Giving Voice to Mountain Culture 

The most tangible souvenir of the season might be a gift that's completely invisible - a story

Photo by Maureen Provencal
  • Photo by Maureen Provencal

Kris Kaiyala’s daily commute takes him through a labyrinth of building blocks and Dr. Seuss books. There’s usually a traffic stall at the foosball table, which his 18 month old has developed a recent predilection for, before he can park himself behind the laptop of his Seattle home and begin the day’s work.

The freelance writer and Powder magazine contributor is not only a house-dad, he’s also at the helm of the buzz-generating Aspect Journal (, an on-line magazine that is making waves in the snow-and-word-loving community.

In the two years since it was launched (making it the middle sibling in Kaiyala’s brood), Aspect has grown from about 10 stories celebrating the essence of mountain culture to nearly 115. Eschewing profiles of the latest bros and boards, Aspect focuses exclusively on grass-roots ski literature, and has published industry scenesters like Leslie Anthony, Mitchell Scott, Tom Bie and Steve Threndyle.

Pemberton’s Dave Steers, whose day job finds him, catalogue in hand, stocking up Whistler-Blackcomb’s retail outlets, is taking a leaf out of Dickens’s book and using the site to publish a chapter-by-chapter murder mystery set on the World Cup circuit in Whistler.

Says Kaiyala, "The content is squarely focused on quality storytelling – the feelings and experiences that skiing and being in the mountains grant us. It was more or less created as an alternative to existing magazines, and mostly for writers – writers who, like me, wished for a blank slate. Aspect publishes the kind of creative writing you won’t normally find on a newsstand. I’ve set the bar very high for Aspect. The really good submissions I publish as I receive them, others I roll up my sleeves for. I want them to shine. I use – sometimes abuse – the term "literature" to describe our content because we’re aiming for something well beyond consumer journalism."

The journal provides a forum for mountain-junkies to strip down to the poetry that snags and holds them, whether physically or psychically, in the mountains. Submissions have come from all over North America and Europe, threaded together by the sense that something happens to us in the mountains, something that takes us deep.

Toronto psychologist and ski pro, Lisa Shatford writes in How to Ski With a Broken Heart:

On this epic blue morning in early December when you feel like you are stealing a secret, you notice once again how the mountain swallows up your knots and opens up your wonder. Winds of psalms gust through your heart. You stand in a jagged stunning cathedral, a life reminder, a check of time, and you feel your best self flying strong.


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