Member Spotlight: Canadian Rockies Annual

Date: 20th August 2017

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

With heavy paper, a minimalist design, eye-catching photography and attention-grabbing stories about the people who make a home in the mountains, coffee table-quality Canadian Rockies Annual burst onto the scene in 2016, producing Volume 1 of what would be named the Best New Magazine at the 2017 Alberta Magazine Awards. Nearly three years ago, visionaries and mountain lovers Meghan Ward and Dee Larosa saw a gap in the market for a premium publication that accurately and eloquently captured the culture of the Canadian Rockies they hold so dear. Now, two issues later, Canadian Rockies Annual is perfectly reflective of the beautiful life those who live in the mountains get to experience every day and the experiences tens of thousands of tourists come to find every year. We talked to the creators about creating a new magazine in a challenging market and, after all their hard work, what it’s like to see it fly off the shelves.

Tell us about how the concept for Canadian Rockies Annual came to be. 

A few factors were involved in the creation of the Canadian Rockies Annual. You could call it a ‘right time, right place’ scenario, where creative minds (designer Dee Larosa and editor/writer Meghan J. Ward) converged, saw opportunity for a premium-quality publication in the Rockies, and would settle for nothing less than the best product. Both founders have experience in the magazine industry, and we are also voracious leaners – meaning that what we don’t know doesn’t stop us (we’ll find out!). At that time, no paid-for, magazine-style publication existed in the Canadian Rockies. Call us dreamers, but we thought that if we could produce a top-notch book that people would be willing to pay for it, and we could keep the advertising to a minimum. It took 21 months from when the idea was conceived before a paper copy of the Canadian Rockies Annual landed on the shelves. 

With two issues behind you, do you feel like that concept has changed? 

Remarkably, the concept hasn’t changed in those volumes, beyond us pushing the creative limits more with Volume 2 now that we know our reader that much better. Through it all, the concept has become much more solidified, especially now that we know “it works.” 

What has the response been like so far? 

We sold out of Volume 1 well before its one-year shelf life was up, so if that’s any indication we think people have enjoyed it! We feel like we’re still in a stage of getting the word out there amongst new readers and those who have not yet discovered it, but overall whoever does pick it up has a positive response. Most people say it’s the kind of magazine you want to make space for; to make a nice cup of coffee or pour a glass of wine, curl up and get engrossed in. 

What are some of the challenges you faced at the beginning, and how did you overcome them (or how are you working to overcome them)? 

As we touched on before, between the two of us we held a fair amount of knowledge in the areas of design, writing, editing and some aspects of publishing, but in the first year the learning curve was huge. We spent a lot of time learning things for the first time (and thankfully can now lean on that knowledge). Beyond our own capabilities, we enlisted a solid team of contributors and editorial staff, including our Photo Editor, Paul Zizka, Copy/Associate editor, Jen Groundwater, and Assistant Editor, Tera Swanson. We built up a distribution network from scratch, and learned to spend money in the right places to make our lives easier. 

One tip we’d give is to reassess often and analyze what’s working and what’s not. We have shifted our energies a great deal in the past few years, and gotten better bang for our buck as we’d phased out certain aspects of the business that weren’t propelling us forward.  

Canadian Rockies Annual was the first annual magazine accepted as a member of AMPA. Tell us why an annual format works to accomplish your goals for the magazine. 

In order to create a sustainable publication and solid business model, Crowfoot Media spent nearly a year researching the market and preparing the back-end for what would eventually become our publishing house. After much discussion, we chose an annual model (rather than bi-annual) for the magazine because our vision included the highest-quality printing, content, photography and design we could muster – and also one with minimal advertising. Publishing is an expensive industry, and producing one beautiful annual magazine per year allows us to focus all of our resources on creating the end product we dream of. 

This past March Canadian Rockies Annual was named Best New Magazine at the Alberta Magazine Awards. How did that feel? 

Pretty amazing! Anyone there in the crowd that night would have seen that we were totally shocked, too. You lower your expectations for these things to avoid disappointment, and we perhaps lowered them a little too much (we were still speechless by the time we got to the stage). It felt incredible to be acknowledged at the awards after putting so much our our blood, sweat and tears into a magazine with a lot of lofty goals.  

What are your goals for the magazine moving forward? 

Overall, our goal is to keep doing what we’re doing, but to increase distribution. This will be key to ensuring the magazine is a sustainable venture in the long run. 

Why should people subscribe to Canadian Rockies Annual? 

Three reasons. 🙂 1. Of course we’re biased, but this isn’t your average publication. Every aspect of the magazine is thoughtfully conceived, from paper quality to design and layout, from the utterly spellbinding photography to the enriching content. It’s the kind of book that you’ll put on your coffee table for others to enjoy (while keeping a close eye to make sure they don’t take it!). 2. Subscribing is a way to support our independent publishing efforts so that we keep the advertising to a minimum. 3. Subscribing is the easiest way to get a copy. We have over 150 stockists, but subscriptions are a sure-fire way to ensure that magazine lands at your door each year that it comes out. Plus, who doesn’t love getting mail like that?! 

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