Burton Snowboards was the world’s first snowboard manufacturing company. It was founded in 1977 by Jake Burton Carpenter in Manchester, Vermont. Jake grew up in Cedarhurst, New York where he was an enthusiastic skier. In college he had hoped to join the ski team but he was involved in a car accident, which put an end to his competitive skiing career. After he had graduated from New York University, he became captivated with Sherman Poppen’s recent invention, the Snurfer, which was stemmed from the idea of tying two skis together, with a rope attached to the tip to provide steering.
During the course of the next few years, Burton had been making his own modifications to the Snurfer. In 1977 Burton moved to Londonberry, Vermont in order to produce his first Burton Snowboard. The first snowboards that he made were in his garage by hand, although he couldn’t afford to buy the proper tools. The next year, Burton moved to Manchester, Vermont. Jake, along with 4 or 5 of his friends, sold, shaped, built, and repaired the boards that were previously made. His early boards were constructed from bentwood laminate and had a fixed binding that held the rider’s boots tightly to the board.
Eventually Burton started selling his snowboards all over the country. Over the next few years, Jack Burton Carpenter tried to influence the ski resorts in the local area to open their trails to snowboarders. The first resort that started to let snowboarders on the slopes was at the Suicide Six Resort in Pomfret, Vermont in 1982. And it was there that the first National Snowboard Championship was held. The race consisted of an icy downhill run. While he was at this event, Burton had been trying to market his products. Jake was soon able to convince another local resort, Stratton Mountain in Vermont, to allow snowboarding on their slopes. Having more resorts that allowed snowboarding was leading the public to start accepting snowboarders as well. Burton’s business began to get more popular as one resort after another on the East Coast would start to accept snowboarders onto their mountains.
He had originally designed his wooden boards to work well in power, but they performed poorly when it came to hard packed snow. Thus, he had to come up with a new design in order to handle it. The new design was called the Performer Elite, which had a P-tex base, metal edges and hi-back bindings. In 1985, the National Snowboard Championship was moved from Suicide Six Resort to Stratton Mountain. The name was changed to the U.S. Open Snowboarding championship. This event was operated and owned by Burton. The U.S. Open played a big part in legitimizing the sport of snowboarding. The competition is still held today and it attracts snowboarders from all over the world and it is regarded as the season’s biggest competition.
In 1985 Burton had established a European Division in Innsbruck, Austria and within the next year distribution had begun in New Zealand. Burton Snowboards moved from Manchester to Burlington, Vermont in 1992 due to the fact that Burlington is Vermont’s largest city. By 1995, Urawa in Japan eventually had their own division as well.
Jake was able to expand to other continents after receiving financial help from Hermann Kapferer, who he had met at the SnowSports Industry America trade show in Las Vegas in 1985. A month after their meeting, Kapfere received a letter from Jake while he was in Innsbruck. Jake wanted to know if he would be willing to assist in the funding of a European branch of his Burton Snowboards company. They managed to get in contact with an Austrian snowboard manufacturer and they were able to sell 150 of their boards to places like France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Norway.
In the span of two years, Burton was providing snowboards to 30 counties all over Europe. His European business was doing just as well as back home in the United States. Herman Kapferer has been the Managing Director at the European Division of Burton Snowboards ever since it opened. The Japanese branch was established in Urawa in 1995. The main focus of this division was to listen to the riders’ opinions and needs. With their input, Burton was able to deliver a more suitable product to the Japanese people. In order to facilitate shipping in a timely manner, they came up with a new system which is called the Japanese Sales Network. Its main goal was to improve service and support from Burton to their consumers.
Today, Burton Snowboards currently sponsors some of the biggest names in the world of snowboarding. A few of the professionals that have signed with the Burton snowboard team are: Shaun White, Jeremy Jones, Terje Hakkonsen, and Kelly Clark, as well as many others. Burton has also subsidized the conception of organic parks constructed from rocks, stumps, and logs (THE STASH). Some examples of these parks can be found at Killington Ski Resort, Vermont and Northstar at Tahoe. Burton also started an event called the Chill program. This program was designed to provide children with the chance to learn how to snowboard. At these events Burton provides them with all of the gear that they need and all the food they want. Currently, Burton’s Chill program has helped over 12,000 children learn to ride.
Burton is currently the leading manufacturer of snowboards in the world. The cost of one of their boards can range in price from $300 and $1,400. Burton Snowboards now also sells outerwear, boots, bindings, and accessories.