This week Venture Snowboards announced the five finalists in its Protect Our Winters art contest, and voting is online now. The winning design will be made into a top sheet graphic for a limited edition run of Venture x POW boards in the 2010/2011 line, raising environmental awareness and benefiting the Boulder-based non-profit (Venture currently contributes a portion of all sales of its POW-branded Euphoria-R solid and split boards to the organization).
We've previously featured Venture in our Local Boards for Locavores spotlight (made in Silverton, CO, Venture's one of three Colorado-based companies actually manufacturing their boards in-state), and recently caught up with company co-founder Klemens Branner to learn more about the tiny company known for making the best split boards and backcountry bombers in the biz.
I've been seeing your boards in local shops and got a good look at next year's line at the SIA Snow Show. Can you tell me a little bit more about the company and where you're coming from?
We've been at it for 10 years, and we're a mom and pop operation: Lisa does the sales and marketing end, and I handle the design and production end. We basically build boards to ride the mountains that surround us and inspire us. The real mountains in Colorado are in the Southwest corner, in the San Juans. It's much steeper than anything else in Colorado, for sure. Outside of Alaska, I don't know that there's anything in the U.S. steeper than what we're used to, and the mountains are burly too. So that's where we're coming from, and that's what the boards are built for: Lots of rocks, all kinds of obstacles. Our boards get what we call the San Juan Mountain stone grind around here: They take lots of abuse, and we make them so they can handle it.
For those of us who nerd out on this stuff, can you talk a bit about what actually goes into them to meet those demands?
We start with a core made of poplar and ash. Ash is what they make baseball bats and hammer handles out of, so it's super durable and we put it in the key areas underneath the inserts and along the edge, where you meet the board and where the board meets the snow, the two highest-stress areas. And then we use the toughest sintered base material you can get, P-Tex sidewills, and Tri-X fiberglass for tortional stiffness. We don't make an entry level board, or a kids' board, or a woman's board: It's the same materials and same construction in every board, and you pick the size you need.
This year your split boards won the editor's choice award in the Backcountry gear test. Splits have been around for a while, but it seems like people are just starting to take them seriously. What changed?
I think more and more snowboarders are getting out into the backcountry, for one thing, and the technology is catching up to that. To get a split board to really ride well you have to have that inside edge straight and tight, and everything has to fit together well, and then the bindings are really key. A company named Spark R&D is making the bindings that have really pushed the whole split board thing over the top, and its an honor to be recognized as the company make the best boards. Split boards were 50 percent of our production this year, and they're all gone. it's definitely taken off for us, and it's really something we believe in give the terrain we come from, riding near Silverton.
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You guys are obviously tiny within the context of the snowboarding industry, but you seem happy with that. What's the challenge for a company of your size?
The key for us is to get people to try our boards. As a small company we can't yell as loud as the big companies, but what we can do is make a better board and fill a niche in the industry. If you're coming out to ride at Silverton Mountain or if you're headed out to the backcountry, you're going to need a different kind of board, plain and simple, and we've got the best board there is for the kind of terrain we know best.