Tahoe Mountain Sports recently caught up with the fellas from StokeLab, a free digital magazine that wastes absolutely no time publishing material that isn’t sure to fire up, or elicit ‘stoke’ in, their readers. Original and creative trip reports, gear reviews, and awe-inspiring photography are what they do. It’s ‘experimental media’, and it could range from heli-skiing the Coast Range to philosophies in snacking, or anywhere in between. Here’s a bit about StokeLab.com, a literary work that just may boost your quality of life:
TMS: I think it’s safe to say most people are unfamiliar with what actually goes down in a laboratory that studies strictly stoke. Would you mind elaborating?
Drew Pogge: First of all, our lab is pretty state of the art. I mean, between the four of us we have, like, three Macbooks—the Pros, not the shotty normal ones. We also have a high-end Cuisinart blender for smoothies, which is pretty badass. And a karaoke machine. So we’re pretty dialed.
Mike Horn: Ideally we’re outside the Lab doing something fun and then we bring those stories home with us. Skiing, riding, skating, fishing, flying, climbing, floating, biking…the list is endless. Otherwise we spend lots of time filling blank screens with content that inspires and entertains us. If we don’t like it, we don’t run it. Throw in the occasional dog walk and longboard to the post office, and a lot of coffee, and you’ve got a pretty good picture of a day at the StokeLab.
Justin Cash: And lets not forget the hand-stuffed blue cheese olives in the fridge with a bottle of Tito’s.
The word ‘stoke’ is still relatively new to many, and still not fully accepted among our elders. Is there really a niche to fill here? Are that many people really stoked?
Pogge: If people aren’t stoked, they should be. Stoke is just another word for positive energy. It’s passion. It’s the feeling you get when you’re doing exactly what you should be. We get stoked playing outside, so that’s how it relates to the ‘Lab.
Horn: It’s pretty universal. People use it to describe the feeling they get from scoring Justin Bieber tickets as much as a life-altering powder day. Our focus is documenting the pursuit of stoke, whether skating an empty pool in Arizona or photographing winter light in Montana.
Cash: I like Bieber.
Where, how, and with whom was StokeLab conceived? Where’d you find your team?
Horn: Photographer Justin Cash and I have worked together on all types of features and stories since 2006, traveling from the far reaches of northern Québec to Tahoe, Interior B.C. and beyond.
As a freelancer you spend much of your time contracting for other clients, and creating content to support and grow their brand and business. While it pays the bills, that arrangement gets scary when you look at it long term – you realize you’re only as good as your last story or photo – and you’re not really investing in your future. As angst-ridden freelancers, Cash and I would kick it on the back porch at his house in Woodstock, sipping cocktails and throwing ideas against the wall. The concept for a digital magazine and website – StokeLab – emerged from those conversations. Our friend Jeff Wainer developed the logo, designed the first website, and contributed cover and inside artwork. Randy Elles handled the magazine layout and design.
This January, nearly three years later, we added two essential business partners to StokeLab Media – designer Randy Elles and editor Drew Pogge. With their help we just launched a new website with a renewed focus on premium, original content and exceptional design.
So where is the office? Or should I say ‘laboratory’?
Horn: We have offices in Woodstock, Vt., New York City, Bozeman, Mont. and Crested Butte, Colo.
Pogge: We all love our homes, and in the digital world, there’s no need to be in the same building. It gives us great perspective, being all over the place. Plus, Horn smells really bad. Snacketarian farts are the worst.
You just relaunched StokeLab.com. What changes were made to the version you outgrew in order to bring a new and improved StokeLab to life?
Pogge: It’s completely zombie-proof, for one. Nothing kills stoke faster than zombies.
Horn: The redesign was focused primarily on creating a more aesthetic, visually inspiring user-experience paired with content you’ll only find here at stokelab.com. We’re also photographing all our own gear reviews, which takes a lot more time than just grabbing a manufacturer’s image, but adds a lot of value. Again, it comes back to creating content that’s exclusive to StokeLab.
Cash: On the tech side it’s a completely new site – we switched platforms, changed headers and titles – it’s a whole new ‘Lab from the ground up. We are really excited about the possibilities.
Elles: One of the big things our readers asked for was the ability to view StokeLab across multiple platforms. So we did just that, and now you can view stokelab.com on just about every device including your tablet, smart phone, laptop and desktop.
Does the ‘Lab restrict itself to a particular range of sports, or does anything that invokes stoke qualify to be further examined at closer range?
Horn: What gets you stoked, Adam? How about the guy you’re working next to? We all get stoked on different experiences – if it’s inspiring, adventurous or just fun as hell then it’s fair game.
Pogge: Personally, I’m anti-polo. I won’t run any polo-related content. Horse polo, water polo, lawn polo, pocket polo—none of that stuff. Pretty much anything else goes though.
Cash: I’ll add we always like to insert a little something weird, something unexpected, like hang-gliding or free-diving.
Does StokeLab accept guest contributions or team with freelance artists, or is all work done by you guys?
Horn: We’re always looking for new contributors and collaborators. Submit your stories, videos, images, and writing samples to: [email protected].
Pogge: For sure. Even if it’s just an idea, get in touch. We love working with talented, creative people.
Is there a print-version? I keep blaming this small mountain town’s crappy WiFi signal for my lack of knowledge about cool new sports gear, history-altering discoveries and epic trip reports from uncharted territories.
Horn: We’re digital only.
Pogge: You must’ve missed the memo that print is dead. Kidding … we all still work in print industries, but digital media is really exciting—it’s the Wild West, as far as what’s possible. We’re excited to see what we can do with it.
So, you’re online. I take it all your content is redistributed through social networks like Facebook and all that other jazz?
Horn: Yeah we’re tapped into all the channels…except MySpace haha. I hear it’s making a comeback though.
Pogge: Actually, if your fans don’t all “Like” us immediately after reading this, I’m going to kill a baby tiger. Seriously. “Like” us… now.
Cash: He’s serious as a heart attack.
I really dig your full-length mags. How often do you drop those?
Horn: Thanks! We’re proud of the mag, and we hope to drop some surprises in the next year that should blow people away. They come out quarterly and we’ll be dropping one soon…
Can you give readers a sneak-peek of what to expect in the next issue?
Horn: The piece I’m most fired up about is an interview with Lonnie Kauk, who is a world-class rock climber and snowboarder.
Pogge: If we told you any more, we’d have to kill you.
Here are a few more sweet publications you would dig if you’re into sports, outdoor activities, and other cool beans:
Squallywood – The Complete Guide To Squaw Valley
Kronicle Backcountry Snowboarding Magazine
Tahoe Rim Trail Guide Book – 3rd Edition
Adam Broderick manages the web content at Tahoe Mountain Sports. When he is not in the office, he tries his best to be in the field doing something awesome.