When Whistler hosted its first big air contest during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in 2000, Freeze Magazine was one of the title sponsors. It was one of the first freeskiing competitions ever held anywhere, outside of a few resorts that had opened up their terrain parks to skiers.
That commitment to innovation in skiing is what made Freeze Magazine, a Transworld Media publication, one of the most influential factors in the growth and acceptance of new school freeskiing.
Now, after almost eight years, the publishers have pulled the plug. Circulation was flat, according to editor Micah Abrams, but several initiatives, including the hiring of a circulation director and new programs to sign up subscribers, were never given a chance to get off the ground.
They also had a hard time proving that the market for their magazine was growing.
"Thats the problem, everybody has a lot of anecdotal evidence of the growth of the freeskiing market, but the only people who have any factual evidence are the manufacturers, and they keep that information pretty close to their chests," said Abrams.
"And our circulation was flat, so if the market was growing it wasnt reflected in circulation. The reasons for that are myriad but I really believe that the fact that we didnt have a circulation director or the marketing for the last three years hurt us in the long run."
Abrams says he was proud to be part of Freeze, which was selling magazines when new school freeskiing was limited to a couple of ex-freestylers sneaking into the terrain parks and trying snowboard moves on their skis. It was more than a different way of skiing; it was a whole lifestyle.
"The amount of response weve gotten since the news that the magazine was being shut down was gratifying, weve received calls from everyone, from the heads of huge companies like Oakley right on down to so many of the athletes that we couldnt even count them if we tried," said Abrams.
"Weve always taken pride in the fact that this magazine built our business on the backs of these athletes, while they built their careers on the back of the magazine. Weve always had a healthy relationship with athletes, and I know the staff here counts many of the bigger names in the sport as our closest friends.
"It sounds a little pompous, but I dont think its inaccurate to say that the ski industry would not look the way it looks right now without freeskiers or Freeze."
The January issue of Freeze will be the last. Once it has been completed eight staffers, including Abrams, will be out of work. Abrams plans to go back to freelancing for a while. "I wont be able to come to Whistler every year which sucks, but Ive always been a skier and Ill always write about skiing," said Abrams.
Abrams stresses that the decision was based on circulation, not profits Freeze magazine was profitable, he said, and has an excellent relationship with advertisers.
It wasnt always that way, however. While some people have suggested moving Freeze to another publisher, or starting up another magazine with the same staff, Abrams remembers how hard it was to get Freeze off the ground.
"A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the last eight years," he said. "First, it was a battle to get the ski industry to pay any attention to what freeskiing was all about. Then it was a battle to get advertisers to understand what the magazine was all about, and work with us to change their marketing to reach our readers when we started out we had all these ads that appeal to the older market, rather than the younger freeskiers, so we had to work that out.
"Obviously things have progressed with Freeskier magazine and Powder has shifted its editorial towards freeskiing, so we had to battle with those guys for a while.
"Making a magazine is an extremely expensive, competitive and difficult enterprise. While we have all the pieces in place to make a fantastic magazine, you just cant transfer to someone elses money and get back on the horse. This was a real blow to a lot of us professionally and personally, and everyone is going to need to take a bit of time away from it."
Whistlers Mark Abma, a competitive freeskier with good results in the halfpipe, slopestyle and big air events, was on the November cover of Freeze. He has worked almost exclusively with Freeze photographers in recent years, and is a huge fan of the magazine. When its gone, he says, it will make his job and the job of other up and coming freeskiers "a lot harder."
"Freeze was the magazine," he said. "Among the freeriders it was the most respected of all the magazines in the industry, they did a lot of things first that I think changed the way we look at things. It was a great magazine.
"Personally I really hope the guys (from Freeze) will put something else together, because Freeze cant be replaced."