Stuart Winchester / Louis Goodman – Transcript


Louis Goodman / Stuart Winchester – Transcript

Louis Goodman 00:04
Welcome to the Love Thy Lawyer podcast, where we usually talk with attorneys about their lives and careers. I’m Louis Goodman. And let me see if I can get this right. Welcome to the storm where podcast host Stuart Winchester usually talks with CEOs and general managers of ski areas throughout North America.

Since Stuart is not a lawyer and I am certainly not the general manager of a ski resort why are we talking with each other on this podcast? As a skier and snowboarder, I listen to Stuart’s storm skiing podcast and read his blog posts. And I had the distinct pleasure of skiing with him one afternoon last year at Palisades Tahoe.

As a podcast interviewer, I’m always interested in defining life events and providing information about the lives of others that may prove helpful to me and my listeners. When Stuart’s blog post entitled, The Day I Didn’t Die came across my feed, I was intrigued. That is what Stuart and I are going to explore in today’s podcast. Stuart Winchester, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer and for your listeners, welcome to the storm.

Stuart Winchester 01:22
Louis, thanks so much. Pleasure to be here. Thanks for the invitation.

Louis Goodman 01:25
It really is a pleasure to talk to you. I do listen to your podcast on a very regular basis and it’s fun having your voice In my ear on my podcast. And I really did enjoy the afternoon that we spent skiing together last year. It was a really a magical ski day. And I’m really happy that we’re able to do that. Stuart, I’m wondering if you could just give us a brief biographical background, where you’re from originally, where you went to school, what your training is as a journalist.

Stuart Winchester 02:01
I grew up in Michigan, went to the University of Michigan, moved to New York City in 2002 when I was 25, knocked around the city a little bit, spent a couple years as a teacher, knew that wasn’t a long-term plan for me, ended up going to journalism school.

Louis Goodman 02:18
Where’d you do that?

Stuart Winchester 02:19
At Columbia and ended up through happenstance on the corporate side of communications which is where I still have a sideline today. That was fine. It’s a living, but I still had a creative bug to get out and that’s where the storm came in several years later.

Louis Goodman 02:36
If someone’s looking for the storm skiing podcast, where can they find that?

Stuart Winchester 02:41
The best place to go is The podcast does sync with all the big podcast services like Spotify, but the podcast is just a small part of what the storm is. The storm really is an email newsletter. The podcast is part of that. I guarantee a hundred articles a year. Usually podcasts are around 40 of those.

And usually I hit around 120 articles. It’s what I’m mostly interested in is analyzing, breaking down the world of lift surf skiing and how it’s changing very rapidly, both as a business and as a consumer product in the 21st century. I always say it this way. I am a writer with a podcast, not a podcaster with a newsletter.

Louis Goodman 03:27
I find your podcast really interesting as a skier. And I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast, either ski or snowboard or both, because what you talk about are the things that are meaningful for the recreational skier. You’re not just interviewing people who are jumping off of cliffs or Alpine racers or Olympic quality athletes.

You’re talking to the, as I said, the CEOs, the general managers, the people who really figure out a way to coordinate the parking, to coordinate the snowmaking, to coordinate the ski patrol, the ski school, the rentals, the kinds of things that are really front facing for someone who, you know, like me drives up to Tahoe on a regular basis and wants to get on the mountain.

And so I’ve found that to be a very interesting and a very refreshing experience in terms of the information that you glean.

Stuart Winchester 04:26
Yeah. Thanks, Louis. That’s what I’m, I’m interested in because when we think about skiing, we think about our own skiing and our own ski days. Most of us ski at ski areas and someone has crafted that experience.

It’s a ski area is a lot like a park, you know, in New York city here. I go to central park a lot and it seems wild, but it’s an illusion. It’s actually a very crafted experience that was architecturally designed to make you feel as though you’re sort of part of the wilderness and have all these different, interesting experiences.

And a ski area works very much the same way. And the way that the different managers either run that or don’t and craft an interesting experience for all of us and what our shared ski story is That’s really what I’m getting after.

Louis Goodman 05:16
Well, I have lots and lots of questions that I’d like to discuss with you about your work. If time permits, we’ll get to some of them.

But I want to jump right into the experience that started for you on December 16th of 2024. Where were you and what happened on that date?

Stuart Winchester 05:38
My wife and son and I were in at Jackson Hole, and we’d skied that day. And we were kind of up at altitude so, you know, I’m always on the lookout. I don’t generally get altitude sick but once in a while.

And I’m always on the lookout for weird things when I go out west. And Jackson Hole is not particularly high. I think the base is around 6,000 feet. So it’s not like some of these ones in Summit County or wherever. I had been noticing after I had lunch with my wife, I felt kind of really full and we were up at mid mountain.

You can take the gondola at Jackson. You can just ride the gondola, but there’s a little lunch spot up there. And so she downloaded the gondola and I skied down to pick my son up from ski school. And I was just feeling really kind of heavy and I never do this. I, so I just followed the cat tracks down and I almost always do the runs in between.

Cause I really like skiing off piece and I really like skiing, interesting stuff. But I was like, I just don’t, don’t feel right. So I just kind of let that pass. And we went out to dinner, had dinner. I was just feeling really full. It was almost like a, like after Thanksgiving feeling. So went home, watched a movie, fell asleep.

And I woke up at about one o’clock in the morning and I just felt like I’d swallowed a cinder block. I felt like I hadn’t digested food in days and I, and I started to think about it. I hadn’t been really using the bathroom regularly and I was like, gosh, this isn’t right. And it was just like this feeling like sitting in my chest.

So I got up out of bed Got in my car, drove to Jackson, which was about, I don’t know, seven, eight miles away from Teton village, which is where Jackson hole is looking around for someplace that would sell me medicine that I would need to move my food along. And in spite of what Google maps says, there, there’s no pharmacy open at Jackson, Wyoming at two o’clock in the morning, went to gas stations.

That’s the only places that were open. Nothing there came home, drank some caffeine, finally gets things moving along. But I just, the next day I just sat there and, you know, didn’t ski when I was at West, which I never, ever, ever miss a ski day, particularly when I’m at the base of Jackson freaking hole. So I was just kind of let myself get through it.

I really just started eating a lot less. Within a day or two had me feeling better enough to get back out skiing again.

Louis Goodman 08:24
Now about a week later You are back in New York City where you live and you went to the NYU Hospital emergency room. Why did you go there and tell us a little bit about the experience of getting to the emergency room?

Stuart Winchester 08:41
I’m trying to keep this as non-gross as possible, but essentially things just weren’t moving. And I was eating very, very little. Like I really, I immediately cut out meat and I would eat just basically a meal and a half a day and try to make it thing really light things like lettuce salads, but it was still not moving.

And I was like, okay, you know, it’s two days before Christmas so it’s not like there’s any other option at that point, other than getting to the emergency room. The emergency room is easy. We just took an Uber. I mean, it’s New York city. Get around super. Super-fast. So went in there, they did a CAT scan on my stomach, said, there’s no blockages.

You know, there’s, there’s nothing else we can do, but you need to go see a GI. And of course, on December 23rd, trying to make a GI appointment is, you know, you’re going to have to wait a little while typically, unless you’re in some, even in New York city where there’s a zillion doctors went soonest appointment I could, which was for January 9th, because I had a lot of travel and it was holidays coming up.

Louis Goodman 09:58
Between the time you went from the emergency room visit to the time that you went and visited the GI doctor. You went to the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, and then you went to Copper mountain in Colorado, which does have a very high base because it is one of those 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado and even people who are in really good health and trained athletes sometimes experience altitude sickness and breathing problems. So how did things go in copper and, you know, to, for whatever it’s worth, the Cayman Islands?

Stuart Winchester 10:35
Cayman was easy. I just sat on a beach chair and read. We intentionally didn’t do anything for that trip cause we’re usually very active travelers. My wife who likes the skiing lifestyle a lot more than she likes skiing. Kind of one of our compromises during the winter is that. The week between Christmas and New Year’s, we go to an island somewhere. It’s not a great ski week anywhere. Typically it’s any way because of the crowds and the, it’s not usually a ton of snow.

So it’s nice. It’s nice to go down there. We relaxed, really nothing happened down there. I continue to eat lightly. I should not have been at Copper mountain. The base, first of all, is above 8,000 feet. So that already is challenging. And the top of Copper is above 12. So we were skiing all over the place.

I was skiing with some of the staff there and they were showing me the whole mountain. I’m used to being winded at altitude, right. From skiing in Utah and Colorado. And I know that’s part of it, but I wasn’t really as keyed in as I should have been. Because when I started getting up above 12, 000 and we were skiing these high Alpine mogul fields, you know, when you have these big bumps that are really rutted in, you have to make some very dynamic turns.

And I would do 10 or 12 turns and just stop. And I was just heaving, gasping for air in a way that I’d never experienced before. I should have just stopped skiing, but I was like, Oh, it’s just the altitude is getting to me. The altitude is getting to me. You know, I’m out here. I want to, I want to enjoy this. You know, I still sort of early season, maybe I’m not quite in shape yet.

Louis Goodman 12:19
And let me say this Stuart, that neither you nor I are going to win any Olympic mogul competitions, but we are both, you know, fairly competent mogul skiers for recreational skiers. So skiing a tough mogul field is not something that’s unusual for you.

Stuart Winchester 12:39
Yeah, no, no, no. It’s this is, that’s the kind of terrain I seek, particularly when I’m out west. That was probably the closest I ever was to. Having a heart attack or whatever else might’ve happened because my come to find out, the condition my heart was in there’s no way I should have been doing those vigorous exercises In that environment.

Louis Goodman 13:04
I remember saying to you one time that even under the best of circumstances I couldn’t survive your travel schedule, but a few days after you left Copper you were in Houston. How did that go?

Stuart Winchester 13:18
That went awesome. Go blue, Michigan alum and Michigan won the national title game. My wife and son were able to be there with me for that. That was a Houston energy stadium. We actually cut the ski trip short to fly down to Texas to be there for that. And I did feel better. Back at altitude because Houston, I think is 79 feet above sea level. So, although I think my seats at the stadium were about 800 feet above, above the field, but that was a lot of fun.

I’ve been a Michigan season ticket holder for years and years and incredibly fun to go down there and. Watch them win that very special game. So that was awesome.

Louis Goodman 14:01
Now you get back to New York. You’re still thinking GI problems But then you end up going to a cardiologist. Explain that.

Stuart Winchester 14:11
So I went to the GI and the appointment I think was for the 9th or 10th It was it was the day after I got back from the national title game It was the first appointment that I could have makes I had all that travel So I go down to the guy and I’m like, Hey, you know, I’ve been having all these digestive issues, you know, you’re at the age, you know, I’m 46, he’s like, you’re at the age where we should do a colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, if you’re having problems, but first you have to get your heart checked.

He said, because sometimes stomach issues express themselves as heart issues. And I’m like, I was like, okay, but I was thinking like, this is so stupid. You know, it’s just more tests, more money. It’s like American healthcare at its worst where it’s just like, we’ll just throw everything at it just to cover our liability and, and make sure it was like, all right.

So I walk around the corner and it’s in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I was there all day, but I had to blow into a bag. You know, I guess they’re testing my lungs and then I did the EKG and EKG comes back and EKG, I mean, to me, it just looks like a, you know, seismograph and an earthquake, like, you know, it doesn’t make any sense to me.

I don’t know what I’m looking at, but the cardiologist’s older fellow. He’s looking at it. He’s like, something doesn’t look right here. And it was at NYU. So they have all these online records for me now. And I actually have records at NYU going back to 2007. And he was like, here’s your EKG for 2007.

Here’s the one from 2020. They all, they look the same. And he’s like, see the difference here. And I was like, Oh, that is different. I didn’t know what that meant. So he’s like, all right, you got to come back and get something called a nuclear stress test. He said, in the meantime, you know, we can’t schedule that for a while.

In the meantime, take an aspirin every day, you know, kind of try to take it easy, which I didn’t. And he kind of sent me on my way.

Louis Goodman 16:07
That’s what I find amazing is that the cardiology found some EKG problems and they scheduled you to come back three weeks later. And it appears that they kind of clear you to continue skiing, which you did.

Stuart Winchester 16:24
Yeah, I did. You know, and I’m not sure how much of that was me ambiguously interpreting the recommendation. He might, you know, he might have said ski, but take it easy. And what I heard is go skiing. I didn’t do anything else on the level of Copper Mountain. I went to Camelback, which is a really mellow place in Pennsylvania with my kids for MLK weekend.

I went to Blue Knob in Pennsylvania, which is a little more intense mountain, Canaan Valley in West Virginia. I was traveling all around. I went to this place, Hickory, that it reopened up in upper New York. That’s all-natural snow and surface lifts. So it was fun. I was kind of getting around. I wasn’t doing anything super intense, but I was very active and I noticed I was getting tired really easily.

You know, I was not eating much. So, so I I’ve always in my life, I’ve been one of these people who eats a lot. And sleeps very little. And that’s kind of flipped where we’re now I sleep a lot and I eat very little. So, so that was, that was my routine. And the nuclear stress test was scheduled for January 31st. So I continue to ski up until returning for that test.

Louis Goodman 17:41
January 31st rolls around. And what happens at the nuclear stress test?

Stuart Winchester 17:46
I had to fast a little bit before I went. So I went there with a backpack and I have my caffeine in there and my little energy bar that I’m going to eat later. And they go in and they, you drink a fluid, like a nuclear fluid.

And they said, don’t be around your kids for the next day after, because you’re literally radioactive. So they give you the fluid, you rest, they scan you with a, I don’t know, some kind of machine. Then you go on a treadmill, and you know, I take my shirt off and they put suction cups all over. I think most people who get these tests are.

A little older and maybe not quite living as active a lifestyle. The technicians are like, Oh, you look like you’re in good shape. This would be fine. And I’m like, yeah, this is just sort of this dumb thing that I’m doing and I’m sure it’s no big deal. So, you know, you get on the treadmill and they, they do a couple of things.

They start to speed it up and they start to raise it and they keep monitoring you and you’re plugged into all these machines and I started to get that feeling again that I had when I was at Copper, you know, when I was a which was this pressure in my chest as though there’s a little weight in there and I’m having trouble breathing and I’m kind of telling them like I’m getting short of breath.

Finally, the doctor just cuts it off. He says, we’re done, scans me again. I’m sitting in this room and he walks in and all these people kind of gather around like all his aides and everything and nurses and stuff. And he’s like, you have a big problem said, I suspect, and I can’t tell this for sure until they actually go in.

But I suspect based on what I’m seeing that you have a 100 percent blockage of your lower anterior descending artery of your heart. He said, we call it the widow maker. And I’d never heard that before. And he said, and we call it that because most people who get this blockage have a heart attack and die.

And I’m like, Whoa, So, so he says, Here’s the good news. We caught it. We know exactly how to fix it. And once it’s fixed, you live a normal life. But you need to go to the emergency room immediately. You said I’m gonna call my friend who’s cardiac specialist at NYU. I’m gonna make sure he has room to take you in.

I’m gonna let you let him know what’s going on. But you need to be under monitoring, and you need to go directly in right now.

Louis Goodman 20:27
So what happened as far as the surgical treatment is concerned?

Stuart Winchester 20:32
Well, as soon as I got that news, I called my wife and she had been a little more worried than me as is typical. I called her up, she had been texting me, you know, how, how is it?

I called her up and I just said, Hey, and that’s all I said. And she said, Oh, and she just knew. And I was like, I need you to come get me and take me to NYU. So we go to NYU and the ER at NYU is just an insane place to be. It’s everyone there is either 205 years old or like completely jacked out of their head on drugs.

Like there, there are people like handcuffed to their beds with police officers over them. I don’t know why they keep all these groups of people together instead of having separate places for, you know, the people that are, facing drug issues. Anyway, then there’s me. There’s not a lot of like, you know, mid-forties dudes there.

They eventually transfer me to what they call an observation room. And it’s basically just a room with an incredible amount of beeping and noise. And, but they, they could not get me in that day, kept me overnight. I ended up being the very last procedure the following day. So February 1st. And the doctor was great.

He, he came in, he had very good bedside manners. He kind of talked to me, told me what was going to happen. He was like, Dr. Qadir, the doctor would send me in. He never sends me 46 year old patients like this is there’s, you know, something bad, but turns out Lewis, and this surprised me because I always think we live in the future.

And the only way, even in 2024 to confirm that you have a blocked artery in your heart is to poke a hole in your wrist in your artery, run a catheter all the way up to your heart and squirt the fluid in there and see it on the camera. That’s an angiogram. I’m probably describing that poorly. Sorry, doctors.

And then they can see it on this monitor. And there’s no way to do it other than that, which is astonishing because the doctor only suspected that it was blocked. He said, Yep, it’s blocked. Yeah. And I’m on like all kinds of drugs. They don’t put you out, but I’m actually awake, but I had some pain meds and some, you know, anti-anxiety meds going.

So I was, I was fine. And he said, yup, it’s blocked, cleared it out, put a stent in there. Not something I thought I’d get for another few decades, if at all. And took it out. And he’s like, we got to keep you for observation overnight, but you’re good.

Louis Goodman 23:16
So how have things been going since then?

Stuart Winchester 23:21
There’s a couple of ways to look at it. Physically. I’m feeling great. Blood is actually flowing properly. So my heart had adapted by building a network of tributaries. To keep heart flowing where the artery should have been. I don’t think it was anywhere near the same amount of blood flow, but once my blood was flowing normally, I suddenly felt great.

I’ve lost 25 pounds. A lot of that has to do with changing my diet, but I think a lot of it just has to do with my blood being flowing back normal. Physically. I’m feeling great. Mentally. It’s been hard because I don’t really believe in the stent, right? I know that I should, but the heart is just this amazing thing that just goes and goes and goes and it never takes a break and it never needs downtime.

It just goes for your whole life and you never think about it. You never have to do anything. And it’s just this amazing product of evolution. And I’m supposed to believe that like a little pipe is going to fix it. So it’s all a little unbelievable. There’s a lot of anxiety around it, particularly because I had not lived poorly before, you know, I am a fairly active person. I have. Good strong relationships, a good marriage.

Louis Goodman 24:42
Yeah, you’re not a smoker, you’re not a heavy drinker, you’re, you’re active, you’re, you’re, you’re an athletic guy.

Stuart Winchester 24:49
Yeah, and I have a very good workout routine, like very consistent for years and years now.

So, I don’t have these risk factors for chronic lifestyle disease. So, to hear that I had coronary artery disease just didn’t add up. Like, I’m not, I never was into drugs or anything. So, it is, there’s a little bit of element of like, That’s weird. Like how did, you know, it’s like someone not smoking who gets lung cancer or something.

It’s just, you just don’t really get it. Cause you, cause I felt like I was doing the right things more or less. I mean, I, I’m not a monk. I wasn’t living a perfect lifestyle, but I was taking, for an American, I was living pretty well.

Louis Goodman 25:30
You and I have talked before and I know you’ve had some sort of death adjacent experiences before and I know from personal experience how committed you are to using the safety bar on chairlifts and I’m just wondering if you could expound upon that a little bit.

Stuart Winchester 25:47
Yeah, I got this medical condition that expresses itself extremely rarely. It’s called vasovagal syncope. I never even knew I had a name. It’s happened to me six times in my life, where essentially the way it was explained to me by a doctor is your fight or flight mechanism kicks in, and then Your heart rate slows down to a point that can’t support life.

So 20 beats a minute, and then you just lose consciousness. It’s basically a panic attack. And that happened to me mostly when I was a teenager, a few times from age, like 11 to 19. Then it never happened again until 2020. And I had this weird incident one morning where I woke up, had some vertigo, got all dizzy and just lost consciousness and height of COVID.

My wife had to call the ambulance. It was this whole big mess. That’s a freaky sensation because it feels like you’re dying, right? Because your heart is not giving the brain blood. And so your brain just shuts off. So I’d imagine that’s what dying is like, but you come back, but it’s still freaky because even though there’s always a catalyst, it’s always surprising.

And I always think, what if this happens when I’m driving? Or what if this happens when I’m cooking or when I’m riding a chairlift, which can be very high off the ground, especially that stupid, what was the Holy Road resort chair. The resort chair. It’s like 500 feet in the air. I don’t even know it’s legal. That thing is crazy.

Louis Goodman 27:30
That’s the chair that goes from the hotel at Palisades up to the top of the red dog area for those of us who live in California and have skied at Palisades. Yeah. We were on that chair and you were not happy about how high off the ground we were.

Stuart Winchester 27:49
Nope, bar was down.

Louis Goodman 27:53
You know, one of the things that I have talked about on this podcast and I talk about with friends is that every day I am consciously grateful for being healthy and consciously grateful for just being outside and walking around on my own two legs and seeing the world through my own two eyes.

And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about your notions of gratitude before and after this incident?

Stuart Winchester 28:21
Yeah. I’ve worked hard to build a life that I wanna live. Right? And that means being around people who make me feel good and are, have good attitudes. That means doing things that make my body feel good. Doing things that challenge me to grow my mind, doing meaningful work. All of those things, you know, having a good marriage and creating something I like, like the storm. Living in a place like New York City that I really like. Riding my bike or skiing. Those are all things that were the result of conscious choices and also the choices to give up things that were getting in the way of those other things.

And that’s, it’s hard to give up things and it’s hard to change and it’s hard to move yourself into new circumstances sometimes. And it’s scary. But I’m constantly aware that there were so many other paths that my life could have been. And whether that’s in the context of seeing how some of my peers are living, folks I grew up with in small town, Michigan, looking at some of the ways that people I know are in unhappy relationships or even myself in the past, unhappy relationships, every day I think about these things and think about how fortunate I am to live a life that’s That is a life I want to live.

I’ve kept a journal since I was 18. It’s helped a lot just to reflect, to get things out, to articulate where I’ve been and where I want to go. It’s been a really good mental health tool for me for a really long time.

So just my general approach. I feel pretty happy with life, but I know that’s not inevitable and I know not everyone does, so.

Louis Goodman 30:33
Do you have some kind of a kind of takeaway for people from this experience? I mean, some sense that, I mean, I mean, kind of my takeaway and you know, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I mean, my takeaway from it is that if you feel like something isn’t right, like I know if I feel that something isn’t right, I should really take some action on that and try as best I can to get some kind of diagnosis. I mean, is that the takeaway from this?

Stuart Winchester 31:10
Yeah, my takeaway was listen to your body. Men in particular, kind of have a little tough guy syndrome. That’s cultural. Obviously it varies in different parts of the country, but growing up where I did in the Midwest was kind of sucking things up, just get through them and don’t complain. And there’s something to that, right? Because you don’t want to be the person that complains all the time about everything, because you can always find something wrong, right?

It’s more about having that discretion to decide when not normal is actually hazardous. How many times a year do we have some sort of minor medical thing, right? So whether it’s, you have the sniffles or you’re coughing a little, or, you know, you have an earache or some weird thing on your skin or whatever, and we can’t all react to all of them or else you’d be in that hospital all the time.

So, so this with me, it was, it alarmed me because. It felt like something wasn’t working right. It’s almost like I compare it to when you’re driving your car and a check engine light comes on. It’s really saying like something’s wrong, even if you don’t know exactly what it is and you really need to go and plug in that machine and figure out what’s wrong.

So in this case, it was a matter of, okay. It’s not normal for me to feel like I swallowed a cinder block. And it’s not normal for me to be this low energy for days afterwards. And it’s, you know, I need to go see if something’s going on, even if I think. Nothing is so I just listen to my body.

Louis Goodman 33:07
Where do you see yourself going from here in your life, your work, your podcast, your blog, your family?

Stuart Winchester 33:14
Yeah. Mediterranean diet. So like I said, I’ve lost a ton of weight cut out sugar cut out red meat. I can drink wine, you know, the, the cardiologist said three glasses and that doesn’t mean three glasses every day. I will continue to live the active lifestyle that I curated. I will continue to do the storm because I love it. Sort of the great work of my life where created this platform that has this niche audience that I can actually make an income on and probably do forever and want to do forever. And it’s something that no one else is doing. With my kids, I’m grateful that I’m here for them. I’m grateful that they don’t have to have that childhood in the context of not having a parent.

I spend time with them doing meaningful things. That’s always been something I’ve tried to do. I think it’s mostly the diet that I want to watch. I have to get a nuclear stress test every year, forever. You know, the hard thing, which is fine. I think I’ll just, I’m going to enjoy being a little lighter, a little healthier, and maybe that’ll add some years on the backend, who knows?

Louis Goodman 34:40
We do have a little time left. I would like to just kind of talk to you about your work a little bit, because I’m interested in it. And I think other people might be as well. One thing about lawyers is I think lawyers are sort of called to the practice of law. And I think lawyers know at a very early age that they’re lawyers.

And I suspect that people who are involved in journalism get into journalism because they see it as some kind of a calling and I’m, I’m wondering, you know, sort of what called you to journalism and how doing this podcast and this storm skiing journal has kind of fit into that notion of where your life should go?

Stuart Winchester 35:27
Yeah. The only way anything’s ever made sense to me is when I write it down and that that’s the only way that I can put a shape to it. And that I can define it and that it can be something that exists like a box that has dimensions and limits and a top and a bottom and layers to it. Fortunately, it was something that as far as reading and writing was always super easy for me.

I could write 10,000 words right now on anything and not even really think about it. So it’s it was sort of part of it was just this natural aptitude, I guess for it And then I the idea of journalism started to occur to me actually when I got into skiing. I was when I was in high school, I didn’t start skiing till I was in high school It’s about 15, but he was like, oh we got to go up on the ski bus to this little place in Mount Mountain, Michigan, which doesn’t exist anymore.

And it’s 200 vertical feet and took the bus up and it’s like five bucks to rent the gear and 5 to lift ticket. And I was just terrible at it, but I came around and really ended up loving it. And I really quickly became fascinated with the wider ski world, particularly of America and North America and Canada and all these places in New England and out west, and I just started ravenously reading about them and I discovered skiing magazine.

And this was in the era, this in the nineties, you’d go to a pharmacy and you’d, there was like four or five different ski magazines and I’d buy them all and just read about them. I was like, Oh, I really want to be a ski writer. One writer in particular who has had this really fast, uplifting writing style. And I, and I, I wanted to emulate that. I just wanted to write about skiing. So. You know, I kind of kept that in the back of my head. Eventually got interested, obviously in broader parts of the world.

I always remember when I was at Columbia, we were kind of sitting around in class talking about, you know, our RW1 was like the basic class at Columbia. And we were talking about kind of what we wanted to write about, you know, this is Columbia. Everyone was very idealistic and they all wanted to write about, you know, social issues and social justice and wars. And I was like, I want to write about skiing. Just like, what’s the matter with you? This is 1,200 a credit hour to go to Columbia, moron.

You can just go write about skiing right now. So anyway, I ended up in, in the corporate world. Doing a lot of speech writing and ghost writing and running intranets and things like that. But what kind of happened in the meantime and, and what drew me ultimately back to ski writing was that the ski media I’m describing to you in the 1990s was of the same quality as like an Atlantic magazine you’d see today, right?

I’m not saying it was intellectually highbrow, but it was a well published, well curated magazine put out by a team of editors, writers, photographers, you know, I think it was, it was owned by Time Inc. So it was, it was like sports illustrator, something like that. I had, it was very, very well, well done.

And a couple of things happened. First of all, overcorrected the magazines and they started skewing their coverage more and more toward free skiers. And what I mean by that for the non-skiers are guys jumping off cliffs and guys skiing and out of helicopters and four feet of powder and backflips in the air. And it’s like, not super relatable and not really relatable at all.

It’s kind of cool, you know, kind of neat to watch in the same way It’s cool to like watch someone bungee jump or something. But you know I don’t need every ski magazine, every page of it for years on end to be that and that’s what they became. So they got away from recovering resorts and they started covering ski stunts and the second thing that happened is they did not weather the transition to digital very well at all You And because ski magazines had focused 99 percent of their coverage on 1 percent of the ski enthusiasts being like, you know, 15 year old kids who want to jump off roofs, they didn’t have a good platform base to build in digital and what filled that void was garbage, meaning Facebook and just a lot of people in ski enthusiast groups, just saying things, whether it was based in fact or not.

So around 2019, I said, okay, everything, I live in New York city. Anytime I want to go skiing, I’m driving at least an hour and a half and usually much farther. Podcasts seem to kind of be a thing. I wonder if there’s any ski podcasts. And I started listening and they were all like bro talk, free skiers. And it’s just, again, you don’t become a free skier because you have a lot of interesting things to say, right?

Necessarily. Some of them are interesting, but, but yeah, that’s a, it can be a coincidence. So it wasn’t really that compelling content. And I’m like, okay, sometimes I just want to hear people talk about Killington. It’s the largest ski resort in New England or Vail Mountain or heavenly. And I was like, what if I did a podcast where every episode I talked to the leader of a different ski area And I didn’t know if anyone would do it. I’ve never worked in skiing by the way. I didn’t know anyone who worked in skiing. I never worked a ski area. I didn’t know anyone I just started I took at the end of the 2018 19 ski season I got a notebook and I spent about five months just planning this thing out making lists of people to talk to what the format Would be you know writing some essays that I would use as the written content And I just started reaching out to people and I had this moment around July of 2019, where I was like, looking at this list of people who I’d made that I want to talk to, I’m like, what am I doing?

None of these people are going to talk to me. They’ve never heard of me. I have no published podcasts. They’re running giant ski resorts, like this is not going to work. Pushed through that moment. Got a couple of big yeses from some big-time folks in the ski world, whether it was out of kindness, curiosity I can’t quite say, but Stephen Kircher, CEO of Boyne Resorts, which owns 10 ski areas. In North America said yes. And Mike Solomano president of Killington, which is the largest ski area in new England said yes. So those, those two episodes gave me the legitimacy to begin to reach out to others because the ski industry, as I learned is quite small and once folks know they can trust you, they’ll go.

So that was four and a half years ago. And I launched it on Substack, which is a platform that allows me to build up my own newsletter email list. They make it really easy to turn on paid subscriptions. I did it for free for a little over two years and turned on paid two years ago. That went super well. My conversion rate, meaning free subscribers who convert to paid is very good. My renewal rate, meaning people who keep paying is good. It’s a legitimate small business. It’s my future.

Louis Goodman 42:58
I have a few more questions. What advice would you give to a young person just starting out in journalism and, or what do you think’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Stuart Winchester 43:13
Yeah, I have two really good answers and they’re really good answers because they came from other people.

Best thing that one of my college professors told me, and this was pre journalism school, this was English at U of M. It was an essay writing class. She said, you know, your essays are really good and you have a good point of view. She said, if you want to be a writer, the best way to make sure that you become a writer is to find something that no one else is writing about and write about only that because you become the expert.

And that’s actually exactly what’s happened is no one else is writing about skiing in the exact way that I am. They’re either writing the Stoke angle or they’re doing the safe angle where they’re doing almost press release reprints. No one’s doing the analysis bit. If you look at my site, I’m quoted in places like the New York times and the wall street journal and the economist.

And I’ve been on TV a bunch of times because I’ve made myself an expert who people go to to talk about multi mountain passes or consolidation or trends in lift surf skiing. So that’s, that’s the career advice. The writing advice I feel like is actually more important. And I would say almost no one understands this.

So I had a creative writing class in my second year of college. And the professor said something very simple, but very powerful that I keep in my head all the time. And he said, if you’ve heard it before, don’t write it. And that means cliches. That means ideas. That means excising all of the uninspiring junk out of your writing.

And so by doing that, and by always keeping that in my head, I’ve been able to develop a writing style that. Is unique enough that people will read it, right? Because it, you know, if you want to charge people for writing and, and you want to put out a product that is, is compelling enough for someone to do that, it needs to be fun.

It needs to be fun to read or very enlightening to read. And since skiing is fun, I went with fun and I, I try to keep it consistent. I try to keep it relevant and I, and I try to keep it good. So as long as I do those three things and the best way to do that is just, you just got to stop writing in cliches.

And that’s what most folks will never get that advice. And I wish more people would, because their, their own voice in their head is better than trying to recreate what they’re seeing out there.

Louis Goodman 46:16
Let’s say you came into some real money, 3 or 4 billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Stuart Winchester 46:26
It’s a few different ways to answer that. Okay. I do still have a day job, which eventually.

Louis Goodman 46:35
What’s your day job, by the way?

Stuart Winchester 46:37
I work at Paramount and I run their intranet and that’s still full time job. It’s a great job. It’s a great company. Love working there, but the Storm is my long term future. You know, I always hear about people who have, we’ve got a place here. We’ve got a place there. My wife and I talk about it, but it’s like, my God, we can barely keep up with this place. You know, for, for like, not that much money, you can go rent a place anywhere, anytime, and not have to carry around the maintenance. I’m not a big stuff person. Like I actually don’t like owning things.

I hate maintaining things. I try to own as little as possible. I guess I would probably just ski more and at more places. You know, right now I can ski about 50 days a year. You know, maybe that’s more like a hundred, but I still have to work on the Storm. You know, I don’t think I’d stop doing the Storm. I get a lot of real satisfaction from creating meaningful work that people react to. And, I mean, being a writer is what I am. I don’t think I would ever stop doing it. I always want that to be part of my life.

Louis Goodman 47:49
Let’s say out of magic wand, there was one thing in the world, the ski industry, the snowboard industry, or something outside of that industry. What would you like to change if you could do it?

Stuart Winchester 48:03
Yeah, I’d change the bad attitude about the bars in the west. I just don’t get why people get so mad about it.

Louis Goodman 48:11
You mean not putting the not putting the safety bar down on a chairlift?

Stuart Winchester 48:16

Louis Goodman 48:17
Yeah, talk about that a little bit I find that fascinating.

Stuart Winchester 48:21
Well, it’s a stress point for me because In the east everyone just puts it down automatically in the west People get visibly annoyed and sort of passive aggressive about it.

Louis Goodman 48:33
Now when you say west you’re talking about the rocky mountain west not the Sierra, California west?

Stuart Winchester 48:39
I’m talking about anything west of the Mississippi.

Louis Goodman 48:44

Stuart Winchester 48:45
Yeah. I mean, a lot of the bars in California, a lot of the chairs in California still don’t have bars and the Californians tend to not be passive aggressive about it, but they still don’t put it down unless, unless I put it down, I’ve stopped asking. I now just announced that it’s coming down. So I don’t conk someone on the head.

But it can be a little bit of a day ruiner. I don’t understand like the skiers in the US West need to understand they are unique in among world ski cultures in this resistance. In Canada, they put it down in the Western US I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why they hate it so much. Like I get why you wouldn’t use it if you’re on the chair by yourself and you don’t care about heights, but giving other people flack about it is just in very poor taste in the end is very alienating to a sport that already alienates people enough through cost and machismo and a lot of other things.

Louis Goodman 49:53
Let’s say that you had a really big microphone, you know, like 60 seconds on the Super Bowl. What if anything would you want to say to a super bowl audience a big nationwide audience? What message would you put out?

Stuart Winchester 50:11
What was it that Warren Miller said? If everyone skied, there’d be no wars.

Maybe if everyone went skiing, we could tone down our partisan anger a little bit.

Louis Goodman 50:21
Stuart, if someone wants to get in touch with you, they want to check out the Storm, Storm Skiing podcast. They want to check out the storm skiing journal. They want to like me become a paid subscriber to the storm skiing universe. What’s the best way to get in touch with you and the storm skiing world?

Stuart Winchester 50:47
Well, first of all, Louis, thank you very much for your support of the storm and independent ski journalism. That means a lot to me personally. And, and it does mean a lot to the future of ski journalism because what I’m trying to do is show that there’s a model besides having to be a kid who makes nothing interning for some, you know, aggregator online outlet. is the website. You can subscribe to the newsletter there. You can reach me at [email protected]. I’m also very active on Twitter @StormSkiJournal and I’d love any kind of feedback.

Louis Goodman 51:24
We’ve just touched on this notion of paying for podcast and Substack materials, and I don’t charge anything for my podcast.

And I do it strictly as something that is, that I’m interested in because I like talking, you know, for the most part to lawyers and, and I essentially subsidize it through the money that my office takes in. And it’s, I don’t rely on my podcast for any kind of, of income, but I also support not just your podcast, but I subscribed to several other podcasts where I think people are doing really good work.

And so if you’re listening to this podcast and you listen to, you know, please continue to listen, listen to it for free, no problem. But if you listen to other podcasts that you really like and they talk about supporting them financially. If you can, if you’re in a position to do it, do it because I think it, it is important because it is supporting people like yourself doing independent journalism. And I think that that’s a really important thing.

Last question. Is there anything, Stuart, that you wanted to talk about, that you wanted to mention about anything whatsoever that we haven’t discussed?

Stuart Winchester 52:55
Buy your ski passes now.

Louis Goodman 52:57
I bought mine. I bought mine two days ago.

Stuart Winchester 53:01
If you’re, yeah, if you’re, if you’re listening to this and you’re an occasional skier and you still think you’re going to walk up to the ticket window and buy that lift ticket at heavenly, it’s going to cost you 280.

So go and follow the Storm and I will give you all kinds of advice on more affordable ways to ski.

Louis Goodman 53:19
Stuart Winchester, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast and on this collaboration between my podcast and the Storm Skiing podcast. And I look forward to listening to you on a continuing and regular basis.

Stuart Winchester 53:39
Thanks so much, Louis. That was tons of fun. I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while, ever since you reached out to me. So it’s fun to learn about the legal world which I am not part of, but I love having that window into it that you provide with your audience. So, so thanks for including me. That was a lot of fun. Thank you.

Louis Goodman 53:55
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.

Thanks to my guests, and to Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.

Stuart Winchester 54:34
Well, actually, let me start that over. So sorry for the boring answer, but I, you know, I have a problem with all I want to do is write. So sometimes I put off everything else.

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