Snowboarding, to those who embrace it, is more than just a sport. It’s a lifestyle choice and a way of thinking about the world and the people in it. It may be thanks in part to Jake Burton, founder of snowboard and apparel company Burton, that the sport has taken on the laid back, cool, earthy vibe it has today. For although the avid snowboarder and businessman jokes that he invented snowboarding when he opened his board-making business in a barn in Vermont in 1977, what he really did was help shape the future of a generation of people who embrace the culture of snowboarding and the environment that supports it. For without the powder, the clean, crisp air, and the beautiful mountain vistas that snowboarders seem to use to fuel their souls, the sport wouldn’t have the passionate following of its devotees, and the Burton company wouldn’t be the continuous innovator it has become.
In 1977, the world had cross country and downhill skiing, but a new form of winter mountain sports was in its infancy, and it had a man barely out of college as its champion. Jake Burton fled his job as an investment banker in New York City soon after starting, heading to Londonderry, Vermont where he began making a single “ski,” modeled after a surfboard and a “Snurfer” he received as a young man, with single strap bindings and a rope and handle fixed to the nose of the board. For the first time, people who wanted to go “snow surfing” had gear designed just for this purpose.
Over time, Burton refined the concept he originally had, adding aluminum fins to his handmade boards, making the “Burton Board” wider, and eventually expanding the Burton merchandise by adding boots, snowboarding outerwear, and anything a rider might need to participate (or compete in) the sport. Eventually, the company added gear and boards specifically for women, competition boards, boards and gear for kids, and new or innovative designs that helped the sport of snowboarding come from a largely misunderstood hobby to the hugely popular and competitive global phenomenon it is today. In fact, Burton is the go-to outfitter for the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team, who will compete in February 2014 in the Sochi Olympic Games in Burton’s special retro-hippie Patriotic patchwork outerwear, inspired by a quilt seen at an antique fair.
Because snowboarding relies so heavily on the health of the environment in order to flourish and thrive, Burton does, too. The company is dedicated to environmental sustainability and making a positive social impact in order to ensure that the sport the world loves will be around long into the future. Burton focuses on making environmentally responsible choices regarding the design of their merchandise, their manufacturing processes, the packaging the company uses, and their global shipping methods. They are equally as dedicated to ensuring the safety and happiness of their workers, employees, suppliers and customers.
A number of initiatives have been put in place to help Burton follow through on their commitment to green. They have established the “Green Mountain Process” to help guide their company decisions toward green, are a bicycle friendly business, and maintain partnerships or collaborations with groups ranging from Protect Our Winters, an organization fighting climate change, to bluesign technologies, a company that helps Burton make environmentally focused decisions regarding products and their supply chain. Burton strives to be “zero waste” at their Vermont headquarters, lower their carbon footprint by encouraging employees to use alternate transportation to work, and implemented an employee environmental committee named EPIC (which stands for Environmental Protection, Integrity, Conservation) that is tasked with making fun and effective environmental changes throughout the company.
Of course, the most important thing about Burton, aside from their laser-focused green sensibility and the way they embrace a playful, laid back style, is the boards. Riders can pick a board that is specifically tailored for their gender age and size. Burton makes camber, rocker and hybrid boards. The cambers are designed with a rise in the middle and at both ends for precision and power. A rocker is curved like a rocking chair base for a fun and stable ride. The hybrids combine the best aspects of both styles in specific ways for a ride that is tailored completely for the rider’s preference. Once you have picked your perfect board, Burton becomes your one stop shop for all things snowboard: Men’s women’s and children’s board accessories, outerwear, helmets and apparel. From beginners to pros, Burton has exactly what snowboarders need to shred the slopes in style.