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Wearing his heart on his forehead.

Iain MacMillan @skiiniain

Ski Canada has a secret, a very dark secret, and it’s time to let you in on it. Perhaps you should sit down. We’re now owned…by…a…snowboarder!

It’s true. The latter half of our 52-year existence has involved teasing and taunting our backside brethren but we’re coming clean now. Our long-time art director—and new publisher—Norm Lourenco, is a trayer. A snow seal. A knuckle dragger. 

Ski Canada has gone from its birth as an “off-season” sidekick of Racquets Canada, owned by a colonel with an Order of the British Empire title, to joining the 100-magazine empire of publisher Maclean Hunter, to three decades of Work From Home operations under independent owner Paul Green, to finally settling into the hands of Norm. Norm the Snowboarder. 

It was 18 years ago that a young Norm joined the magazine as art director, the fifth designer I’ve worked with over the decades, but by far the longest-sitting at Ski Canada’s art table. I know what you’re thinking. How could a one-time director of the Ontario Registered Graphic Designers, former professor at University of Guelph-Humberand man with so much media experience be a snowboarder? 

Now, after a few decades of running a small graphic design business, he’s sitting behind a big publisher’s desk with a nameplate and a bottle of whiskey in the bottom drawer. Norm has taken on fun duties like directing traffic all day (and often at night) dealing with staff, stringers, I-just-need-15-minutes-of-your-time emails, the printer, Canada Post, subscription lists, news agents, the CRA, CSIS…and through it all, as supervising art director, he continues to literally put the book together. 

Norm designs each page of Ski Canada by sizing and placing stories with photos, choosing typefaces and correcting m-dashes. Have you ever tried writing something that included photos, captions, a headline etc. and realized you’ve spent hours on a project that you’d thought would go quickly? Now multiply that by a thousand. And imagine doing it all with a snowboarder’s brain!

We’ve always known a percentage of our readers are snowboarders, similar to the percentage that goes through a typical lift line in Canada. Several of our writers and photographers are misguidedly on one plank. I miss the days of the printed jokes and jabs at snowboarders’ shortcomings; their feedback in our Letters to the Editor section was always given front-and-centre attention.

Back in the ’90s, we thought they were going to take over the ski world. One of my kids asked the other day what a “Snowboard Park” was. I explained it’s a bit like a “car phone,” a moment in time. As we know, eventually “snowboard parks” allowed entry to skiers and were renamed “terrain parks.” Tricks on two planks were so obviously more impressive than on one, young skiers stopped switching to snowboards. With more time, old guys who had switched to snowboarding came back to skis. 

It was more than 10 years ago that Scott Birke, a former editor of Snowboard Canada magazine, told me that snowboarding’s numbers were “falling off a cliff.” Numbers today vary by region, month and ski area of course but on average, for every snowboarder there are five skiers. Board and ski manufacturing numbers have similar stats. At one time, Birke’s exploding Rolodex had hundreds and hundreds of fax numbers for independent board makers. Burton changed all that long ago. Like Google, Meta and so on, Burton continues to dominate with more than a third of the market. 

Norm’s a Burton boy. I told him I’d only ski with him if he got into touring so he’s now on a split-board. Teaching old dogs new tricks is good for an aging brain they say, but in this case it’s all part of my secret master plan. With Norm slowly skinning up behind me on what are effectively stubby skis, I reckon it’s only a matter of time before he sees the light, leaves his bindings in the uptrack position, and embraces skiing.

Iain MacMillan
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