In 2000, M. John Fayhee, a long-time reporter for Colorado’s Summit Daily News and contributing editor at Backpacker, Curtis Robinson, ex-editor of the Aspen Times and one of the founders of Roaring Fork Sunday newspaper, and Georg...
In 2000, M. John Fayhee, a long-time reporter for Colorado’s Summit Daily News and contributing editor at Backpacker, Curtis Robinson, ex-editor of the Aspen Times and one of the founders of Roaring Fork Sunday newspaper, and George Stranahan, who used to own the infamous Woody Creek Tavern and helped found Flying Dog Brewery, resurrected the Mountain Gazette, bringing it back from a 21-year hiatus. In its first incarnation (1966-1972 as the Skiers Gazette and 1972-1979 as the Mountain Gazette), the magazine had published work by the likes of Edward Abbey, David Roberts, Galen Rowell, Royal Robbins, Barry Corbet, John Jerome, George Sibley, Dick Dorworth, and many others.
In March 2013, Fayhee announced his departure from the magazine, ending an era. The Gazette had suspended print publication in November 2012, but continued online amid hopes it would resume print publication. The Gazette will continue under Elevation Outdoors editor Doug Schnitzpahn, who is optimistic about re-vamping its online presence and hopes to re-launch print publication in some form in the future.
Funky, Cranky, Loved
In its second life under Fayhee, the Gazette became a mountain-town magazine that was equal parts barstool storytelling and mountainside introspection, and it fought hard to avoid the destination and gear obsession of shiny outdoor mags and stay true to its roots of quality writing about all aspects of mountain life. The editorial voice was the guy sitting next to you at the townie bar in Leadville or the lady who had moved west with her dog 10 years ago and never left, not the guy with the flashy new skis on the chairlift or the tourist flying in for a weekend for a few Facebook photos.
Fayhee’s writing became the centerpiece of the magazine, a wonderfully rambling, throwback style, punch lines and epiphanies abound in his stories of bar fights, trail conversations and observations, and even his reporting — hiking to the lake where John Denver was inspired to write “Rocky Mountain High” (and finding it to be not that inspiring), or searching the West for “Towns Where You Can Get Your Ass Kicked.”
In his column announcing the return of the magazine in 2000 (Issue #78), Fayhee wrote of his only conversation with Ed Abbey, in 1979, when Fayhee was a college student at Western New Mexico University. He asked Cactus Ed what he thought of the then-recent demise of the Mountain Gazette, and Abbey replied,
“It was just a victim of the times. We are now in an era ruled by the slick and glossy outdoor magazines.”
Twenty-one years after that conversation, Fayhee, who was a devoted fan of the Gazette while in college, envisioned a publication that still had heart and soul, a magazine that several Western writers hoped would turn into a sort of New Yorker for mountain folks — if it could only get advertising dollars. (Full disclosure: The Gazette was one of the first publications to print my work and Fayhee is now a close friend.) It was anything but glossy, an 11×17 tabloid format that wouldn’t fit in most bookstore magazine racks, but showed up in mountain bars, coffee shops and gear stores.
In an industry where plenty of writers compile lists of “Secret Hikes” that become not-so-secret once a magazine’s readership knows about them and excitedly accept free trips to write about resorts and gear, Fayhee stuck with his old-school morals, penning pieces about how outdoor media had ruined more than one great secret spot by revealing it to the masses and filling the magazine with stories covering all sorts of topics that mainstream mags wouldn’t touch — how-tos on nacho etiquette and chopping firewood, heartfelt stories about a sense of place in our beloved mountains and rivers, tales of lost virginity, lost values in the West, and lost time apres-apres-ski.
Summit Publishing, the Virginia-based publisher of Elevation Outdoors and Blue Ridge Outdoors, was the last of four publishers who tried to turn a profit with the Gazette since 2000 — GS