About vol1:1

About the Mountain Independent

The Mountain Independent is a hub of rich information and analysis, bringing together contributors from mountain towns around the world to dive deep into local environmental, social and economic issues. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

For all inquires about the Independent, contact Alec Jacobson at or at (802) 578-6339.

We endeavor to find a broad diversity of sponsors and are deeply grateful that they support our unflinching pursuit of the truth in the public interest.  We operate with absolute editorial freedom and aspire to the public perception of entirely unbiased journalism.  Our reputation is our most important currency.

Here are the people and institutions who have supported that mission with a contribution this year:


Anonymous | Todd Brown | Meredith Cooper | Rose Gutfeld and Peter Edwards

Elsbeth Mode | Karen Risch | Jack Watson









Founding Team

Alec Jacobson, Executive Director, lives in Telluride, CO. He is a National Geographic Young Explorer and has covered slow stories around the world as a photojournalist. | 802-578-6339

Samantha Tisdel Wright lives in Ouray, CO. She won the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Breaking News from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on a double-fatality at the Revenue Mine near Ouray, has won over a dozen awards from the Colorado Press Association as a reporter and editor at the Ouray County Plaindealer, and is a two-time runner-up for the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize.

Barbara Kondracki, web developer, graphic designer, and occasional editor, has more than a decade of experience in editorial design. She has built all of the web and graphic assets we’ve got.


Contributor Roster

Andy Bardon lives in Jackson Hole, WY, and is a National Geographic Young Explorer. As a photographer and videographer, he has contributed to publications including National Geographic.

Brent Gardner-Smith lives in Aspen, CO, and is the Executive Director of

Amy Irvine is based in Telluride, CO.  She is a Faculty Fellow at the University of Southern New Hampshire’s Creative Writing MFA program and her journalism and essays have appeared in Orion, Climbing, High Desert Journal, and in numerous Western, nature, and environmental anthologies.

Karen James lives in Telluride, CO.  She graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and has contributed to the New York Times.

Louise Johns lives in Bozeman, MT, and is a National Geographic Young Explorer. As a photographer, she has focused on the relationship between people and wilderness around the world, winning two Hearst Awards, a Society of Professional Journalists award and, in 2016, was named one of National Geographic’s “20 under 30 Explorers: The Next Generation of National Park Leaders.”

Max Lowe lives in Bozeman, MT.  He is a photographer and filmmaker, and a National Geographic Young Explorer.

Hans Ludwig lives in Mammoth Lakes, CA.  He is Powder Magazine’s Jaded Local.

Gordy Megroz is based in Jackson, Wyoming. As a correspondent for Outside magazine and contributor to Men’s JournalMen’s HealthBloomberg BusinessweekSKI, and Skiing, he writes investigative pieces, as well as profiles of athletescompanies, and places. He also extensively explores the latest gearhealthnutrition, and fitness trends. And he’s never afraid to sacrifice his body for a good story.

David Page lives in Mammoth Lakes, CA and has written for the Los Angeles Times MagazineMen’s JournalSkiSkiingPowderThe New York TimesEsquireOutside, and many other publications. He is the author of the Lowell Thomas Award-winning Explorer’s Guide to Yosemite & the Southern Sierra Nevada(Countryman Press/W.W. Norton), now in its second printing.

Corey Robinson lives in Dolores, CO.  He is a cinematographer, photographer, producer and editor, and has worked on productions for National Geographic, Discovery Communications, Smithsonian Networks, Travel Channel, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, the American Canoe Association, Potomac Paddlesports and various non-profits. He is a National Geographic Young Explorer.

Mike Rogge lives in Tahoe Vista, CA.  He has contributed stories to Vice, Powder, ESPN among other publications.

Becca Skinner lives in Bozeman, MT and is a National Geographic Young Explorer.

Jill Stanford is based in Truckee, CA.   Her writing has been published by Teton Gravity ResearchThe ClymbRoots RatedMoonshine InkTahoe QuarterlyOnly In Your State, Sierra Heritage Magazine, South Sound Magazine, 425 Magazine, the Mountain Democrat, Mountaineers Magazine, and more.

Derek Taylor is based near Ogden, UT.

Evan Vann is based in Ouray, CO.

Amy Westervelt lives in Truckee, CA, and routinely contributes to the Guardian UK and the Wall Street Journal. She is the co-creator of The Range podcast.

Elliot Wilkinson-Ray lives in Carbondale, CO.  He is a filmmaker and photographer who has contributed Peloton Magazine and has worked with commercial clients including Columbia Sportswear and Hoka One One.

Tyler Wilkinson-Ray lives in Telluride, CO and is a National Geographic Young Explorer. He is a filmmaker and his work has been screened by National Geographic and at festivals including Telluride Mountainfilm and Banff.


Board of Directors

Ben Tisdel, Board President, lives in Ouray, CO.  He is a lawyer and a Ouray County Commissioner.

Joan May, Board Secretary, lives in Mountain Village, CO.  She is a San Miguel County Commissioner.

JT Thomas, Board Treasurer, lives in Ridgway, CO.  He is an award-winning science journalist who has contributed to  the New York Times, WIRED, Smithsonian, Discover Magazine, High Country News and been shown at the International Center of Photography and the United Nations.


Advisory Board

Laura Colbert is formerly contributed stories to NPR from China and was a staff reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio.

Rose Gutfeld was the managing editor at Congressional Quarterly and spent 15 years as a staff writer and editor at the Wall Street Journal.

Judy Muller is an Emmy, Peabody and Dupont-Columbia award-winning journalist. She was a longtime correspondent for ABC and is a regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition.


More about Us

Rural community newspapers across the United States share some common constraints. Nudged by limited advertising revenues, many papers stick to bread and butter reporting, covering weekly meetings, weekend sports, and daily happenings in an incremental, low cost, low risk way. These factors, combined with increasing corporate ownership, steer local papers away from tough stories and fragment complex issues into more pieces than can be viewed as a whole. The inadvertent end-result is a series of barriers that inhibit many residents in our communities from becoming informed and engaging critically in local and regional issues. Every vote counts in every election in a small town, but decisions are more likely to be made by relationships and politics than by careful consideration and informed research.

So, in 2015, we launched the San Juan Independent to complement the existing publications in our region by diving deep into more complicated issues. We hold journalism to be a public service that fuels debate and democracy, and seek to give our neighbors the best information possible. Our story on a workforce-housing-related ballot measure drove rich conversation, our local take on the Gold King Mine spill in 2015 landed in Senator Michael Bennett’s office and a piece on the complexities of the Ouray Ice Park won a 2016 Society of Professional Journalists award.

But we’ve noticed that our work is still missing something: context. Other mountain regions, centered on places like Aspen, Jackson Hole and Sun Valley, share similar challenges and opportunities and all of these communities have demonstrated eagerness to learn from each other. So, we’re launching the Mountain Independent to build a hub of rich information and analysis to connect mountain regions.

We are mountain journalists. We travel the world in pursuit of the truth – writers about powder, recorders of the environment, photographers of the vulnerable – but we have all buried our hearts in the hills and made our homes among them. We care about their future, and so we’re turning our global lens on the local.

Embedded in our home towns, we collaborate to bring our rich bodies of knowledge and storytelling expertise to the task of contextualizing critical issues to engage our readers in educated, impactful action.

Our neighbors are our primary audience, but we know our towns punch above their weight and we expect our journalism to do the same. Our goal is positively impact the local where every vote counts big in a small town. But we plan to bend the arc on global conversations, leading from the high points of middle America.


By Alec Jacobson

Alec Jacobson is the Executive Director of the Mountain Independent. He is also a National Geographic Young Explorer, and has worked around the world as a photographer and writer focusing on slow moving stories.