Alps & Meters founder, Louis Joseph, reflects on one of the things that most inspires us to travel to the mountains: the vintage travel poster
For those of us drawn to the traditions of the mountains and the solace and recreation therein, the alpine calls to us year round. With Northern Hemisphere memories of winter fading, the Andes, Rockies, Alps, Dolomites, White Mountains, Appalachian, and other ranges draw us to their trailheads to continue our love of alpine sport. For the many living in city epicenters around the world, the shining beacon of mountain recreation burns continuously and plans for travel to and through snow capped settings are in a constant state of planning - fueled by the pangs of escape and the need (as Warren Miller evoked) to experience pure freedom.
Travelers have long succumbed to these emotions and the gravity created by mountain ranges all over the world. And within vintage poster art may be found the expression of such journeys richly unfolding via plane, train, or auto to all manner of foothills, valleys, and tall peaks awaiting a flight, fast rail, drive, or hike to the snow fields above.
Somehow the still medium of these posters, either through their perspective, texture, use of color, and other optical treatments, convey a sense of motion, excitement, and of memories-to-be-created. Observing these painted scenes, one says to themselves, “Where does that winding mountain road lead? I must make that trip someday” and perhaps a review of maps, a list of required equipment, and a tentative itinerary are generated right then and there.
The portrayal of speeding Canadian Pacific Express or a speeding skier can both have the same transportational effect on the soul and each pulls on the hearts strings of alpine sport passion in different but no less compelling ways. Perhaps the train is the start of an adventure traveling across plains and then upwards into the clouds while winding through majestic mountains with villages sprinkled down below. The Gentleman Alpinist on board taking in a cappuccino over some light reading begins to think of his end destination and the touring, downhill skiing, or hiking to be conducted the following day and perhaps a warm and nostalgic rendezvous with friends from far away places.
Such camaraderie is also coded into each of us as we travel to and through the mountains. Even when traveling alone it is the inevitable nature of the alpine community to embrace one another in a spirt of shared passion and the natural instinct of exploration. Gathering before a trip produces an electric excitement and boarding on the tarmac to a destination in some far-flung country in Europe or South American creates conversations with strangers who are soon to be not only travel companions but friends. Then, upon arrival and at the trail head ready for a skin-up or bootpack with skis, maybe wine and cheese in tow, is a warm welcome and embrace from your partners and perhaps a local guide ready to reveal why he has spent all of his years at the foot of such beautiful mountains.
Ultimately, each and every trip to and through the alpine commands a story of people, places, traditions, and memories connected to mountain life around the world. The vintage travel poster art of the past and their nostalgic complexion create a narrative and plot line to be imagined, by which all of us can relate our prior trips, travels, and excursions while also finding inspiration for our next great tour and search for adventure.