I've written about almost all of Colorado's homegrown snowboard companies over the last year or so, but Highlands Ranch-based Origin Snowboards wasn't even on my radar until earlier this month when my kids discovered it. With grom-sized boards starting at just 85cm and the biggest board in the line maxing out at 125cm (still smaller than the smallest board made by Never Summer or any other Colorado company), Origin has positioned itself squarely for the twelve-and-under set.
We caught up with Matthew Rinehart, the rad dad behind Origin Snowboards, for more on how he's shaping boards to shape the next generation of young rippers.
Westword: My own kids are seven and nine now, and have been riding for three full seasons. But I definitely remember having a hard time finding small enough boards, boots and bindings when they were first getting started. How did the idea to start a full-on grom board snowboarding company come about?
Rinehart: It was pretty much being in that exact same situation myself: I had trouble finding boards for my sons -- they're six and eight now -- and they wanted to snowboard, so I tried to get a couple of boards smaller pressed. When I started researching it and realized nobody was willing or able to help me with it, I decided, well, we might as well just go into manufacturing the boards ourselves and finance the whole thing ourselves. It seemed like there was a demand for it.
For a long time most ski areas wouldn't offer snowboard lessons or rentals to kids under six. That's starting to change -- Steamboat now has a Snowboard Bandits program for kids as young as four -- and it seems like rental shops are now stocking some smaller boards.
That age barrier always struck me as ridiculous. The resorts were the ones that set the age limit at six, because they didn't want to deal with stocking rental gear that small or having the littler kids in their group lessons, but it was always an artificial barrier. I mean, they've pretty much always had ski lessons for three-year-olds. My oldest son started riding when he was four, and the younger the better, right? Most ski areas in Colorado allow kids to ride for free if they're under five, so why not take advantage of that while you can?
My daughter started on a 101cm, the smallest board we could find at the time, but even that was a bit on the big side for her.
My oldest son started on a 90cm board and even that was too big. But it was the smallest board the rental shop had, and they only had one of them: If it was already checked out he'd have to ride a 100cm board. When we started making the 85cm boards and getting my youngest son out on the slopes, we'd get a lot of "I didn't know they made boards that small! I didn't even know kids that young were allowed to ride!"
Are there any specific challenges for designing and building boards for kids that are different from building boards for adults?
We had to do a ton of research on the front end, because there just wasn't a lot out there for kids. One thing we knew was that we wanted to design a board that was high-quality, using the same construction and technology that adult boards are made with. Another decision we made was to use a rocker profile on all the boards: Kids just don't weigh enough to keep a board with traditional camber touching the snow, and the rocker design helps them ride without catching their edges. And we wanted the boards to be twin-tip park boards, because kids these days ride switch and they love to get into the parks and hop on the rails and jumps and jibs first chance they get.
It's rad to see the video clips of the kids on your team tearing it up in the terrain parks at Echo Mountain and other areas around Colorado.
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Kids pick it up so fast, and they're super eager to start learning some tricks. It was important to us to have a team and to start looking for some young riders who were really ripping, to help represent what Origin Snowboards is all about. If your kids rip, we want to see footage! Send us some video and pictures!
Where can folks find your boards if they want to check them out?
We have them at the 720 Boardshop locations in Parker, Centennial and Castle Rock; the Eskimo Ski & Board Shop in Centennial, and the MOB Factory shops in Evergreen and up in Breckenridge. We also have some closeout discount deals on our 2011 boards at OriginSnow.com. And we'll be up at Echo Mountain on Saturday, March 31, sponsoring the Lil' Wranglers Rail Jam for kids twelve and under during the Echo Mountain Roundup, where kids can also enter the Scion Design Your Own Snowboard contest: We're going to produce a custom board for the winner in the twelve and under design contest. Check us out on Facebook to keep track of when we'll be doing our next demo days.