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
Today, you can find Mountainfreak's redecorated garage headquarters down the alley from one of Telluride's many thoughtfully painted houses, this one a tidy, powder lavender.

The office, one large ground-floor room, has a bathroom with shower, a kitchenette, and a loft reached by a nearly vertical stair-ladder. It is a carpeted, well-lighted place. It has a sign on the mudroom door reminding people to "Looz da Shooz."

Lise Waring, a tall, lithe, bright-faced 33-year-old and a former ranked professional volleyball player, is the magazine's managing editor. She is sorting through the day's mail. When asked, she cheerfully defines a freak as someone who lives an alternative lifestyle "compared to her college friends," who is "environmentally active" and "accepting," and who will forgo some conventional comforts "for a better quality of life."

Suzanne Cheavens, a senior editor, is a round-faced, brisk, but engaging mother of two who describes herself, at 42, as the "elder statesperson" of the office. She is making a preliminary attempt at straightening up her desk, the centerpiece of which is a 32-high stack of books, including titles such as the Humanure Handbook, The Goddess's Guide to Love, and Survival Skills of the North American Indians. Suzanne defines a freak as "the part of you that colors outside the lines, that doesn't do what others say you should, the part unfettered by the world's expectations."

Brett Schreckengost, the new art and photography editor, sticks his head in. He is a low-waisted, flappy, blond 28-year-old who would look at home in any surf shop in the world. He's trying to get his shit together to leave for Nepal for a few weeks to work on a paragliding movie. (Though most of the small office staff keep regular hours, trips "out"—especially after an issue has closed—are not rare.) Brett, who is between homes because his landlord just jacked his rent up unspeakably high, is showering these days in the Mountainfreak ofÞce and couch-surfing with friends or sleeping in the back of his pickup. "I'll find a place when I get back," he says. "It's cool. I'm used to small places. My first apartment here was so small I could sit on the couch, flip an omelet, flush the toilet, and channel surf without moving." He promises to get back to me on the definition of freak "when things calm down."

Hilary arrives. Her friend's car, which she has borrowed because her 4-Runner broke down, wouldn't start, and she had to hitchhike into town.

The crew gathers for a planning meeting for the next issue, whose theme is Air and whose planned print run is 25,000. It looks as if there will be a travelogue about searching for UFOs in Ecuador, pieces on hammock tents and urban sprawl, recipes, possible photos of windmills, people blowing bubbles, clouds. Two ideas are rejected: An article on wind chimes is out because they are sources of noise pollution and intrusions on personal space, and one on airline food—yuck!—because airline food is laden with chemicals and bad for you and anyway it doesn't taste good.

Later, I mention to Suzanne that the New York Times recently ran an article on Wicca, just a few months after Mountainfreak ran its own article on the subject. She nods, unsurprised. "We're cutting-edge," she says. "We have our ears to the ground."