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Plan B: Business as Unusual

Adam Howard rappelling into the clouds at the Col du Chardonnet in Chamonix, France, in 2008 as Gordy Skoog looks on. [Photo] Jeff Diener

Adam Howard rappelling into the clouds at the Col du Chardonnet in Chamonix, France, in 2008 as Gordy Skoog looks on. [Photo] Jeff Diener

Dear readers, contributors and partners,

Stepping off the skintrack at the base of the Glacier du Chardonnet, I ask the indomitable Gordy Skoog, “What’s Plan B for making the col if the weather socks in?” We are hours into our unguided attempt to ski the Haute Route from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland and also hours behind schedule, far below the crux saddle above the glacier. “I think Plan B is to make it,” Gordy replies, loping past. A lifetime exploring Washington’s Cascades can instill such an ethic.

Like his brothers, Lowell and the late Carl, Gordy’s forgotten more about epics and Plan A becoming Plan B (which is actually Plan A) than I’ll ever know. “He’s the king of Plan B,” our mutual friend Tim Kelley told me later on that successful 2008 trip. In this case, Plan B wasn’t a “summit at all costs” sort of statement. More of a “we’ll find our way.”

Over the last several weeks, as I’ve considered how our company, Height of Land Publications–and our brands Alpinist, Backcountry, Mountain Flyer and Cross Country Skier–will navigate the next several months through the Covid-19 crisis, I’ve found myself channeling Gordy.

Like many of you, our entire staff is holed up at home, wishing we were climbing, skiing and riding. Epic-ing. But, like many of you, we find ourselves doing more dog walking. We are, however, working. Washing our hands. Volunteering in our communities.

And, as it turns out, our Plan B looks a whole lot like Plan A. We’ll continue bringing you the great stories, art and photography to which you’ve become accustomed. Thankfully, Backcountry and Cross Country Skier are buttoned up for the season. Mountain Flyer and Alpinist, however, are in the heart of theirs. We will sustain, understandably, advertising losses. But, I’ve told our staff there will be no layoffs. There will be no pushing deadlines or putting out anything but the exceptional work they always do. Because Plan B is to make it. And here’s how.

To our readers: We expect no delays in getting subscribers what you expect from us. We’re publishing in print and online and shipping single issues, T-shirts and other schwag several times a week. If you’re used to buying Alpinist, Mountain Flyer, Backcountry or Cross Country Skier at your local shop, please visit our websites where you can order a copy. There, you will find a field into which you can put your shop’s name. We’ll send them their cut as if you’d purchased the issue from them. It’s a small way, together, we can help support them during this difficult time.

To our contributors: We’re cutting checks and taking submissions according to Plan A. We’re utterly dependent on you to continue to submit your best material. And you can count on getting paid, as usual, in a timely fashion.

To our advertisers: We understand the uncertainty you’re facing. That’s why we’re offering, at no charge, design services and whatever payment terms or rates you need to get through this. We’re a rope team here.

To our retailers: We’re here for you. In each upcoming issue, we’re giving you space and design services free of charge. Call or email me, and we’ll take care of you.

Finally, in the spirit of making it, Backcountry has launched a new podcast, YouTube and Facebook project we’re calling, you guessed it, Plan B. It’s our privilege to bring together multiple voices from mountain communities around the world to share stories and struggles (and a little laughter!) during this moment. It exists without advertising support. So, if you like it, please consider visiting where you can make a donation to the cause. While you’re there, you’ll probably want a T-shirt and a subscription for a friend or family member.

This moment will pass. And, together, we’ll make it.

Stay well, stay home and stay safe!

Adam “Howie” Howard

HOL President and CEO