This past summer, Freeride World Tour competitor and Jackson Hole native Hadley Hammer was working at a gym in Jackson when her boss tasked her with creating a regular podcast to promote the business. "It was about three days of banging my head against a computer as I'm no tech wiz, but once I figured it all out, I realized the technical side isn't all that difficult," says Hammer.
Once she sorted out how to record and edit a podcast, Hammer knew there was nothing stopping her from making her own online audio show. And what does a female big-mountain skier create when she sets out to make a podcast? A show about women in skiing, naturally.
Hammer's podcast, named Nausicaa-Cast, launched Monday with its first episode: an interview with Girls Do Ski founder Leah Evans. She plans to commit fully to the project, and she's already slated interviews with about 20 women across outdoor sports, ranging from skiers to climbers to ultrarunners.
"These sports are interesting to me because there doesn't seem to be a clear path to success. I find the most fascinating part of the conversation is just learning about each woman's trajectory," says Hammer. "The conversation about female athletes lately has just felt so… pejorative. Selfishly, I'm also just so excited to talk to my heroes."
Podcasting is having its heyday. According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans listening to podcasts today has nearly doubled since 2008—now some 17 percent and counting of the country's population tunes into podcasts. The 2014 podcast, Serial, which became the fastest podcast in history to score 5,000 downloads, introduced a growing audience to podcasting. That audience includes skiers, too.
The Dirtbag Diaries, produced by writer Fitz Cahill in Seattle, is likely the largest podcast in the outdoor world. It was also one of the first when it debuted in 2007. Now with more than 150 episodes, it has been downloaded more than 3.5 million times. Other shows have spawned in the wake of The Dirtbag Diaries' success.
Mark Warner, a 34-year-old devoted skier who waits tables at a high-end steak restaurant in Whistler, BC, started his ski podcast, the Low Pressure Podcast, in 2013. Now, he's published over 50 episodes and has thousands of listeners tuning in from 94 countries. He interviews everyone from pro skiers like Kye Petersen and Ian McIntosh to photographer Blake Jorgenson, filmmaker Eric Iberg, and a Whistler ski patroller talking in his kitchen about avalanche control work.
Through online tutorials, Warner taught himself how to produce a podcast and get it onto iTunes. A buddy in a band gave him microphones and recording gear, which Warner paid for with beer and a hand-pressed espresso machine.
"Skiing has tons of magazines and movies and online edits. But up until the last year or so, there really haven't been any podcasts," says Warner. "It's a whole new avenue for content creation, for getting your message out there, and for potential advertising."
Warner makes a little money through advertising on his podcast, but he's not quitting his night job just yet.
"Podcasts are starting to pick up steam in skiing," says Mike Rogge, a former POWDER editor who once hosted a popular weekly radio program out of Burlington, Vermont, called The Ski Show, which, at its peak, had 14,000 listeners. "The Low Pressure Podcast and Freedle Coty's Snowblower Podcast are good ones. Like anything, the more saturated it gets the more competition will let the cream rise to the top."
Rogge is currently at work on a new podcast, called Outdoor Happy Hour. He hopes to debut the show in 2016. "Mostly I want to see if many of the private conversations had behind closed doors about media and outdoor sports are interesting to an audience," says Rogge. "They're interesting to me and there aren't many places for this kind of dialogue to exist, be it in print, digital, or film."
As for Hammer, she's looking forward to giving listeners a piece of content they can sink into during a road trip to the next snowy destination.
"I like that podcasting is a 'slower' media format where you get to take your time to learn about someone, directly from their voice, versus just seeing an image, or a 140 character tweet, or a web edit," says Hammer. "Most movies, edits, and magazines are heavy on the action. Podcasting allows people to really get to know the athlete and see how they live out their lives."