JACKSON, Wyo. — Scroll less. Ski more.
That’s the central idea behind “The Ski Town Fairytale”, a new graphic novel/picture book for all ages by renowned local artist, Ryan Stolp (of Lift Lines Comics), and semi-jaded humor writer Sam Morse.
In the story, we meet Sophie, who after endlessly scrolling through other peoples’ adventures, one day decides to discover The Dream for herself. Little does she know, the reality of life in a ski town will be much more than she ever expected.
At first look, the Fairytale has all the hallmarks of a beautifully crafted coffee-table picture book. But if you read just a little deeper, the text animates the struggles of everyday people—in this case, those that live in, and run, our mountain towns.
The idea for “The Ski Town Fairytale” came about while Sam Morse was working at REI. Having started his career creating TGR’s “Ski Town Caricatures” and “The Bumion” columns, he wanted to take his passion for storytelling beyond the realm of likes and shares and create something people could enjoy in their homes. Along the way, he became a fan of Ryan Stolp’s ever-poignant (and hilarious) Lift Lines Comics, which many JH locals have come to know as a staple of life in Jackson.
“I would read his comics, and be pissed I didn’t write his jokes,” Morse remembers, laughing. “Having written satire and worked in overlapping mediums, his talent smacked me across the face. I knew right away I wanted to work with him. It was just a matter of when…”
That when came about in late 2019. After years of sitting on his “Fairytale” book concept, Morse finally picked up the phone to cold-call his creative crush.
A long-time reader of “The Bumion”, Stolp returned the not-so-secret admiration, and the two hit it off—remotely, of course!
To Stolp, the idea presented an opportunity to level up his artistry beyond the abstraction of comics into full-fledged visual storytelling. But beyond that, he wanted to take a deep, critical look at the social media- and FOMO-driven reality we’re all living in that’s been further exacerbated by covid scrolling and remote-working city transplants.
With so much talk of “Living The Dream” in our world today, he wanted to decipher what that even means in a context of chronic inequality, digital addiction and housing shortages—all obscured by a glowy Instagram filter.
“What is The Dream?” he ponders metaphysically, “That’s the essential question Sam and I are trying to answer in “The Ski Town Fairytale”. To me, it’s endless play, a stream of new experiences, adventures, places and people. It’s for those who like to go fast, climb high, walk far and play in the river. It’s the chance to live in your playground, with time to spare.
“But in the age of digital connectedness,” he continues, “The Dream is eating its own tail. It’s highly instagrammable, sure, so it inevitably pushes people to cultivate ever-more unrealistic online personas. Pair that dynamic with an engagement-hungry algorithm, and then throw in an American economy of increased wealth disparity and remote work, and BOOM—the temple of the dreamer, the mountain town, has a new skyline that eclipses the peaks.”
Heavy stuff, for sure! But rest assured: The Ski Town’s Fairytale is sugar-coated with tons of laughter along the way. That’s because Morse and Stolp understand that hard conversations are almost always better conducted through a laugh than a cry. So in the tradition of both “Lift Lines” and “The Bumion”, all of the existential ponderings are graced with heaps of humor, ski-town easter eggs and honesty that meets readers where they’re at in their everyday lives.
Or as the Mountain Gazette’s Editor-in-Chief, Mike Rogge, puts it, “Long live the ski bum in this epic adventure reminding us it’s never too late to chase down The Dream. Finally, a ski book that doesn’t suck, and I can read to my kid!”