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Outside Magazine's Lindsey Vonn Cover: Skier or Sex Symbol?

The latest in the apparently endless litany of glossy magazine photos featuring world class female athletes stripped down to a bikini or not much better hit the stands this month, in the form of Outside’s Lindsey Vonn cover issue.

Despite her cover shot's curiously non-ski-appropriate attire, Vonn is an Olympic medalist (including a gold in the Downhill at Vancouver), multiple-time World Champion ski racer (winning both Silver and Gold medals in the Downhill and Super-G), and three-time Junior World Ski Champion. As one of the most celebrated and successful skiers in the sport today, she is regarded (as Outside’s oh-so-subtle double entendre suggests) as “the fastest woman on the planet.”

But Vonn is also female, and blond, and athletic. Which means she embodies many of the physical attributes that many men, and the media who pander to their - our - most basic instincts, find attractive.

So it was not with surprise, but rather with renewed disappointment (disappointment which promises to be renewed over and over again in the immediate future, it appears) that I unintentionally came across the sensual cover photo of a bikini-clad Vonn, not on the cover of Playboy, or Maxim, or even Cosmopolitan, but gracing the glossiness of Outside Magazine (which continues to debate itself regarding the merits of being a serious outdoor publication, or a neatly packaged ode to sexual physicality).

Really Outside? We're better than this.

Not that Outside is alone in its indulgences, of course. As I noted last summer (see "Swimsuits and Other Issues: The Sports Illustrated Cover versus the female athlete, Valley Advocate, 8/30/12) during the women’s beach volleyball-dominated Summer Olympics at London (because nothing says beach volleyball like London), the trend of female athletes appearing half naked on the cover of magazines supposedly dedicated to covering sports and outdoor recreation has only increased in the past several years.

In fact, over the past 10 years, only 20 issues of Sports Illustrated, the nation's premier sports magazine, have exclusively featured women on the cover. And half of those were swimsuit issues. (Remember, too, SI is a weekly, not a monthly, magazine, and prints more than 50 covers annually—500-plus in the past decade).

All of which once again begs the question: which is more difficult for a world-class female athlete, becoming a champion in one's given field, or making the cover of an outdoor and/or sports magazine - in an outfit embodying more weight than a bikini?

© 2014 The Valley Advocate