Recently one of our Skis.com employees, Steve Hartman, got a chance to sit down with Andy Bigford from The Mountain Group (SKI Magazine, Skiing Magazine and Warren Miller Entertainment) to discuss the differences between his magazines, the places Warren Miller Entertainment has shot and why he came to visit Summit Sports. Here is the podcast transcript:
Steve: Hello and welcome to another Summit Sports Podcast for Skis.com and Snowboards.com. On this edition of the podcast I speak with Andy Bigford who is the publisher and general manager of SKI Magazine, Skiing Magazine and Warren Miller Entertainment. This is all collectively known as The Mountain Group. Andy came by the Summit Sports headquarters and I was able to sit down and chat with him for a little bit. We talked about his magazines, how they’re able to reach such a broad audience and why he moved the magazines from New York to Colorado.
I started off by asking Andy about his background and how he got into magazines.
Andy: Why magazines? I started out as a skier, a dedicated skier and ski bum, growing up in Michigan and got into journalism and publishing and I put those two things together. I started out as the editor-in-chief of SKI Magazine in 1996 and we moved the magazine from New York City to Colorado and been going strong ever since then.
Steve: And how does being in Colorado help with the success of the magazine?
Andy: We like to be in the center of the mountain universe. We like being in a place where we can go out and test equipment and live the lifestyle and ski at great resorts and also have easy access to, you know, literally anywhere in the country and around the world.
S: And are you a skier?
A: I’m a big skier. I started skiing at age ten in Michigan.
S: And what brings you to Summit Sports today?
A: I’m visiting to talk to skis.com, they’re a great partner of us, we do a lot of similar things being experts on gear and apparel and we share a lot of the same kind of, you know, challenges and do a lot of the same kinds of things, they’re a great partner of ours, and we’re looking into doing even more with them in the future and I’m just really psyched to be here at the headquarters to finally see the brains and the actual operation here. I participated in a huddle and I was just at the B.O.B. Board too so I’m taking pictures and learning a lot.
S: Tell me about The Mountain Group.
A: We have 2 magazines: SKI and Skiing. SKI is the original, started in 1936, so it’s going on 80 years. It tends to be the true destination vacation-oriented. We have a lot of family, we have a lot of great lodging and dining along with content about, you know, the best gear and our annual Reader Resort issue. Skiing is a much younger psychographic it’s for the person who’s all about adventure and backcountry and who’s number one thing in life is to just ski more powder and get more days in. They don’t live in a ski town, they want to, so that’s the difference. Our group also includes Warren Miller Entertainment. And we’re working on our 65th film right now. We just got back from Greece and Switzerland and Japan and AK again and have some really great stories and segments all about number 65: the Evolution. If you don’t go this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.
S: How do you find new locations, new things to do on 65 films?
A: We’re constantly looking for those kinds of things and we’re always trying to look at some place nobody has ever been. You know, we were in Iran, you know, shortly after we were able to do it and actually in 2001 shortly before 9/11 which was a bit of a concern but we’ve been to all kinds of places nobody else has ever been. We want to go to Afghanistan and we’re looking at doing that. And SKI Magazine went to North Korea this year to Masik Pass – the new resort there, so all of our editors and directors and stuff are always looking for the next place to go.
S: Each one sounds more dangerous than the previous one.
A: Yeah, that’s sometimes part of the deal.
S: You briefly touched on demographics. Who’s reading your magazines?
A: People that are passionate about the sport and they tend to be affluent, they tend to be, you know, happy to invest hard-earned money in everything from gear to resort. SKI Magazine tends to be, you know, age 30 and above and their children and about 40%, 30% of the readership has a family at home. Average age for SKI is about 43, 44. We do get a lot of younger people reading it too. Skiing, the ages are all across the board, but they enjoy complete dedication to adventure and to pushing themselves and to kind of just dedicating themselves to skiing powder and getting on the first and last chair.
S: Have you found that the demographics have changed over the years for either magazine, or is it pretty much consistent?
A: No, it’s always changing and it changes too with all of the, you know, web business we do and with the tablet extensions of these magazines. SKI and Skiing for many years competed against each other, did a lot of the same things and we’ve, you know, we differentiate them. We have a lot of people who read both of them for different reasons so in the general picture, Skiing has tended to get a little younger in age and definitely younger in the psychograph.
S: And do you see more readers going to the tablets or are they doing both or is there a benefit to going to digital as opposed to print?
A: So, yeah, we’re seeing a lot of publishers, we see the tablet magazine category as a big growth area. We see strong subscriber interest in that. Delivering on a tablet is the opportunity to dramatically enhance and make interactive all the features that you see in a print magazine so we got video and audio and all kinds interactivity. There’s no limit to how much you can do with photography. We have enhanced photo spreads, all kinds of things like that, and so it’s really a fun experience. We find in skiing and snowboarding, print is still the inspirational foundation. It’s always going to be strong.
S: I heard almost 1 out of every 5 readers is a snowboarder.
A: So, at SKI Magazine we do have a lot of readership that are snowboarders and we have parents of kids who are snowboarders and we still have a lot of readers that just like to snowboard but they also like the finer things in a vacation. They like the best lodging, the best places to go eat, they might be interested in real estate. They might even be interested in the best SUVs for, you know, skiing and snowboarder participants so we do have a large number of snowboarders.
S: So, whether you’re a skier or snowboarder, check out SKI Magazine and Skiing Magazine. You’ll find amazing photos of the best in snow sports showing off their skills, you’ll have articles on the best lodging and best places to spend your next ski trip and you’ll even get tips on how to improve.
I’d like to thank Andy Bigford from SKI Magazine, Skiing Magazine and Warren Miller Entertainment for joining me today on the Podcast and thank you for listening.