Mike Rogge is on a mission.
The Queensbury High School alumnus, a 2004 graduate who spent many years as a West Mountain skier, believes that no one writes about the joys of being outside anymore. His cure for that is to resurrect the Mountain Gazette, an iconic outdoor journal once home to the writing of notables such as Edward Abbey, Dick Dorworth and the original gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson.
So who starts a print publication these days?
“I think there is a place for a magazine that cares about great literature and great photography,” said the 35-year-old Rogge who, since his college days at SUNY Potsdam, has made a career talking, writing and filming skiing and a wide range of topics he folds under that broad umbrella.
He published his first ski article at 17, and continued freelance writing through college. He then moved to Burlington, Vermont, where he was a content provider for Ski the East and, while there, developed a ski-related radio talk show. He learned from a friend about a job opening at West Coast-based Powder Magazine, and he applied on a whim. To his surprise, at age 23, he was picked to become associate editor of the well-known ski publication.
Twelve years later, he is firmly committed to “capturing the soul of skiing.”
His first story for Powder was about “a street skier,” a young man attending the University of Colorado who didn’t have enough money for a ski pass. Instead, he became known for his urban skiing in and around Boulder. The article made a splash, but not exactly as Rogge expected.
“You should go take drugs and smash your face on the concrete,” wrote one less-than-impressed reader who objected to the author not writing about snowsports.
Instead of being unhappy with the feedback, Rogge was encouraged.
“It was cool to be working for a magazine where people care about what is printed,” he said.
That kind of attitude has carried over. In his first issue of the reconstituted Mountain Gazette last fall, there was an article about bird watching in New York City. Said Rogge: “Many of the skills, and much of the dedication here, is like skiing. It is focused, and participants are passionate.”
In the second issue due out in May, a main feature will be on “the human beings who were fighting the major fires in California last year.”
A SUBSTANTIAL PUBLICATION
The Mountain Gazette is not a sliver of a magazine. The next issue is slated for 132 pages and could go as high as 160. Right now, it is a coffee-table size 11-x-17 publication that is planned to come out twice a year — and live forever on bookshelves.
It was originally published as The Skier’s Gazette in 1966 and soon developed a reputation for being the magazine that captured the stories and characters of the West’s regional culture. Back issues became collectors’ items. But it didn’t last beyond the 1970s.
Closed for 20 years, new publishers came along in 2000 and ran the magazine until 2012. It was on the shelf until last year when Rogge and his media company, Verb Cabin, bought the publication.
Rogge, with his wife Meghan and 2-year-old son, lives in the North Lake Tahoe area where his multi-media production company is based. He skis regularly at Alpine Meadows near Squaw Valley. In today’s wired workplace, the magazine’s contributors can be anywhere; the art director is Rogge’s one-time Little League teammate John Coleman, who lives in Queensbury.
NO LACK OF IMAGINATION
Right now, the magazine is just a portion of Rogge’s business. In his mind, however, it could be 100%. And no one has ever accused him of lack of imagination.
“I like to think of the Mountain Gazette as my calling,” Rogge said. “I want it to be what ski magazines used to be. To do that, I need to give people the best content from the best writers and the best photographers: talented people who love the outdoors.”
Rogge looks at his publication in personal terms.
“I only care about subscribers. It is not a mass publication,” he said. “You won’t see product reviews or top-10 lists.”
More likely, what you will see in the Mountain Gazette is what The Colorado Sun once colorfully described as “barstool insights, an appreciation of genuine characters, and sharp criticism of interlopers seeking to get rich from local cultures and landscapes.”
Rogge is upbeat.
“I like people who, when given a choice, prefer to do it outdoors,” Rogge said. “I believe every person has a really good story. My challenge is how to get it out of them.”
And Rogge is getting noticed. Said long-time northern California photographer and ski journalist Dino Vournas: “Mike is a really interesting guy and infectiously committed to his magazine and philosophy.”
While all the activity is now West Coast-based, Rogge is still connected to our area. His parents live in Pilot Nob on Lake George, and his father operates a business in South Glens Falls. His sister and family live in Stony Creek.
Rogge still views himself as a product of the area.
“My heart,” he said, “is in the Adirondacks.”
To keep up with Rogge and his plans, check MountainGazette.com.
WEIBRECHT TO THE HIGH PEAKS
Double Olympic Alpine ski medalist Andrew Weibrecht from Lake Placid is taking up a new challenge: backcountry skiing the 46 Adirondack High Peaks.
It is part of his “Ski for Wishes” campaign started in 2019 to support The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeast New York.
Weibrecht, who joined the family’s Mirror Lake Inn business after retiring from ski racing in 2018, has reached 10 peaks so far and expects to complete the rest by this time next year.
DIGGINS WINS NORDIC SKI WORLD CUP TITLE
Nordic ski racer Jesse Diggins — who, with Kikkan Randall, won the first Olympic Gold Medal in cross country skiing ever for American women at the 2018 Games — has just become the second American and first U.S. woman to win the season-long, overall World Cup title in her sport.
The 29-year-old Minnesota native, who trains at Stratton Mountain in Vermont, joins Bill Koch, who won the men’s title in 1982.
2021-22 SEASON PASS SALES
Season passes for next year at most ski areas in our region are now available.
The 2021-2022 Ski 3 passes for the New York State ORDA areas Belleayre, Gore and Whiteface go on sale Wednesday. The popular multi-area IKON pass is already on sale and you can purchase an EPIC pass for next season beginning March 23.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].