NEAR & FAR Jan. 4, 2018
How Combat Skier reports for duty
You don’t subscribe or pick up the ’zine Combat Skier. Instead you encounter it by chance. It’s out there somewhere, appearing whenever its creators are inspired to staple together another issue.
I found the Fall 2017 edition on a bench outside of Sola in Bozeman. Over the years, I’ve stumbled upon Combat Skier at random times, in random places and have always enjoyed this publication’s ability to force outdoorsy, affluent people to laugh at themselves—or at least take notice of the combative tone and skewering sarcasm.
Combat Skier claims to be “inspired by the Bratty Bourgeois.” I’m not sure who that is exactly, but it’s clear Combat Skier specializes in poking fun at ski town culture and all the “gnarcissism” that goes with it.
On what appears to be the most recent issue, the cover features a ripping skier with a GoPro mounted on his helmet. Poor guy. He had no idea this shot would fall into the ’zine’s crosshairs. But it’s this “look at me” trend in mountain sports that seems to provoke the writers at Combat Skier. And once provoked, they are merciless in their critique of everything from ski films to backcountry bloggers to the current president of the United States.
In style and form, Combat Skier looks like something the editorial minds at Bomb Snow might come up with if they went to work for The Onion. Each edition is a tiny manifesto that echoes sentiments familiar to fans of Powder Magazine’s “The Jaded Local” column, which parodies ski town characters and idiosyncrasies.
For Combat Skier, that includes realtors and in the fall issue, the creators take aim at the logo of one Big Sky real estate firm in particular, writing, “Let us be your exclusive realtors for all (former) public lands.” Much of the 16 pages in the Fall 2017 edition are consumed with similar political angst over what’s happening in Washington D.C.
But that’s not Combat Skier’s strong suit. It’s best when parachuting into the places where current affairs, pop culture and ski towns overlap.
Here’s one skirmish: During the ebola outbreak in Africa, Combat Skier warned the world about a new deadly strain—“e-BROla is here. It is on our shores. Please protect yourself from contracting this highly controversial virus.” Tasteless? Absolutely. But the juxtaposition of a flat-billed hat and a deadly microbe is also priceless if you’re out to incite a reaction from an audience that tends to hide in a bro-bubble. What better way to bring the outside world to them?
Of course, I could be reading into this way too deeply and setting myself up for a Combat Skier parody of this paper. The writers do seem to have a newsy side, like when they announced the “Bridger Browl 2020 Expansion Plan.” Published in 2014, it reads like the fever dream of a Ridge regular, with “thousands of condos and a ticket price consistent with Vail and Asspen.” The accompanying illustration shows the entire Bridger Range transformed into a mega resort.
This report, like most ammo in the Combat Skier arsenal, isn’t attributed to a real person. But under the headline “Meet the Original Combat Skiers” we see what looks like a magazine’s staff page. Only everyone pictured is wearing an eye patch. One writer is named “Windslab” and he “Materialized just south of The Greater Yellowstone Club in a deep dark canyon. He learned to ride the snow that was blown off Big Sky and ended up in West Yellowstone. Windslab remembers the first avalanche report for an area near one of his favorite spots, and describes it as ‘the beginning of the end.’”
Plenty of Big Sky locals have legitimate gripes about favorite stashes getting tattooed by wave after wave of newcomers. On New Year’s Eve, I ran into Gallatin National Forest Snow Ranger Cody Yeatts as he was about to lock the gate on Storm Castle Road for the winter. Yeatts told me that while patrolling the backcountry, every year he’s seeing skiers push deeper into new terrain.
Yeatts: “It’s definitely busier in places.”
Me: “Really, what new places are you seeing people ski?”
Yeatts: “I’m not going to tell you where the spots are (laughs). But at any of our wintertime trailheads, there’s always more cars. Even on really cold days, there’s always people out. It just keeps getting busier and busier.”
This building pressure brought on by crowds, the rising cost of mountain town living and the overly casual use of slang like “tattooed” feeds the creative impulses of Combat Skier. Its aggressive humor pries open a release valve in many of us who can’t help but laugh when there on the brew pub bar or coffee shop table or bench outside Sola, we find a little booklet full of sarcasm funny enough to be its own kind of stoke.
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