Ever wonder what it would be like to spend the day inside the brain of a snowboard boot developer? Well we thought it sounded like a cool idea so we reached out to good friend of the shop and Burton Boot Developer Fran Orlando and got some insider info just for our readers. We caught up with him over in China where he is currently working on the 2015 Burton boot line and picked his brain to find out what the Vermont crew has in store for all of us.
Give us a little background on how you landed in the boot department at Burton.
After working and managing in the outdoor/ snow industry for over 10 years, I decided it was time to get off the sales floor and put my skills to work on the product side. Using my connections at Burton I patiently waited for my spot to open up. Turned out that the boot team was looking for a developer and since I thought I was a boot “expert”, I figured it would be a perfect fit! Turned out Burton thought the same and I was brought up to Burlington to finish work on the 2013 line and kick off the development for 2014. The first thing I found out was that I was definitely no expert. There is a ton of shit that goes into making snowboard boots, and making the best boots in the industry is even more complex. To me the most important part of your setup is the boots and after getting to know the process of boot making, that theory has been confirmed. EVERY boot in the Burton line is scrutinized and perfected many times before it hits the shops. The hours spent on each boot is amazing.
What is your average (or not so average) day like?
Ah, the glamourous part… emails, meetings, spec sheets, trips to Asia, testing results, more emails and more meetings. Day to day can get pretty hectic. I am at my desk at 7am and often don’t leave the office until 8pm. Since our boots are all made in China, I am constantly working with our development team in southern China to make sure every stitch of every boot is as close to perfect as possible. I know, I know, CHINA? What do they know about snowboarding? Well not much, but the guys over there are the real experts on footwear of all types. Although many of the China team have never seen snow, we are able to use their expertise in the footwear industry to work in tandem to consistently turn out the best snowboard boots in the world. I am actually writing this from southern China as the first snow hits the mountains at home. I typically spend 6-8 weeks of the year in Asia, which can be a drag at times but we need to be hands on to make sure shit stays hot!
Can you tell us about anything that the boot department might be up to? Any new exciting tech or boot features in the works?
I can tell you that I am in China beginning work on the 2015 line right now. Working closely with our in house designers as well as the development team here to push the envelope a bit further than we did for the 2014 line. I can’t go into much detail about 2015 but as for new tech hitting in ’14, we have a new high end Infinite Ride liner that is sick! This thing is a new level of comfort, performance and durability. Countless hours of development, testing, and travel went into these things to make sure they came out dope and I think we knocked it out of the park. Bottom line is that we are all devoted to making each year better than the last. Through using new materials and processes as well as pushing our Advanced Concept Engineers, the future holds the best seasons Burton boots have ever seen. I just don’t want to spoil it for you, you will have to wait and see!
What are your favorite places to snowboard?
The best perk of this gig is the ability to ride when I want. First chair at Stowe in the morning before work, or bailing at lunch to grab some tree runs it doesn’t matter, the goal is simple, get out and ride! As some of the Windward guys can attest to, Burton employees work hard and play harder. If we weren’t riding as much as possible, we wouldn’t know where we need to improve. Plus we have to test out the shit we are making, so riding is work.
To answer the question, Mt Baker is my all-time favorite spot, but I have had the best days of my riding life at Stowe. You cannot say enough about Stowe, where else can you ride with Jake and JG on a random Wednesday morning? Vermont may not be all pow all the time, but if you know the spots, there is always something to shred. And after last winter we are owed a huge winter this year!
What boots are you riding and why?
Currently I am riding 2014 SLX and 2014 Imperials. The 2014 Imperial may be my all time favorite boot. I am a bigger guy who likes to ride fast so I need the extra support that the higher end boots offer. I am also riding some top secret boots that you will have to come to Stowe to see.
Name one Burton product you are super excited about.
Impossible to name one, but I am looking forward to the 2014 boots, I think they just might be our best ever. Outside of boots, every department is turning out sick gear all the time, so whatever new gear I am handed to ride on a given day is exciting.
Big Thank You to Fran for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us! You can check out Windward’s selection of 2013 Burton boots here.