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June 28, 2022

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Northwest-based magazine HiHeyHello spotlights women’s outdoor culture

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Picture this: Evergreen boughs laden with snow cast shadows on an undulating ridge bleached by sunlight streaming in from the upper-right corner. In the middle of the shot, a lone skier is framed midstride as she moves uphill.

The skier is Seattle-born, Leavenworth-based professional athlete Ingrid Backstrom. The photographer is Bellingham’s Anne Cleary. The setting is somewhere in the backcountry near Stevens Pass. And the frame for this photograph is the cover of the first issue of HiHeyHello.

When Seattle-based outdoor industry veteran Anya Miller Berg stumbled across the magazine in late 2020, she was tickled to see Backstrom, an old friend from her days ski bumming around Lake Tahoe, and delighted to see another friend, Cleary, took the photo. But she was even more enamored by what she saw underneath the cover: page after page of stories and photos celebrating women in the outdoors. And not just stories about women’s feats of athletic prowess — though there are plenty of those — but also tales of artists, ceramists and entrepreneurs.

“This is the magazine I have been looking for my whole life,” Miller Berg said of her first impression.

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

That such a magazine, while global in scope, would find itself anchored in Seattle and Portland is no coincidence.

“Both of us ended up here because of the adventure that’s close by paired with the cosmopolitan nature of the cities and some counterculture mixed in,” Miller Berg told The Seattle Times from the studio in her midcentury modern Maple Leaf home, which has a snowmobile and campervan parked outside a garage stuffed with splitboards, skis, mountain bikes and climbing gear.

“The Pacific Northwest feels like such a perfect place for an electric mix of female-led stories to be found,” she said. “Grit, style, intelligence, adventurousness and vibrant spirit are all things that are especially appreciated in this area of the country. Those are the people that get elevated to hero status here.”

For example, issue 6, which is due out in June, will profile Alisa Furoyama. The proprietor of Capitol Hill clothing and home goods boutique Glasswing, she is also an avid bouldering climber and last year rode a motorbike the length of 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 HiHeyHello subscription costs $32, and current and back issues are for sale at hiheyhellomagazine.com/shop. The new issue will also be sold at Good Weather Bicycle & Café on Capitol Hill.

Miller Berg is a natural-born storyteller. Formerly the director of brand and creative strategy for Seattle-based outdoor creative agency Duct Tape Then Beer (producer of the cult outdoors podcast The Dirtbag Diaries), she now runs her own outdoor brand consultancy, mindful creative. That career has given her a wealth of contacts and experience in the outdoor industry to leverage for a young magazine still in startup mode, as well as insight into an industry that historically has not been the most welcoming to women’s stories.

“A lot of creators are coming to us saying that there’s not a place for their stories elsewhere in the outdoor industry. They get a lot of ‘nos,’ ‘maybes’ or ‘we’re not sure how this fits into our next issue,’” Miller Berg said. “Creating space to replace all the ‘nos’ that we’ve experienced in jobs and creativity with ‘yeses’ for other people is the main reason Sierra and I stretch ourselves pretty thin to make [the magazine] happen.”

Examples include an upcoming profile of Vermont-based trans mountain biker and splitboarder Alex Showerman and an essay by Bishop, California-based climbing guide Miranda Oakley on pregnancy.

“I would have never gotten a cover shot if it weren’t for HiHeyHello and the space they’ve created for women creatives,” Cleary said via phone from Bellingham. She toiled as an outdoor photographer, interning for the likes of Backcountry Magazine, but eventually gave up and switched to video. “Action sports photography is such an old guard,” she said. “There’s a scarcity mentality and no room for anyone who’s up-and-coming.”

As a professional athlete, Backstrom is no stranger to photo shoots and cover shots. With HiHeyHello, she appreciated the opportunity not to be shoehorned. “Usually you see maybe one article on a woman in an outdoor publication,” she said. “To have all women and all points of view is really unique, validating and exciting.”

The outdoors industry leans heavily on visual media, from photos of breathtaking scenery in advertising to adventure films sponsored by brands and the daily exploits athletes share on their Instagram pages. Magazines, in turn, have a storied role as chroniclers of different sports, and print real estate has become even more significant 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 bit deeper, turn off the screen, and focus on pictures and words is a more tactile experience and feels more enduring.”

HiHeyHello seeks to find its place in that lineage by putting a marker down for specific women’s stories.

“Print by its nature is very precious. There are limited pages and issues,” Miller Berg said. “The stories that get chosen end up defining the outdoor community. When something gets printed, it’s codified as relevant and important.”

A lifelong print aficionado, Miller Berg grew up reading edgy teenage publication Nylon, stalwarts like National Geographic and her older brother’s copies of skateboarding mag Thrasher. “I loved the combination of art and sport,” she said. “I also loved that women I saw were pretty rough around the edges. The photographs weren’t taken to make them seem attractive. They were being taken to express the physical talent they had for skateboarding — highlighting their athletic skill and artistic expression.”

Now, decades later, Miller Berg has the reins to showcase a similar aesthetic across a broader range of sports, seeking out what she calls “rough-around-the-edges, ragamuffin, cool women.”

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

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

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