Bum's Rush

In the gentrifying mountain village of Telluride, a band of local adventure addicts is preaching the gospel of neo-hippie purity in an upstart 'zine called Mountainfreak. Can these goddess-worshipping ski bums stay true to their vert' and manage to run a business at the same time?

May 1, 2000
Outside Magazine

No one seems quite sure of the exact date, but sometime in the late autumn of 1996, Hilary White got a phone call from a subscriber wondering why he had not received a fourth issue of Mountainfreak.

"The magazine's history," Hilary told him, "and so are we."

The caller was 48-year-old Mark Biedron, a man who lives in New Jersey but spends as much of his free time as possible in the mountains of the West, including those surrounding Telluride. And Biedron has an enviable amount of free time, thanks to the sale of his family's paint company.

"I've skied since I was six," Biedron told me. "Mountains speak to me. This is what I felt Mountainfreak was trying to portray—the spiritual, as opposed to the mercantile, financial, side of things. I was overwhelmed by the magazine's idealism. There was about it a sense of best of the sixties, one of the century's most special, hopeful, original times. So I asked Hilary, 'What would it take to get Mountainfreak rolling again?'"

In short order, Biedron and Hilary formed a limited liability corporation, and Biedron loaned the LLC money on extremely generous terms. Mountainfreak was back in business. "Our investor said, 'Let's make this a kick-ass mag,'" Mark Steele remembered. "I said, 'I'm in.' I left the Daily Planet and came on here full-time." Other former staffers followed suit.

Issue four appeared the spring of 1998, roughly 18 months after issue three. It was 66 pages, printed in full color on slick paper (50 percent recycled). The masthead included a photo editor as well as circulation and advertising positions, and it had a new entry: Mark Biedron, whose title was "Faith."

The Silver Couch Surfer was still around (it would disappear after the next issue), but the Slackers had become thoughtful. Drug references were minimal, replaced by See-Spot-Run philosophical musings: "There's really no such thing as owning anything but your soul." There were articles on herbal remedies, worm-driven compost acceleration, mountain-town art councils. There were news briefs about cyanide mining and off-road vehicles. There were vegetarian recipes, a photo section, a horoscope ("Your connection to the cosmos"), and more poetry: "God is here / God is now / It is time / For Nature's Law... Circle to Infinity / Open our Heart."

And so it has gone, through the most recent Mountainfreak, number 12, Spring 2000: a curiously well-worn path of articles about adventures (hiking in Kauai), alternative housing, Appalachian mountaintop mining, organic farming, sustainable farming, and cultural awareness: "[I looked at my Rice Dream's] cardboard and plastic hull.... With sudden reflection, a tear trickles down my cheek as I realize Babylon itself is churning in my gut."