CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD

FOR MYRON KNAPSCHAFER, TO AIR IS HUMAN, TO SHRED DIVINE.SHRED ALERT SEVENTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD MYRON KNAPSCHAFER IS GOING DOWNHILL FAST--AND HE COULDN'T BE HAPPIER.

That position severely limited his market, however, since it was mostly kids who were snowboarding. Even today, snowboarding demographics supplied by the ski industry stop cold at age 34, as if no one older has ever dared to shred, and over a third of all shredders are between 12 and 17. And back in 1986, when Knapschafer joined a group of riders who convinced the Breckenridge ski area to open to snowboarders, he was the oldest...by decades.

"We had some very good boarders out there, famous guys," Knapschafer remembers. "No, no girls were there. We were trying to show them that a snowboard was a viable, controllable downhill device. Of course, it didn't hurt when they saw Grandpa out there."

"Myron is an incredible old dude," says Breckenridge spokesman Jim Felton. "He's a cat." Breckenridge was so enthused by the sport--and its elderly advocate--that the resort went on to host the first World Snowboard Championship that same year.

"He's a crazy man," agrees Scott Fortner, spokesman for Loveland, the area Knapschafer adopted when Berthoud closed in 1987. Fortner considers Knapschafer a fine example of the "graying" of the sport--a development he applauds. "The other riders here think Myron's great," Fortner adds, "especially those tricks he does."

Less great, he says, is Knapschafer's maniacal dedication to the Hiper board, and his stubborn stance that any other board on the face of the earth is inherently inferior.

"Yeah, he tried to work with our rental shop," Fortner remembers, "but he can't keep saying terrible things about Burton and Sims; it doesn't help his cause. He's actually--how to say this?--more of an inventor than a marketing guy. He needs a little savvy in that department."

"I guess I'm more in the developmental stage," Knapschafer admits. "I guess I need to do some marketing and graphics and all that. But with my board, if you bang it up real bad, you just sand it down and varnish it again."

He can't resist adding: "Why do you need a pretty board, anyway?"
A plain old Hiper board sells for about $500, although you may be able to take advantage of Knapschafer's 30 percent rebate offer, as well as a money-back guarantee that, as a Hiper rider, you will be able to "outride someone of equal ability." Sound good? Knapschafer thinks so, but he's "too hung up on perfection to go out there and push it," he says of his lack of salesmanship. "I guess we're waiting for the new, non-skateboard crowd to come to us."

It could happen.

"I was never much of a snow skier," Norm Speak, a 66-year-old retired Denver schoolteacher, says. "A friend of mine wanted me to get a season pass with him, and three years ago we did it. But I wasn't having fun. I looked at those guys on their snowboards, and they were. So I got a board."
Speak, who'd been a water-ski racer for forty years, decided against lessons and took the beating of his life on the Loveland Valley bunny slopes. He loved it. "I've been 85 times since then," he reports proudly. "I gave up snow skiing completely."

At Loveland it was hard to ride and not run into Myron Knapschafer, who talked Speak into trying a Hiper. "It turns easier than any I've ever been on," Speak reports. "You can ride the tail of it into a wheelie and it's nice and wide, rides powder excellent. I had Myron build me one, and I bought it."

So did his riding buddy, Ben Coleman. Now 67, Coleman has never shied away from less mainstream sports, having divided his working life equally between teaching public school and touring the world with ice-skating, trampoline, soft-shoe-dancing and trapeze reviews. And now snowboarding. "I was trying to ski in nineteen inches of wet powder a couple of years ago," Coleman recalls, "and the boarders were just going nuts. They were having too much fun for me to ignore."

Actually, learning the sport left Coleman "pretty beat up"--until he thought of calling Knapschafer. "I'd run into him years ago at Sloans Lake," Coleman says. "I'd been windsurfing in Corsica for a while and had decided to do it in Denver. Myron asked if he could try it. He was out there for about an hour, and then he went home and built himself a windsurfer."

Although Coleman also owns a commercial racing board, he prefers his Knapschafer model. The Hiper is easier to ride, and it's fun to pop wheelies in front of teenagers. "In fact," he says, "I get quite irritated when someone in the lift line says, `Oh, look at that old thing.' Well, it isn't that old, and it works very well. I hate to say it, but Myron is going to have to get some hot young boarders riding his boards. He'd get more orders than he can make. But he just doesn't know what it is to market something. I'm worried that someone will come along and steal his idea, and it'll be gone."

That's okay. Myron Knapschafer has more.
"Have you thought much about rowing shells?" he asks, back on the chairlift. "You know, I make 'em, but of course, I make 'em a little different..."

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