North West HiHeyHello magazine shines a light on women’s outdoor culture

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Picture this: evergreen branches laden with snow shadows on an undulating ridge whitened by sunlight from the top right corner. In the middle of the shot, a lone female skier is framed in the middle of the climb as she ascends.

The skier is Ingrid Backstrom, a professional athlete born in Seattle and based in Leavenworth. The photographer is from Bellingham Anne Cleary. The setting is somewhere in the outback near Stevens Pass. And the frame of this photograph is the cover of the first issue of HiHeyHello.

When Seattle-based outdoor industry veteran Anya Miller Berg came across the magazine in late 2020, she was thrilled to see Backstrom, an old friend from back then who was skiing around the lake. Tahoe, and glad to see another friend, Cleary, took the picture. But she was even more seduced by what she saw under the blanket: page after page of stories and photos celebrating women in the outdoors. And not just stories about women’s athletic prowess – although there are many of those — but also stories of artists, ceramists and entrepreneurs.

“It’s the magazine I’ve been looking for all my life,” Miller Berg said of his first impression.

A year and a half later, Miller Berg, 41, is now the magazine’s associate editor, working closely with Portland-based editor Sierra Domaille (and New Jersey-based art director Juhee Kim) to develop a title printed with a singular aim of highlighting the multifaceted world of women’s outdoor culture.

That such a magazine, although global in scope, finds itself anchored in Seattle and Portland is no coincidence.

“We both ended up here because of the adventure that is close to the cosmopolitan nature of the cities and a certain mixed counterculture,” Miller Berg told The Seattle Times from the studio of his modern home in the mid-century maple leaf, which has a snowmobile. and a motorhome parked in front of a garage full of splitboards, skis, mountain bikes and climbing gear.

“The Pacific Northwest seems like a perfect place to find an electric mix of female-led stories,” she said. “Courage, style, intelligence, adventure and dynamic spirit are all things that are particularly appreciated in this part of the country. These are the people who are elevated to hero status here.

For example, issue #6, which is due out in June, will feature Alisa Furoyama. The owner of the Capitol Hill clothing and home goods store glass wingshe is also an avid bouldering climber and last year rode a motorcycle along Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

“She’s a style icon here in Seattle, but she’s a cool woman inside and out,” Miller Berg said.

An annual subscription to HiHeyHello costs $32, and current and back issues are on sale at hiheyhellomagazine.com/shop. The new issue will also be sold at Bike and coffee in good weather on Capitol Hill.

Miller Berg is a born storyteller. Formerly director of brand and creative strategy for Seattle-based outdoor creative agency Duct Tape Then Beer (producer of cult outdoor podcast The Dirtbag Diaries), she now runs her own outdoor brand consultancy, conscious creative. This career has given him a wealth of contacts and experience in the outdoor industry to tap into for a young magazine still in startup mode, as well as insight into an industry that has never been the friendliest for women’s stories.

“A lot of designers come to us saying there’s no place for their stories anywhere else in the outdoor industry. They get a lot of ‘no’s, ‘maybe’s, or ‘we don’t know how that fits into our next issue,” Miller Berg said. “Creating space to replace all the ‘no’s we’ve had in jobs and creativity with ‘yes’ for others is the main reason why Sierra and I strive to make [the magazine] arrive.”

Examples include an upcoming profile of a Vermont-based trans mountain biker and splitboarder alex doucheman and an essay by California-based rock climbing guide Bishop Miranda Oakley on pregnancy.

“I never would have had a cover photo if not for HiHeyHello and the space they created for creative women,” Cleary said by phone from Bellingham. She worked as an outdoor photographer, doing internships for Backcountry Magazine, but eventually gave up and moved into video. “Action sports photography is an old guard,” she said. “There is a scarcity mentality and no room for anyone with promise.”

As a professional athlete, Backstrom is no stranger to photo shoots and cover shots. With HiHeyHello, she appreciated the opportunity to not get shoed. “Usually you see maybe an article about a woman in an outdoor publication,” she said. “Having all women and all points of view is truly unique, empowering and exciting.”

The outdoor industry relies heavily on visual media, from jaw-dropping landscape shots in advertising to brand-sponsored adventure films and the everyday exploits that athletes share on their Instagram pages. Magazines, in turn, play a historic role as chroniclers of different sports, and print real estate has become even more important amid the endless river of digital content.

“More than ever, sitting down with a physical magazine or publication is a really deliberate choice,” Backstrom said. “Taking the time to dive a little deeper, turn off the screen, and focus on the images and words is a more tactile and long-lasting experience.”

HiHeyHello seeks to find its place in this lineage by putting a marker for stories of specific women.

“Print is inherently very valuable. There are limited pages and numbers,” Miller Berg said. “The chosen stories end up defining the outdoor community. When something is printed, it is coded as relevant and important.

A lifelong print enthusiast, Miller Berg grew up reading edgy teen publication Nylon, mainstays like National Geographic and her older brother’s copies of skateboard magazine Thrasher. “I loved the combination of art and sport,” she said. “I also loved that the women I saw were quite rough around the edges. The photographs weren’t taken to make them look attractive. They were driven to express the physical talent they had for the skateboarding – showcasing their athletic skills and artistic expression.

Now, decades later, Miller Berg has the reins to showcase a similar aesthetic across a wider range of sports, pursuing what she calls “rough, wandering, cool women.”

As for the magazine’s friendly title? “If you say ‘hi’, ‘hey’ or ‘hello’ to someone, you’re inviting them to start a conversation,” Miller Berg said. “This greeting is our philosophy.”

It’s an attitude that translates into real life on the track. When Miller Berg encounters groups of all-female adventurers in the mountains, her response is standard: “So nice to see you here – and can I have your number?”

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