By Christina Shepherd McGuire
Have you ever had a great idea that you should have, could have taken action on? Something that fed your soul and aligned with your vision of the “perfect job”? Did you bring it to fruition? Or did you let that creative energy peter out into the abyss of life’s overwhelming to-do list, nervous that the task of actually making your idea work was insurmountable?
Well, I’ve got a success story for you and, it’s one that I’m proud to be a part of.
After ten years, and thanks to four innovative ladies with an original vision, Teton Family magazine is still dishing up content that excites, informs, and creates a sense of closeness in our mountain community. I like to call it our go-to book for Teton locals (or anyone yearning to be a local), and it all started with an idea centered on a love of food.
Food for Thought
“I was really getting a grasp on the local Teton food culture,” explains Paulette Phlipot, photo editor and co-founder of Teton Family. In 2008, Phlipot was traveling back and forth from Sun Valley, Idaho, to Wyoming (her former home) to promote A Taste of Wyoming, a cookbook that included photos she shot the year before and emphasized that the growing Jackson Hole food scene. “I joined the board of Slow Food in the Tetons, and that’s where I met Sue.”
“At the time, I was a young mother trying to cobble together a bunch of work,” remembers Teton Family’s founding editor Sue Muncaster. “I was a freelance writer and had just started the organization Slow Foods in the Tetons—all while tending a pregnancy. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.”
The two got together at a photoshoot for Slow Foods and emerged with an idea to start a Teton-centric food magazine. They even looked into purchasing an Edible magazine franchise. But with very little publishing knowledge between them, the ladies decided to circle in Nancy McCullough-McCoy, owner and publisher of Powder Mountain Press in Driggs, as she had the pulse of the local magazine scene. McCullough-McCoy welcomed Phlipot and Muncaster’s idea, but cautioned against a food-based magazine. She felt the Teton area was not yet robust enough to support such a publication. Instead, she pitched a magazine that would appeal to all types of families and that included pets and grandparents, too.
“Launching Teton Family gave me the opportunity to work with a new group of talented women, as well as create a consumer magazine based on the expanding meaning of family,” says McCullough-McCoy. “Giving women the opportunity to design, photograph, write, and market Powder Mountain Press’ publishing products always brought me great joy.”
A voracious reader on alternative parenting, food, and the environment, Muncaster came to the group’s original vision meeting with a bunch of concepts—ideas that would eventually form the magazine’s brand.
“We didn’t even talk about branding ten years ago,” Muncaster chuckles.
The team carefully cherry-picked article topics that best represented their mountain culture. Muncaster designed departments meant to educate and assist busy Teton families. Meanwhile, Phlipot worked alongside Sage Hibberd, current co-publisher and art director at Powder Mountain Press, to come up with a logo and a cover layout. They decided on recycled paper and a saddle-stitched binding for the magazine—a concept similar to today’s publication—and in the fall of 2009, the first Teton Family magazine hit the shelves, complete with four cover images, an iconic design created by Hibberd.
An early email from Muncaster captures the group’s momentum:
You rock, Paulette!
Can we just print all these cover ideas for the promotional piece? We’ll have no trouble getting advertisers! Seriously, I think a variety of photos gives a pretty good visual of what we envision for the project.
Still pregnant. 🙂 Sue
In 2012, Muncaster graciously handed her editor’s hat to me, a freelance writer at the time, to pursue her dream of building and operating a high ropes course, the Treetop Adventure Park at Snow King Mountain. Today, with Kevin Olson and Teton Media Works as the publisher, the original “branding” the founding mothers stumbled upon continues to make the magazine fly off shelves, as locals excitedly anticipate its seasonal release. Phlipot’s photos still compliment the food-related articles and often land a spot on the cover.
Phlipot no longer resides in the Mountain West, but her heart and creativity never left. What was first viewed as a temporary relocation to Half Moon Bay, California for her husband’s work may now be permanent—a move that aligns perfectly with her priorities.
“I aim to feed my family healthy every day,” says Phlipot, noting that this is the one thing, without exception, that must be done daily. She takes this job seriously, as nearly every night (kid and work schedules aside) she prepares a meal from scratch using only whole food and local ingredients.
“I pay attention to sourcing food and the way it’s prepared,” she says. “I get asked all the time: ‘How in the world do you pull off all the food you make?’” To which she replies that her recipes are in no way gourmet, just fresh.
“I’m always thinking one or two days ahead, and I have huge jars of staples,” she says. “Everything is super simple. Nothing is overly complicated. I use lots of fresh herbs and spices to elevate the flavor and health benefits of each meal.”
Phlipot uses this model—simple and not overly complicated—in her creative work, too. She currently contributes to five magazines: She’s the photo director for PUNCH magazine and the food editor for Big Life Magazine, and she freelances for Teton Family, Edible Silicone Valley, and the Sun Valley Property News. Phlipot’s “test kitchen” and home studio overflows with food made from fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients, and her work represents a celebration of her life’s importance.
When asked if she’s working her dream job, which includes her side hustle of producing fine art for residential and commercial spaces (foodasart.com), Phlipot responds, “I really do love my work. It brings all of my personal interests—health, food, and farming—together. … Teton Family especially compliments what I am trying to learn every day on my own, anyway.”
Being honest with herself about the work she takes on and being clear about her priorities allows Phlipot to successfully combine her creative work with motherhood. She advises other mother creatives to “keep things simple, especially as your kids get older. You’re never going to get everything done every day, but if you know what it is that makes you happy, make it your priority—that’s what really matters.”
Muncaster misses the brainstorming that comes with editing—the part where you “filter a gazillion different ideas onto a plan and come up with something, by deadline, that you can love and sell.” To this day, she still likes to go back and look at all of her old ideas.
This self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” takes the same mentality into her current role as the director of sales at Snow King Mountain, a gig that materialized out of her five-year contract running the Treetop Adventure Park. Muncaster’s typical day now goes something like this: She spends her morning working with getyourguide.com, an online tour and attraction website, then she meets and welcomes visiting groups. On the day of our interview, it was a bunch of Arapahoe Middle School kids from the Wind River Reservation coming to Snow King for ski lessons. In between, Muncaster tends to customer service and point-of-sale needs, sells tickets, and schedules employees. It’s a dynamic job—one she thrives in.
“[Snow King] is such a small organization. We call it Wyoming’s oldest ski area that’s still a startup,” says Muncaster. “All the managers here are really involved in everything. I could be helping run a ski school program one day and then making sure the tables are clean in the King’s Grill the next.”
In line with most Teton locals, Muncaster achieves balance by doing something fun every day. She prioritizes time in the morning to write, think, and get organized, noting that when she is refreshed and exercised she can better show up as a parent and an employee. Every Sunday, Muncaster detoxes from the computer, too.
“No email. No social media,” she says. “I wake up and just read books and magazines. Or I force myself to sit down and watch a movie with my kids.”
Muncaster jokes about currently having five ideas on a napkin. They include writing a cookbook, launching a community-focused sharing website, and hosting cooking classes, like she did last year for Slow Food’s Farm to Fork Festival. It’s these ideas that she’ll take along with her as she embarks on a gap year abroad with her kids this fall (pending travel restrictions).
First, the family will head to California to harvest grapes at Muncaster’s cousin’s small-scale winery, Sumner Vineyards. Then they will go on to Britany, France, where the same cousins bought a 19th century estate that needs renovation. Mariela, age 17 and a senior at the Mountain Academy in Jackson, will use this year as time off before college, and Nico, age 11, will attend school online. But until they embark, Muncaster will carry out her duties at Snow King while continuing to inspire her community, hoping to come back on board with the resort when she returns.
While Muncaster and McCullough-McCoy are off gallivanting around the world (McCullough-McCoy is now retired and traveling the U.S. and Canada with her husband Mac, and their Airstream, bikes, kayaks, and dog), and Phlipot and Hibberd are still captivating the Teton community—and beyond—with their work, I’ll be here manning the ship of the decade-old publication that these lovely ladies started, one that continues their mission of community invigoration.
“I learned a long time ago as a volleyball coach, the best thing I can do is give people skills and then walk away,” says Muncaster. “I call it ‘founder’s syndrome.’ I love seeing the progress Slow Foods has made and I love seeing what has happened with the magazine, too. For me, [the success of Teton Family] is physical evidence that you can take a bunch a random ideas and really make something out of it.”