Springtime in the Rockies

Springtime in the Rockies.


Snowfall and sticky single track.

Sandstone in Escalante and Moab.

Spring ski touring.


Sunlight after work.

Mother’s day hatch on the horizon.

Spring is also full bore at Backbone. Today, April 2, Backbone adds two new team members, former Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan and media planner Melissa Atwood.


Casey joins Backbone in a new role as senior advisor, focusing on client strategy and new business as well as our agency growth, efficiency and structure. Casey stepped down as the CEO of Patagonia in February. Under his leadership the company tripled its profits and experienced significant growth. Prior to Patagonia, Casey served as president of Kelty, Inc. In addition to his management roles, Sheahan has extensive experience in marketing, sales and publishing. He worked as the vice president of marketing at Merrell Footwear, category marketing manager at Nike ACG and the editor/publisher at POWDER Magazine.


Melissa is a Mainer who recently relocated to Carbondale with strong experience in traditional media channels: broadcast, cable, newsprint, and magazine, as well as digital media: display, re-marketing, SEM, mobile, social and video. Her past experience includes working with national and regional clients such as DeLorme, SYLVANIA, the University of Maine and more.  Prior work includes time at Time Warner Cable and more recently on the agency planning side at Garrand in Portland.

Spring has sprung and Backbone continues to thrive. We’re stoked to have both Melissa and Casey on board.



The Forecast Calls for Pain

photo: Jeremy Swanson

photo: Jeremy Swanson

Media FAM checklist

  • 17 miles of ski touring and descending
  • 8,000 feet of vertical gain
  • Top elevation 12,392 feet
  • 70+ mph wind gusts
  • Zero visibility
  • Waist deep powder
  • 160 cm skis
  • 2 buckle boots
  • 6+ hours of racing

Press trips or media “FAMS” are a tried and true PR tactic. The concept is pretty simple: invite journalists to experience your hotel/restaurant/product first-hand so they can write about it. Generally speaking, journalists are pretty pampered on FAM trips, enjoying extravagant meals, five-star accommodations and more. At Backbone, we host well over a dozen FAM trips every year, often travelling to exotic locations to go skiing in Iceland, canyoneering in the Grand Canyon, kayaking in the San Juans, rafting the Middle Fork, or surfing in Costa Rica. In fact, right now, we’re hosting a trip in Patagonia with Eddie Bauer.

But this past weekend we tried a different FAM trip concept: make them suffer.

As you may have heard, ski mountaineering, or SkiMo is exploding in popularity.  Our client La Sportiva is one of the brands helping to drive the sport, sponsoring some of the world’s top skimo racers and races. They make some of the lightest, most innovative skimo gear on the market, including the nearly $3,000 carbon fiber Stratos Cube boot.

To showcase La Sportiva’s skimo line, we decided to invite a small group of journalists to try the gear in the environment for which it’s intended—a race. It just so happens that we have one of the country’s biggest and best skimo races right here in our backyard, the Audi Power of Four.

We tricked coerced lied to persuaded journalists from Outside, Skiing, Gear Patrol and Gear Junkie to come up and stay at the new Wildwood Snowmass on Thursday, take a day to shake down their gear on Friday, and then enter the race on Saturday.

The conditions on race morning were epic. It had snowed most of the night, it continued to dump snow all day and the wind on top of Highlands Bowl was howling with gusts over 70 mph (or was it 90? The number gets bigger every time I hear another racer talk about the race).

Anyway, I’ll let the pro storytellers share their own race day tales, but I can tell you this was the most memorable FAM trip most of our group had ever experienced.

Read Gear Junkie Sean McCoy’s account here.  And the boys from Skiing shared their thoughts on the race here with a photo gallery here.

As for me, I was happy to run support for the race, grabbing videos of the media teams where I could and having my little 7-year-old friend Ella push whiskey on the unsuspecting racers.

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Turning a Passion into Action, by Kara Armano

Everyone who knows me, knows that I love to fish. What a lot of people don’t know is that more than anything I love to teach and share the joys of fly fishing with others. Of course, to share my passion there needs to be wild places where the rivers run free and the fish are abundant. Those places should be celebrated and protected. I was recently moved to take action to defend and protect both my passion for fishing and wilderness when I learned that they were in danger of being compromised.

The Thompson Divide, 220,000 acres of federally owned land just outside Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, has exposed me to some of the greatest outdoor experiences of my life. The Divide includes free flowing streams that are home to native cutthroat, and vast expanses of pristine forests and meadows that are teeming with herds of elk and deer.

The future of the Thompson Divide is threatened by oil and gas development. Because the area means so much to me, I spoke up.

I’ve worked with the Sportsmen for the Thompson Divide via Trout Unlimited to express what the area means to me. I’ve supported the Thompson Divide Coalition in its effort to teach the community more about the issues.

Working at Backbone Media, it’s easy to share my passions with my colleagues. Nate, one of the partners, feels just as strongly as I do about the Divide and the hunting opportunities it provides him. But as a growing agency we have several new employees who don’t know about the local land conservation issues. So, I decided to host a get together at my house to educate people about what’s at stake, the status of the pending oil and gas leases, and how everyone can get involved.

So last night Scott Hanley from the Thompson Divide Coalition and Aaron Kindle from Trout Unlimited came to my house to lead an open discussion about the issues facing our water and land, domestically, agriculturally and recreationally. A lot of people from work showed up. All the attendees seemed moved by the discussion and asked good questions. My hope is that my passion to save this area from drilling was instilled in them and that with their support, and possible action, we can protect the Thompson Divide for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Content is not a new Concept

800px-Pancho_Villa_Expedition_-_Around_the_Campfire_HD-SN-99-02005.JPEGJust when you think you’ve cracked the code to creating a successful communications strategy, things change. Whether it’s big data, UGC, virality, influencers, followers, fans…the communications landscape is fast-paced and ever-evolving (and full of buzzwords).  In the midst of change, it’s important as an agency to take a step back and understand how we got here.

Backbone Media’s business model was built on telling memorable, authentic stories about the products, people and places we love. When you have great stories, you want to tell them, enjoy them, and maybe learn something along the way. This is a pretty basic concept, but one that won’t ever change because it’s based on a meaningful interaction.


More and more we’re hearing that “content is king,” “content is the new social currency,” and “content is the center of communications.” What is content? To us, it’s a great story, a memorable message or a shared experience. We want to help craft these stories in an authentic and compelling way, and we want to share them with the world. The only difference with telling brand stories today versus five or even two years ago is that these stories can now be multidimensional­ with, images, videos, animation, infographics and editorial. Change in the media medium is inevitable and attention spans may be depleting, but the value of good storytelling stays the same.

At Backbone, content isn’t a new trend we’re chasing—it’s something we’ve always been all about. It’s the heart and passion of our business. It’s a PR manager taking editors backcountry skiing in the Wasatch or fly-fishing in Argentina to build a story about that experience. It’s our digital team putting a great consumer testimonial into an ad unit and delivering it to a targeted audience across various media platforms. It’s our social team developing a hashtag strategy to bring a community together to be a part of the brand story.

We’re doing it right. We’re always adapting to change and new technology, but most importantly, we’re staying rooted in the basics—telling great stories. And to me, that’s the most refreshing and human approach to communications.

The Time is Now

A few years ago I made a personal pledge to myself to get more involved in something. I wasn’t sure what it should be. But I wanted to give back.

Sure, I realize that sounds lame and super vague, but over multiple dialogs with people like Terry Kellogg from 1% For The Planet and Peter Metcalf from Black Diamond I was inspired. They did not shy away from big, audacious undertakings and were unintimidated by the scale or seeming futility of setting out and breaking a lonely trail uphill. I was also haunted by my personal concerns over climate change and the fact that one day one of my kids would ask me why we as a society didn’t do something about it when we knew what was happening.

DSC_0114 3Soon enough an opportunity came forward when Auden Schendler and Chris Davenport asked that I join the Board for Protect Our Winters (POW), a non-profit started by snowboarder Jeremy Jones focused on climate.

Here was the opportunity to work with a great group of people and try to move the needle on a big issue. Sure, I was inwardly skeptical if we could move public awareness or truly affect change. Yet I was also inspired by the mentality that people like Jeremy and Dav have whether planning to ski and ride huge intimidating faces, or in taking a public stance around education, activism and climate change.

DSC_0613Since joining POW, in various conversations with friends the most pressing question has been, “you don’t actually think you can make any headway, do you?” After a lobbying trip to DC last fall that fell during the government shut down, the skepticism seemed even more acutely counterbalanced against the vision. Skepticism. Futility. It’s easier to not not even try because the system is jacked, right?
DSC_0015Yet the groundswell continues. Porter Fox’s op-ed landed on the cover of the NY Times Sunday Travel Section. The POW Rider’s Alliance spawns an Olympic group of 105 international athletes focused on climate. The collective efforts of POW colleagues Chris Steinkamp, Matt McClain, Naomi Oreskes, Anne Nolin, Joni Lynch, Conrad Anker, Gretchen Bleiler, Winston Binch and Ryan Gellert continues to build the message forward.

This morning friends from the NRDC sent over a great email highlighting major coverage on climate impact covered by the AP, ABC, The Today Show, USA Today, Huffington Post, Boston Globe, Washington Post and more. Skepticism. Futility. Or maybe not?

This blog is not about POW. It is bigger than that. It is about the impacts of climate change on water supply, agriculture, forest and air quality. The wonkiness of radical climate change is everywhere and increasingly hard to ignore – massive flooding in England, expected increase in produce prices due to the ongoing drought in California and glaciers in Greenland shifting up to 150 feet per day. Yet to affect change takes activism, which means individuals getting involved even if you doubt you can make a difference. Activism is the enemy of apathy.

So, the question is are you apathetic or active?

Awards Season

SHOT Show, OR, ISPO, SIA….tradeshow season is finally in the rearview mirror and we’re all happy to be back home (especially because it’s dumping snow again). Looking back on the past month, our clients have a lot to be proud of. It’s not quite the Emmy’s or the Grammy’s, but the industry and media accolades that are awarded during the annual tradeshows are terrific recognition for the hard work and dedication that goes into new product development.

Here is a  run down of all the awards our family of clients recently received in the past few weeks:

Black Diamond

black-diamond-jet-forceBD’s new Jetforce Technology was the certainly most talked about product of all, racking up an impressive array of awards including Gear Junkie “Best in Show”, an ISPO Award Gold Winner in Ski Advanced Avalanche Gear, a “Best New Gear” award from the Gear Institute, a Skiing Magazine “Hot New Gear” award and an Outside Gear of the Show nod.

gos-sia14-metallogo_phThe team at BD also laid claim to several other awards including:

ISPO Award in Ski Off Piste/All Mountain—Black Diamond Equipment Carbon Megawatt

ISPO Award in Ski Touring Equipment + Outside Gear of the Show at SIA + Skiing Magazine “Hot New Gear“—Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12

ISPO Award Gold Winner in Accessories—Cohaesive Embedded Components (Apparel)


Big Agnes

Backpacker Editor’s Choice Award—Double Z Sleeping Pad

ISPO Award in Adventure Equipment—Helinox Ground Chair



bestNewGearWinter2014_3d8e299b74542ab556656467451dc882Gear Institute “Best New Gear”— Scarpa F1 Evo

Gear Institute “Best New Gear”—K2 Route Helmet

Gear Junkie “Best in Show”—Scarpa F1 Evo and K2 Route Helmet

ISPO Award—Topo Athletic Sante shoes

ISPO Award—Tubbs VRT snowshoes

ISPO Gold Award—Descente Mizusawa Down Jacket and Platinum ski jacket

ISPO Gold Award—Thusane Malleo Dynastab Boa Ankle Brace



UntitledOutdoor USA awarded Chaco “Best In-Store Display” at OR.



ISPO Award for Action Segment – Accessories

Skiing Magazine’s Hot Gear Award

ISPO Award in Accessories—POC ICEdot Crash Sensor




ISPO Award in Helmets + Outside’s Gear of the Show—POC Skull Orbic Comp H.I. MIPS

ISPO Award in Accessories—POC ICEdot Crash Sensor



Skiing Magazine “Hot Gear” Award—Strafe Cham Jacket and Pant



SKI Magazine “Show Stopper Gear”—Kastle MX70



PhD SmartLoft Hoody Sport – ISPO innovation award.


La Sportiva

Gear Junkie “Best in Show”—Vapor Nano 15791





Bringing Value of High Impact Digital

So often, despite brand KPIs, digital marketing success boils down to conversions.  Did they click my banner?  After they clicked, did they immediately buy my product?

But, is a digital impression worth more than a click and more than a post-click conversion?  When trying to change a brand perception, launch a new product or simply making the brand introduction to the consumer, the value of an impression goes well beyond immediate actions taken.  The challenge is, when all of this data is available, how do we exercise the self-control to remain true to upper-funnel objectives?

Sure, high impact units (large canvas overlays, site skins, pushdown windows, etc.) often “perform” well when looking at total clicks.  But, how do they deliver on true brand objectives?  Thankfully, Ipsos ASI, in partnership with Undertone, recently validated the power of a high impact digital impression.

The study monitored campaigns for Special K, Macy’s, Nair and Volvo (CPG, Retail, Auto).  Each campaign included full screen takeovers, large canvas display (IAB Rising Start units) and skins.

When looking at unaided brand recall and ad recall, high impact display significantly out-performed a standard 300×250 banner.   The full-screen takeover delivered a 124% higher unaided brand recall than the standard banner.  Makes sense that a giant, standout placement would have better brand recall.  But, what is the deeper benefit?  Well, turns out that high impact ads are also more likeable than standard banners (30-49% more).  People like the uniqueness and entertainment value, and they find them worth sharing with friends and family (many of these units will include social elements and video).

Is high impact display the right tactic to fill your site’s shopping carts?  Maybe not directly.  But, is it a valuable tactic to move the needle for your brand?  Absolutely.

The full study, as well as other insightful white papers, can be downloaded here.  Thanks to our friends at Undertone for their valuable work in digital research!

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 4.28.37 PM

Ringing in the New Year right

There’s nothing like some great client media coverage to kick off the New Year at Backbone. Here’s a recent sampling.

Hilarious Klean Kanteen call out on Saturday Night Live:

MIPS and POC mentioned in this Outside Online story: The Top 8 Fitness Trends of 2014

Opedix in a terrific New York Times story: A Second Wind From an Injured Knee

POC featured in this FOX feature with Outside’s Sam Moulton:

Helinox (distributed by Big Agnes) featured in Outside’s “Covet” column: Covet: Packable Camping Cot

Redington highlighted in Outdoor Online’s Gear Shed column: What Are the Outside Staff’s Picks for Best Gear of 2013

Horny Toad mentioned in this Fox News article: 10 great gifts for adventure-minded travelers

STIO Seeker Jacket featured in the Boy’s Life “Stuff We Like” gear guide:

Gerber featued in Wired’s Design Life Gadgets & Gear issue:

Between the Lines

Backbone is proud to list some of the best brands in the outdoor and active lifestyle space in our client portfolio. But, this past year we’ve also been excited to work behind the scenes on a host of other projects. Here’s a quick summary of recent work that has Backbone’s fingerprints on it.

Building a Facebook page and an app for longtime friend Kevin Fedarko’s awesome new book “The Emerald Mile.”

We’re doing similar work for Poter Fox’s book Deep.

(Both books make excellent Christmas presents by the way.)

It’s in our backyard, so of course we participated in The Meeting.

And then there’s the work we do with NGO’s. From Big City Mountaineers, to First Descents, the Thompson Divide Coalition, Protect Our Winters and 5 Point Film Festival, we’re deeply rooted in our community and the non-profits that are fighting to make our world a better place.

For Backbone, one of the gels between our personal fulfillment and a work/life balance is community. All day, everyday, for both the profit and non-profit sectors, we engage brand communities and  interact within the media realm of editors, freelancers and sales. We see that people are a reflection of their community; to many it defines them. For us, work, when it melds with your personal life, and integrates your community, doesn’t feel much like work.

Make no mistake. We work hard for our clients. But it is a lot easier to crank through your inbox after midnight if the separation of what you do and who you are, is not so separate.

American Pistachio Growers Dinner with Jeremy Jones

1479517_10152084647760530_214732620_nThe American Pistachio Growers (APG) hosted an intimate dinner with professional big mountain snowboarder and APG athlete ambassador Jeremy Jones last month in Boulder with leaders in snow sports media.

In an effort to tell a deeper story with active lifestyle media on the growing partnership between Jones and the American Pistachio Growers, the Backbone Media team worked with culinary experts at Frasca Food & Wine on Pearl Street to craft a pistachio themed evening full of great food and conversation.

Boulder continues to lead the country as a hub for active interest media. Frasca was the ideal venue to bring this community together with APG nutritionist Becci Twombley and Jeremy Jones for conversations regarding snow sports and nutrition. Courses including a raviolo with celery root, ricotta, black truffle and parmesan reggiano, capesante with scallop, cauliflower, blood orange and pistachio and finally crostata di fragile – a strawberry tarte with pistachio gelato.

University of Southern California nutritionist Becci Twombley spoke about modern sports nutrition – and the importance of pistachios – for winter sports athletes. Jeremy discussed his recent trip to Nepal and filming the third installment of his film trilogy with Teton Gravity Research. Jones stressed the importance of proper nutrition and his “recovery window” when he returns to base camp after extended periods filming in the most remote locations.

Twelve members of the media attended, representing titles such as Snowboard Magazine, the Atlantic, the Associated Press, ESPN, Mountain Magazine, SKI/Skiing, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Outside Magazine and the Active Interest Media House. We were psyched to reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances as well!

Becci Twombley & Jeremy Jones

Becci Twombley & Jeremy Jones

Sue Jotblad from American Pistachio Growers, Kim Beekman from SKI Magazine and Sharon Houghton from Active Interest Media

Sue Jotblad from American Pistachio Growers, Kim Beekman from SKI Magazine and Sharon Houghton from Active Interest Media

Doug Schniztspahn from Elevation Outdoors Magazine & Radha Marcum

Doug Schniztspahn from Elevation Outdoors Magazine & Radha Marcum

Marc Peruzzi from Mountain magazine & Jayme Moye

Marc Peruzzi from Mountain magazine & Jayme Moye


Chris Thompson & Sam Bass from SKI Magazine/ Skiing Magazine and BackboneMedia's Amanda Boyle

Chris Thompson & Sam Bass from SKI Magazine/ Skiing Magazine and BackboneMedia’s Amanda Boyle

By: Amanda Boyle