An Interview With Steve Casimiro - Ski Mag

An Interview With Steve Casimiro

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If you're at all familiar with the impassioned editorial intros that once set the stage for each issue of Powder, you know that Steve Casimiro, one-time editor of same, has an obvious love and respect for skiing and all that it encompasses. Now that Casimiro has left Powder for freelance pastures, he is a contributor to SKIING Magazine, (check out "Squallywood", in the December issue), I thought we should get to know this well-known ski persona a little better.

Interestingly enough, Steve started skiing comparatively late in life, at 18, giving him a unique perspective. The late start didn't dampen his enthusiasm, perhaps just the opposite. Casimiro named his son Jackson, in part after the ski area.

So now that he is working freelance and spending more time on his boards, what exactly makes this guy tick?

Read on...

Ellen Carpenter (EC)

It is easy to tell from the way that you write about skiing, that you have a special connection to the sport. Why is this?

Steve Casimiro (SC)Because I learned to ski as an adult, I remember every fall, every bruise, every step on the learning curve. I remember it all so well that it gives me a deeper appreciation of it. I don't know that you have the same connection to things that you learned as a kid, before you really have memories. I remember going by myself, driving the two hours to the closest ski hill alone, skiing on bad snow, flailing over bumps, and pretty much throwing myself into it with complete abandon. The joy of that achievement still speaks to what I create now as a writer and photographer. Most of the intros that I wrote in Powder drew a lot on this learning curve.

Learning to ski--and the act of skiing--is an incredibly satisfying thing. There is the feeling of being frictionless when you're skiing, this feeling of being able to just glide, that was so different from anything else that I had ever done, it was just so rad.

That frictionlessness is rare in this world. Plus, skiing is really hard to get good at, especially skiing powder before the advent of fat skis. So I continue to appreciate it, and I remain in awe of the people who are really good at it.

(EC)What was your first ski experience like?

(SC)My best friend was a skier, so I had heard about it and wanted to for years, but for one reason or another I never went. This is going to sound really weird, but the first time I went, I went as a chaperone for a church youth group on this trip to West Virginia.

(EC)I haven't quite got a picture of you as the church-youth-group type or the chaperone type.

(SC)Well, I probably wasn't the best chaperone. I was so hung-over on the first day--the drinking age was 18, and I was exploring that--hanging out, drinking beer with the other chaperones after the kids had gone to bed. No one else wanted to ski the next morning, everyone was so hung-over, and on top of that, it was just spitting freezing rain and sleet.

But I finally had my chance. I was on a pair of Olin Mark 2's wearing a pair of blue jeans and a ratty old ski sweater that I borrowed from someone. I was completely bleary-eyed and tired, but I stayed on the beginner hill all day--I remember just bombing down this cat track in a wedge, to bank the one turn at the end--I lived for that one turn, I did it over and over again.

After that, I was hooked. I bought an old pair of rental skis at the end of year. I tend to throw myself into things with enthusiasm.

(EC)Do you have a "most-epic" or favorite run of all-time?

(SC)I've been thinking a lot lately about what I would call the best run ever, the run that looms in my mind as the one that's larger than life. I don't know if you can really have just one, because so many runs have had something special that make them memorable. They might have had the best snow, or the raddest jump, or whatever.

There was a time though, at a Mike Wiegele's heli-operation, in Valdez, Alaska. It was the first week that I ever ied with Mike. It was early in my career at Powder, and I had just gotten to where I could really handle bottomless snow. We skied this drainage not too far from Blue River, BC--about 3,000 feet of vertical. Really steep, really deep, fat and thick trees, and perfect snow. We'd been skiing for 2-3 days, getting a sense of the terrain, and I was really hitting it off with Mike and feeling very welcome. We got to this ridge and a run that had never been skied before. For some strange reason, Mike kept calling me Powder Max. So we land at this new run, and Mike takes his ski pole, taps me with it and says "Okay Paaaahwda Max. We call this Paaaaahwda Run. You ski it with me."

So, he drops into the trees, and I fall in off to his left. The snow is absolutely epic, the top layer is blowing in my face, and billowing everywhere, full-white-room conditions, and I'm just trying to keep up with this guy who is 20 years older then me. Up until this point, he had been keeping the group together--heli guiding can be as much babysitting as guiding. But we get about 20 yards down, and he doesn't stop to collect the group. And I'm thinking, "He's not gonna stop yet." But I know the stop is coming. But he doesn't. He keeps skiing, letting the group fall in between us and the tail guide. He just trusts us, because after days together he knows we know what we're doing. By the time we've skied about a thousand vertical, I realize that we are going to the bottom nonstop, and I'm grinning, getting the full glacial facial. We fly out of the trees into a clear cut, and it was rad, banking turns off stumps, porpoising on those old skinny skis, and then we finally get to the bottom. We're practically standing on our tongues, but he gets this gleam in his eye and says, "Let's do that again."

So, I guess this run had all of the elements: a long, non-stop run, deep powder, a new friend, the joy of discovery, and a million-dollar taxi to take you back to the top.

(EC)Do you think this is why skiing has captured your imagination in the way that it obviously has?

(SC)I think that the fact that I didn't get started until I was in college may have been good, because I wasn't the best student, and I really didn't know what to do with my life. Skiing became an anchor for me--that transcendent physical motion, I'll never forget that great feeling after the first day, being so tired, soaked, and wet through. I had these very hip godparents who skied, and so I associated skiing with that--hip and sexy. I sort of associated them with that thing that was just--I don't know--brighter, shinier, cooler.

Then I discovered Powder Magazine through a ski shop, and it was a window into another world. Europe, the mountains, it was just very cool, and I wanted to be a part of it. It was amazing for me, I was really excited about journalism to begin with, and then all of a sudden there was this glossy 4-color world of writing with skiing on top of it.

(EC)You were at Powder for quite a long time, and it is said that you gave the magazine its soul. Having put such a great deal of yourself into it, it must have been a difficult thing for you to leave.

(SC)I worked for Powder for 12 years and left over a year ago. Working there was a great experience for me, my ending up in that job was serendipity, it was better than any dream, and Powder meant more to me than just a job, so yes, it was hard to leave. But it was time. Things had changed dramatically there.

Powder had been owned by Bud Fabian, who bought both Powder and Surfer Magazines in the 70s. He was a really sharp business guy, so running the company was always about making money. Yet, he really understood that magazines were not just about volume, but also about readers. He brought a lot of integrity to the company. He always treated every advertiser the same and got a lot of respect as a result. When Bud got sick, his son got control of the company. Rick Fabian never had the same connection, or love for the magazines that his dad did. Ultimately he and the board of directors decided they could get the biggest return by putting the magazine group up for sale. It was a very strange and difficult time, not knowing how it would play out. One of the bidders really believed in our editorial philosophy, but most of the others were just interested in bottom line.

Surfer Publications was bought by Petersen Publishing in August of '98, which changed things dramatically. Making magazines was no longer about elevating the writing and photography to the best it could be--achieving a fusion of art, sport, and emotion. It was now only about how much money you could squeeze out.

I'm a purist: Editorial quality and integrity are paramount. I mean, you can't be a complete purist because you have to sell the magazine and make a profit or you'll go down the tubes. But within the demands of being a commercial entity, I wanted to make something special, something that brought out the best in the writers, photographers, and editors. After Petersen bought Powder, it was clear that we didn't see magazines the same way. It's one thing to know there are companies who don't share your values; it's another thing to find yourself working for them.

(EC)So, what's next for you?

(SC)The most important thing right now is maintaining balance. The job at Powder was consuming. Everyone talks about balance and quality of life, but it took me trading that huge responsibility for the more simple responsibility to my family to achieve it. I don't know, maybe because I'm working for myself, work feels like an extension of my life now instead of something I have go do for someone else every day. And, I love that. I love working at home, since I can spend time with Jackson off and on all day, and I love not having to "manage" people, which is a lot like herding cats. It's impossible anyway, and has nothing to do with making magazines.

So, I'll continue to freelance, to write, and to shoot photos. I'm just beginning to combine the two for publications like National Geographic Adventure and Men's Journal, which is really cool. And I have an idea for a book--what writer doesn't? But I don't know if I have the discipline or talent to see it through.

So, for the immediate future, I'm focusing on communicating to a larger audience, and bringing to other people what I've learned and come to believe about skiing--you know, skiing as metaphor for life--how it can make life better. There are many wonderful things in this world, but none compare to the beauty and miracle of deep-powder skiing.

As long as someone's willing to pay me to share that (and of course pay for the necessary months of crystal research), I'll thank my lucky stars and keep on keepin' on...

Steve is also an accomplished freelance photographer and is beginning to incorporate his photographs with his reflections on skiing. You can see his work on the pages of SKIING Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, and Men's Journal. Casimiro resides in Dana Point, CA with son Jackson and wife Joni. You can check out his website, www.stevecasimiro.com, or contact him directly at steve@stevecasimiro.com.tion, or love for the magazines that his dad did. Ultimately he and the board of directors decided they could get the biggest return by putting the magazine group up for sale. It was a very strange and difficult time, not knowing how it would play out. One of the bidders really believed in our editorial philosophy, but most of the others were just interested in bottom line.

Surfer Publications was bought by Petersen Publishing in August of '98, which changed things dramatically. Making magazines was no longer about elevating the writing and photography to the best it could be--achieving a fusion of art, sport, and emotion. It was now only about how much money you could squeeze out.

I'm a purist: Editorial quality and integrity are paramount. I mean, you can't be a complete purist because you have to sell the magazine and make a profit or you'll go down the tubes. But within the demands of being a commercial entity, I wanted to make something special, something that brought out the best in the writers, photographers, and editors. After Petersen bought Powder, it was clear that we didn't see magazines the same way. It's one thing to know there are companies who don't share your values; it's another thing to find yourself working for them.

(EC)So, what's next for you?

(SC)The most important thing right now is maintaining balance. The job at Powder was consuming. Everyone talks about balance and quality of life, but it took me trading that huge responsibility for the more simple responsibility to my family to achieve it. I don't know, maybe because I'm working for myself, work feels like an extension of my life now instead of something I have go do for someone else every day. And, I love that. I love working at home, since I can spend time with Jackson off and on all day, and I love not having to "manage" people, which is a lot like herding cats. It's impossible anyway, and has nothing to do with making magazines.

So, I'll continue to freelance, to write, and to shoot photos. I'm just beginning to combine the two for publications like National Geographic Adventure and Men's Journal, which is really cool. And I have an idea for a book--what writer doesn't? But I don't know if I have the discipline or talent to see it through.

So, for the immediate future, I'm focusing on communicating to a larger audience, and bringing to other people what I've learned and come to believe about skiing--you know, skiing as metaphor for life--how it can make life better. There are many wonderful things in this world, but none compare to the beauty and miracle of deep-powder skiing.

As long as someone's willing to pay me to share that (and of course pay for the necessary months of crystal research), I'll thank my lucky stars and keep on keepin' on...

Steve is also an accomplished freelance photographer and is beginning to incorporate his photographs with his reflections on skiing. You can see his work on the pages of SKIING Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, and Men's Journal. Casimiro resides in Dana Point, CA with son Jackson and wife Joni. You can check out his website, www.stevecasimiro.com, or contact him directly at steve@stevecasimiro.com.

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