This past week the snowsports industry lost a legend with the passing of the “Godfather of Snowboarding” Jake Burton. Burton pioneered and almost single handedly brought the sport of snowboarding into the mainstream.
Burton founded his company from humble beginnings in 1977 and as of last year, more than 7.5 million snowboarders were shredding slopes and mountains in the US – about 50% of the skier market. Through Burton’s lobbying, Vermont’s Mt Stratton was the first hill to greenlight snowboarding in 1983. By 1990, snowboarding was gaining mainstream acceptance with almost 500 hills welcoming the burgeoning sport. Today, only 3 US resorts ban snowboards.
Jake Burton, along with Tom Sims, have had an incredible influence on today’s ski shapes – especially the powder skis we play on at Selkirk. Burton injected fun and irreverence into snowboarding, while skiing was at that time, well…kinda boring. Mainstream ski companies were run by a cabal of conservative European men and long straight sticks ruled the day. As snowboarding gained momentum in the early 2000s, the ski establishment in Europe and North America took notice how much fun snowboarders were having riding these newfangled planks and decided to join the party. Early rise, rockered tips and tails, fully rockered, and innovative flex patterns and side cuts injected new life into ski design. And as much as we slag our snowboarding brethren for their baggy pants and Neanderthal knuckle dragging styles, skiers owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jake Burton for his radical influence in the world of snowsports.
Ride in peace, Jake.