BANFF – The Bow Valley is a Mecca for mountain culture enthusiasts.
Photographers, filmmakers, artists and writers of all stripes go to great lengths to record the mountain experience in various forms in order to bring back stories of beauty and adventure; of tragedy and triumph; of lifestyle and healthy outdoor pursuits.
The continued growth and prominence of Crowfoot Media’s Shred Fest and the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival, events that people mark on their social calendar months in advance, speaks to the public appetite for those mountain stories.
For over half a decade, Crowfoot Media has been an important local outlet for the storytellers who capture the essence of mountain adventure and culture, as well as for the people who readily consume that content.
“The original inspiration was to publish a high-quality print magazine that would reflect the same qualities as the mountains we live in,” said Meghan J. Ward, co-founder and editor-in-chief at Crowfoot Media.
“We were envisioning that we could be the glue between the various players in the mountain culture scene and help to create a really meaningful experience for our readers, whether it was in the pages of the magazine, or at our events.”
That magazine is the Canadian Rockies Annual, and it has become a much-anticipated addition to book shelves and coffee tables every spring. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has forced a number of temporary changes to how nearly everyone lives their lives, and how they run their businesses.
“Our process normally takes a full year,” Ward said, “because our team is doing this on the side from our other creative endeavours. So it’s a difficult process during a pandemic to commit to because we’re on this longer timeline.”
Across the industry, adjustments have been made in the effort to continue to offer quality content. Some print media has moved online, and some in-person events have gone virtual, but a magazine is tricky because the format leans on advertising as well as direct sales to make it financially viable.
“With these new restrictions and lockdowns and businesses being shuttered again, it creates a very unreliable situation for our advertisers,” Ward said. “So, people who gave us the feedback back in July, that they might be in for the next volume, may no longer be in the same position.”
In light of so many of the advertisers for the annual being independently-owned businesses based in the Bow Valley, the traditional spring release for Volume 6 is on pause. But all options remain on the table, whether that means pushing the magazine to a summer or fall release, or shortening the production schedule, or possibly some combination of both.
“Normally right now I would be editing the content for the next magazine,” Ward said. “That’s normally 25 creatives that we work with per volume of the magazine that I’m not in contact with this year, and that don’t have us as that outlet right now. But, we’re hopeful that the publishing climate will look more favourable in the months to come.
“For us it was just the best decision to hit the pause button because we’re an annual magazine, and the process from A to Z takes longer, and it’s hard to make those decisions when things are changing every single week.”
For Ward personally, there have been some adjustments made in her creative life outside of Crowfoot Media as well. She has a children’s book in the works for later in 2021, and a travel memoir due out in the fall of 2022.
“The process was dramatically changed,” Ward said. “With regards to the children’s book, I worked with an illustrator in Calgary, but we met once in early March of this past year, and then we did the entire process remotely from there.
“We had plenty of zoom calls and texts and Google docs. It was very interesting trying to story board a book from a distance, but the creative motivation was there. I didn’t hit a writer’s block, or creative block through all of this. It almost became like therapy, or just an outlet that I needed.”
Meanwhile, Crowfoot Media continues to offer compelling mountain culture content online with articles and eBooks..
“We just published a new eBook,” Ward said. “It’s called The Rocky Mountain Round-Up, and it’s a curated selection of the best experiences in cross-country skiing, paddling, day hiking and a variety of other things. We’re trying to equip people with knowledge, and on the other side we’re trying to support the local business community as best we can.”
What that looks like is a renewed focus on using the company’s social media feeds to help promote local partners and their online ordering, restaurant takeout options, retail curbside pickup, or whatever else they need to help them navigate the unusual situation everyone is living through.
“We have a really robust online community and a very loyal one, and so I think that’s such a positive thing we’ve been able to provide,” Ward said.
Volume 5 of the Canadian Rockies Annual is still available on the Crowfoot Media website, along with other back issues. Please visit crowfootmedia.com for some of the best mountain stories from 2020, and for more information on future events as they become available.