Suzanne Cheavens is the senior editor of Mountainfreak magazine, based in Telluride, Colo.

Monday, 31 Jan 2000


Welcome to the happy chaos of my life as editor of Mountainfreak magazine. Since you probably have a voyeuristic streak if you’re reading someone else’s diary entries, I’ll start by letting you in on a secret. I have never edited a magazine before, much less anything like Mountainfreak. But the minute I sat at this desk, it felt as if my whole life had been leading up to this.

Suzanne Cheavens, feelin’ groovy.

What Mountainfreak is about (because I’m sure you do not know) is the future. Mountainfreak presents the reader with possibilities and hope. Our content reminds the reader of the power of individual action to create change in a world beset by environmental and social woes. But because constantly being barraged with the sorry state of affairs of the world can become a stone cold drag on the heart, Mountainfreak also reminds our readers that if you’re not having fun, you’re not living. This world is a delightful place, meant to be enjoyed, as well as cherished. Digging life and learning a thing or two need not be mutually exclusive activities.

Oh, idealistic one, you say. Head in the clouds, has reality so eluded you? Not at all, say I. Let me explain where this magazine was born. We (yes, an editorial we) live in Telluride, Colo. It’s a small town in the San Juan Mountains (elevation 8,750 feet), surrounded by 10,000- to 14,000-foot peaks. The sheer physical beauty of this place is cliché-inspiring, but the spiritual connection to the place is very real.

There’s a lot of money here. The desirability of the area comes with a price. Those who can afford it are carving up the mesas, and trophy homes are strewn across the landscape. The skiing is phenomenal when it snows. Though it’s snowing now, our winter has been exceptionally mild. (Can you say global warming?) Us regular folk work hard to live here. Our resort economy is robust, but things ain’t cheap. Our biggest problem? Housing. The middle-class residents are having the toughest time. Most leave. I’m one of the lucky ones. My husband and I bought a modest home last year. I’m gonna stay, damn it.

Our publisher, Hilary White, founded Mountainfreak. She wanted to tap into the unheard voices of those in mountain towns. She wanted to celebrate the joys of exploring and worshipping in what we call our temple, the natural world. She discovered that numerous creative folks were drawn to these places. Hilary attracted her band of writing, painting, drawing, and photographer freaks easily. Mountainfreak‘s seminal, black and white issues were distributed free in mountain towns throughout Colorado, Wyoming, British Columbia, and elsewhere. That was 1996. After three gloriously, well … freaky issues, Hilary was broke and went back to cleaning rich people’s houses. Gone, for the time being, was the magazine that had attracted a loyal following hungry for stories about organic farming, backcountry skiing, hemp news, poetry, art, and politics with a high country perspective.

But because the truth can never founder, fate stepped in. Okay, fate had a fat bank account and cash flow. He also shared the Mountainfreak ideal that the Earth is a place to be protected and nurtured, a vast playground of opportunity and enlightenment. The resurrected Mountainfreak hit the streets in spring of 1998, full of color, perfect bound, and brimming with irrepressible energy. And so we’ve grown. We’re distributed nationally and have subscribers on every continent.

Our Spring 2000 issue, Number 12, is close to being born. This week is nutso. Production time is always a maelstrom of creativity and last-minute inspiration. Since editorial content is long in the bag, what remains is the layout, design, and proofing of the issue. Our job during production is to supply beer and love and prodigious amounts of food to Art Director Mark Steele. It’s worth it. We are the best-looking and most visually innovative magazine out there. Bold words? See for yourself. You’ll come for the eye candy and stay for the words. It’s attitude that makes us different. Not a puffed chest, cock-of-the-walk attitude, but something positive and loving. We want to change the way the world thinks. We want to inform people that eating organic, recycling, and riding a bike are good ways to live. We want to make folks aware of the Tibet-China struggle and of the wholesale destruction of forests everywhere. Mountainfreak tells you about heroes who live among us. Julia Butterfly Hill, Mardy Murie, Dolores La Chapelle, Wade Davis. Mostly, we give you ideas and tools to create changes in your own corner of the world.

So, diary followers, I’ve provided a little background for the first day. Being the editor of Mountainfreak is a tremendous challenge. None of us have ever done anything like this before, but we are succeeding. Tomorrow, you’ll meet my compatriots and maybe we’ll clean my desk. Oscar Madison’s got nothing on me. Peace.