorned the gallery walls Saturday night.
The OCHI Gallery walls adorned with Powder Magazine covers.
Cheers to Powder Magazine, OCHI Gallery and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation for putting on a great show (and letting me drink free beer)!
A selection of covers are still available at OCHI Gallery. Sale proceeds benefit the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Contact Pauli Ochi at pauli@ochigallery.