The Office Blog: Get Weird

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Work. PHOTO: David Reddick

(Re)introducing a semi-regular blog about working at the greatest ski magazine in the world.

The Intern (Julie Brown) Interviews the Jaded Local (Hans Ludwig)

If you're like me, the first thing you flip to in a fresh issue of POWDER is the Jaded Local. That's because he gets it. While most of the Ski Media sings praises about heli skiing in AK, pillow lines in Japan, and $700 skis[1]—things that are out of reach for your average liftie who makes $8.50 an hour or your intern who makes $0.00 an hour—the Jaded Local is on the same level as the rest of us. He sprays insults.[2] He goes to Taco/Tequila Tuesday. He's more interested in the pursuit of Good Times than hucking off that 30-foot cliff. And he's a damn fine writer.[3]

So that's why I took it as my personal mission to find out more about the man who is so jaded, so I interviewed him. An introspective Hans Ludwig shared some deep thoughts about his time as a ski writer. And actually, he probably doesn't want you to read this.[4] So go ahead and click over to that other story, the one about the all-expenses-paid fantasy trip where the bros shred five feet of fresh on the other side of the world.

(Footnotes provided by Hans Ludwig.)

The Jaded Local, caught in the wild. PHOTO: Greg von Doersten

The Jaded Local, caught in the wild. PHOTO: Greg von Doersten

Phone rings. And rings. And rings.

Hans Ludwig: Yello
Intern: Hans?
Yeah this is Hans.
Hey Hans. This is Julie, from Powder, the intern.
Hey Julie.
How's it going?
Good, how are you doing?

Good. Thanks. What are you up to today?
I'm discussing stuff for the magazine and choking on smoke. There's a big forest fire here.

So, what are you working on for the magazine now?
I just finished another profile of a skier from Tahoe name Darren Johnson.[5]

That's cool. So, let's get down to it. What do I need to do to start writing for Powder and actually get paid?
Um, as a writer? One, you're not going to get paid shit in the ski industry. I don't know. You're probably doing it right, interning. All the people there—Stifter, Keith Carlsen, Reddick even, I think they were all interns.

How did you get started?
I came out to Mammoth on a spring road trip to ski with some friends and ended up meeting a guy named Chris Pondella, who wanted to be a photographer. We went skiing and he took some really good shots. Chris met David Reddick, who told him to send in some stuff. So Nate Wallace and I just wrote up something. We literally faxed it in.[6] Chris sent in some slides. They ended up running it.(March ’97)

So then you started going on assignments?
We put ourselves on assignment. We had no idea how anything worked, and POWDER used to be real loosey goosey. I mean, Steve Casimiro and Les Anthony seemed to do whatever the hell they wanted to, editorially. And they didn't have to answer to anyone about it. So it was a little weird.

What are some tips for ski writers wanting to travel?
Most people are going to be doing some kind of industry bullshit. Which is why most ski media is boring. If you want to do something cool, you have to just go somewhere and go do it. Everyone does the same shit. They go to Japan. They go to Alaska. They go to Revelstoke. Now a lot of people are going to Norway. For good reason, because that's where the consistent, deep pow is. But some of the best times I've had is with really shitty skiing. Heli skiing is stressful. It's not like let's go shred and smoke a joint and look at the view. That's not how heli skiing is.[7]

How good of a skier do you have to be?
That's not the point. You know who the best skier on the mountain is?
The guy having the most fun. Unless you're racing on the U.S. Ski Team, that's the point. To me a good skier is someone who knows how to enjoy the experience.

The Jaded's advice: Get weird. PHOTO: Scott Markewitz

The Jaded’s advice: Get weird. PHOTO: Scott Markewitz

How about drinking with the locals?
I've done a lot of trips solo. I get a per diem and I could just get a hotel room. But what I usually do is go to the bar and start buying people drinks.[8] By the end of the night, I get it all lined up with the locals, instead of just calling the marketing department. Which is the reason why I'm not making any money.
It's really fun to roll up on a bunch of strangers, and have them kind of vibe you, like you're some tourist. You get to meet people that way. Skiing just transcends everything. Doesn't matter where I am, when I meet other actual skiers, we're on the same program.

How do you approach writing?
When I did that Nevada trip the last time ("Apocalyptic"), I was with a photographer named Jordan Manley, who is one of our best up-and-comer guys. He's very serious. And I was like, this trip is not going to be serious. We're going to get really fucking weird.
He kept asking me why I wasn't taking notes. 'Cause I was just getting fucked up. I had been on the road already for two months. My chick had dumped me. And I was like: I don't care. Let's just get wasted. And just get weird.
I'm not trying to report on anything. I'm creating. I'm trying to create situations that will lead to funny photos or weird photos. It's not like scripting a movie, but it's more like directing a situation that will generate things… I wrote a story about, basically, being out of my head in the desert.
But that's just my approach. Everyone does something differently.[9]

When did the Jaded Local show up?
That was (Editor at Large) Matt Hansen. It was his idea. He just let me go crazy. I don't think a lot of editors would have taken that risk. The second column I did was in the voice of somebody telling you that he just slept with your girlfriend. It was like, "Hey bro, I just slept with your girlfriend. No big deal." It was not what you would get in a typical ski magazine.

How much of the Jaded is actually you?
It started out trying to do different voices. But it turned into me satirizing my own life[10] and who I am. I'm a ski bum. I live in a little ski town, and hang out.

Why the obsession with ski racer chicks?
Those chicks are fucking bad ass. They are not fucking around. They're doing something that's serious and dangerous and they're getting paid, which I think is really cool. I think women's ski racing has always been a little bit overlooked, and right now, it's more interesting than the men's because it's hyper-competitive.

What do you think about the Industry. And words like Direction and Progression?
The whole idea of progression is the stupidest thing ever.
Progress implies that you have a destination. And there is no destination for that crap. Just go bigger, faster, more, more, more. Someone has brainwashed all these kids into thinking that's the point. And it's not. And it never was.

Any last wise words?
I would just be open to experiences. Go have them. Don't let what you see in a ski movie or a magazine or whatever define everything for you. If you want to make cool stuff, you got to put your stuff in the back of a truck and get weird and go ski something.

1. I like all of those things too. But you don’t need them to have fun.
2. I prefer to think of it as refreshing candor.
3. Take it from the intern.
4. True. Don’t.
5. Calling Darren Johnson “a skier from Tahoe” is like saying Moses was a Jewish guy on a road trip.
6. And mailed in the backup on a floppy disk. I used to love it when they’d call me for last minute stuff because it meant I could fax in something scribbled in ballpoint on spiral notebook paper, and the intern would have to type it up.
7. It can be hectic, but it’s basically crack cocaine. If you’re riding in a helicopter to go skiing, you are Winning Life.
8. This is the only useful information in this interview. I highly recommend this approach.
9. I’ve heard about this “journalism” thing, but facts are so boring.
10. Or more accurately, satirizing my fantasy life.

Ship Week Foosball Tournament: Stifter (hidden in white T-shirt), Reddick (grey shirt left), Basher (blue), and Davies settle the score on the foosball field. PHOTO: Sarah Ward

Tecate, Insanity, and Skiing
By POWDER Intern, Sarah “Georgia Foreman” Ward, posted June 28, 2013

I’m on my first Red Bull and third cup of coffee of the day. The Tecate in the fridge tempts me, promising to take the edge off, but I'm afraid that if alcohol is thrown into the mix, I will either regurgitate all the liquids I've consumed in the past 24 hours or pass out right here on my cubical desk. This is day five of ship week for POWDER's Buyer's Guide and I'm only an intern…you don't want to know what the editors look like.

They look like this. Matt Hansen is not dancin'. Yet, anyway. PHOTO: Sarah Ward

Putting in overtime this week—work days turning into work nights—I have picked up a 30- and a 36-rack of beer, copious amounts of Thai food, party size bags of Doritos (red flavor), and three extra large pizzas over the past two days. My mind has officially stopped thinking and I'm left with words like MSRP, weight, DIN, dimensions, lengths, and marketing-fueled acronyms buzzing in my head. Everyone here at POWDER HQ teeters on the brink of insanity to bring you the absolute best (in content and design) Buyer's Guide for skiing you will see this year.

Editor John Stifter, down on hands and knees. Let's pray with him. PHOTO: Sarah Ward

That being said, don't feel too bad for us. We're being paid (minus Julie and me) to geek out on the sport we love most. The annual "Ship Week Foosball Tournament," which ends in December and results in bets being paid up at POWDER Week has officially begun. Director of Photography Dave Reddick and Editor John Stifter performed the opening ceremony of a shot ski (, deeming the tournament’s start.

Reddick and Stifter take the shotzski for a test run. PHOTO: Sarah Ward

I count myself lucky because the late nights, stupefied brain, beer, junk food, and overload of ski technology is worth it. True, reading about all of next year's gear and the awesome stories in this issue makes me crave the weightless feeling of powder, but there could be worse daydreams…and there could definitely be worse weeks.

Chicken Soup for the Burned Out Editor’s Browning Soul
By Managing Editor, John Clary Davies, posted June 25, 2013

Maybe like us, you have a busy week. These are the things that are getting me through mine, during which we are shipping the September Issue Buyer’s Guide, the biggest, baddest, most headache-inducing bastard of them all.

1. David Reddick’s first Shooting Gallery: Pure, unadulterated, text-less, ski porn.
2. Tecate
3. Holding all of next year’s skis. Holding them tight.
4. The Strokes’ new album, Comedown Machine
5. This video, which, despite my 4,000 views, still makes me giggle like it’s a powder day but leaves me with serious questions, like: How did he get on the tow? If he was so unsure of how to ride it, why didn’t he wait for people to go ahead of him? How many doctors did it take to remove his underwear? Are self-induced castrations reversible?
6. Patron
7. Wedding season.
8. My whimsical Giants.
9. Hard drugs.
10. Our ridiculous interns.
11. Playoff sports and playoff sports.

Gouging Buyer’s Guide Eyeballs
By Editor John Stifter, posted June 10, 2013

Licorice-covered keyboard and unedited feature awaits. PHOTO: iPhone

I’ve eaten two bags of Natural Vines strawberry soft licorice. My clock reads 7:14 p.m. and high tide at Trestles, and I’m late for dinner. And I still need to edit a feature story. But I just edited 50-plus ski reviews for the 2014 Buyer’s Guide Fantasy Draft (thank you, Emily Stifler, for knowing how to write). Modest Mouse’s “Lonesome Crowded West” blares from my 13-inch MacBook Pro speakers, allowing me to focus in on syntax and eradicate passive voice. After reading about progressive sidecuts, Flipcore, Power Rocker, and smear this, slash that, I want to gouge my hazel eyeballs.

But somewhere deep down in my licorice-fueled, cane syrupy soul, I want to slash and smear and ski. Powder. Groomers. Chop. Trees. I want to smell it. Feel snow sting my face.

Associate Editor John Davies walked by my office about 45 minutes ago or so, said goodbye for the day, and then responding to my buyer’s guide editing lament remarked, “Damn, man, I want to ski.”

Me too, John. Me too. But I gotta run and grab a lemon and shaved Parmesan for dinner first. Later, I’ll hopefully dream about arcing the best powder turn of my life before waking up to another round of editing the greatest ski buyer’s guide tomorrow.

Legends of POWDER
By Intern Julie Brown, posted June 7, 2013

"Got any plans this evening?," POWDER Editor John Stifter walked out of his office, down the hall, and into the cubicle block, to give us an invitation of a lifetime. "Four generations of POWDER editors are getting together tonight and watching Greg Stump's Legends of Aahhh's. Want to come?"

Four different dynasties at the top seat at POWDER, from left to right: Neil Stebbins, Keith Carlsen, Derek Taylor, and John Stifter. PHOTO: David Reddick

We tried to sound as casual as possible. Sure, that sounds fun. Little did he know that I dropped everything—including a date with a past fling—for the chance to hang with the guys who make up a combined 20-plus years of POWDER editorial. Neil Stebbins, Keith Carlsen, Derek Taylor, and Stifter—in one room—I mean, this wasn't just a big deal for me. Later that night, when we were closing down the dive bar at 2 a.m., 20-year POWDER resident sage and Director of Photography Dave Reddick, always soft spoken and rarely a few beers deep, spoke of the evening in equal reverence.

A few hours later, (fellow intern) Sarah and I parked in front of a beige stucco house on a dark street, deep in the Orange County 'burbs. We knocked on the front door. It opened. And there was Stebbins, editor from 1975 to 1986, the surfer who got a call one day asking if he knew how to ski, and next thing you know, he's the editor of POWDER. (FYI, that doesn't happen any more.)

Bruce Benedict shows John Clary Davies a few of his images, including this classic Plake, hawk-down, shot. PHOTO: David Reddick

Stebbins led Sarah and me into his kitchen, where the guys sipped wines, bourbons, and Belgians. Not only were the four editors leaning on counters, shooting the shit, but Reddick and associate editor John Clary Davies were hanging out. Oh, and former POWDER Senior Photographer Bruce Benedict, too, the guy who filmed Glen Plake, Scott Schmidt, and Mike Hattrup in Chamonix for Blizzard of Aahhh's and was Greg Stump's right-hand cinematographer. The same guy who shot most of the footage in the ski film we planned to watch that night.

We drank a few beers. They talked about things editors of ski magazines talk about. I listened, mostly in awe. Eventually, Stebbins announced with an air of grace and a wave of his hand that we should retire to the theater upstairs where the film would commence shortly. And for the next hour or so, the ski movie about the history of ski movies flickered on the screen.

POWDER magazine, past, present, and future do what they do best. Drink beer and talk skiing. PHOTO: David Reddick

Now I love ski movies, especially when most of the footage is shot in Squaw Valley and Chamonix, two of my favorite places. But when an editor asks for your opinion about a classic, you better have more to say than I did, which was, "Yeah! That was awesome!" Say something more like this, which is what the editors all said: no one else but Greg Stump could have made a movie like that. And that it was solid and good and tight right up until the end, when a montage starts against rock music and silhouettes of park skiers fly into an orange sunset, and the movie becomes exactly what it said is wrong with all ski movies. Say something like that.

Greg Stump's the Legend of AAHHH's is a fascinating film with interviews with the greats, like Warren Miller, Dick Durrance, Otto Lang, and Dick Barrymore. PHOTO: David Reddick

This being the night of legends and all, it couldn't be an early night. That would be wrong, just wrong. So that's how we all ended up at one of San Clemente's glorious dive bars. Taylor asked both of us what we had learned from the night. What's the takeaway? Honestly, it's that the legends of POWDER are just guys who have really cool jobs. And they are interesting and have great bar stories and are fun to hang out with.

The Dream For $0 An Hour
By Intern Sarah Ward, posted June 4, 2013

Day 1: I enter the "Powder Pit." Okay, it's not that glamorous. It's basically the free labor 'terns and legit paid POWDER employees staring at computer screens in four different corners while they ignore the fluorescent lit world and neighboring cubicle chatter with their headphones. But damn, I've never seen a cooler cubicle! I immediately realize the perks of working for $0 an hour…free swag! Our boss tells us, "we need to move this stuff, take what you want." I now have sweet hats, beanies, shirts, stickers, and backpacks. The list is sure to grow over the summer. Who needs a salary with benefits when you get perks like this?

The intern, post-foosball loss/pre-shotgun. PHOTO: John Clary Davies

Week 1: My job is literally to watch ski edits and read news articles about skiing (among other things), the shit they would fire me for at all my other jobs. I did a Q&A with Mickael Deschenaux the first week and talked about crack, like real crack (and his new edit). I also pitched a story idea about skiing and drinking, and it's now on, which is awesome. I've explored the dive bars of San Clemente, and am now officially a surfer…ok more like a paddler. But more than anything, the most attractive part of this internship is seeing names from a page come to life. I see and interact with people everyday who I previously only knew through their stories, insights, and printed name. This steamy Ryan Gosling of an internship is sexy, but it's not just a fling. I find myself imagining a future with it. I think we could have fun at Powder Week and exploring B.C. together.

Why I'm Peaking at Foosball and Shotgunning
By Associate Editor John Clary Davies, posted June 3, 2013

There are two things that were not in my POWDER job description that I am now above average in performing as a result of my time in the office: foosball and shotgunning beers.

I'm not sure if this is a good thing. I'm about to turn 29, which seems a bit late to be performing typical Greek Row activities better than I ever have before. Some people work on their marriage or mortgage by the time they're 30. I chose to work on bar games and shotgunning. But for whatever it's worth, these are the two things that keep me from gouging out my eyeballs and throwing them at Microsoft Word after I've stared at a computer screen for three gillion hours in an office park in Southern California.

Paying up. PHOTO: Anthony Smith

But this peak of mine is undeniable. I know exactly where to puncture my beer, and how wide my hole needs to be. It’s an art, guys. I've learned to take my shirt off—because I am messy when I consume 12 ounces of beer as fast as possible and don’t want to smell like suds for the rest of the day—and how to manipulate my gullet just right. My shotgun splits aren't impressive, but for the first time in my life, they are passable. I don't even vom anymore.

The reason we shotgun is because it is fun and makes us feel weird, but mostly because we have to pay up on foosball losses. My foosball game is flourishing right now. I've developed into a defensive stopper with Jonathan Quick-like instinctive reflexes. I have a few offensive moves, a back and forth with my forwards and a quick shot from my keeper, but my bread and butter is a stout defense that would impress Tom Thibodeau. Of course, with guys like Reddick around, the competition isn’t light, so I’m sure I’ll be plunging my car keys into the side of a Tecate again soon.

Cheers to 29.