[The Burton 40 Years Forward fam shready in Kühtai. Photos: carlosblanchard.com]
40 years is a long time in anything, let alone snowboarding. In 2017 Burton will ring in this landmark moment, so to prep us for the occasion we were shuttled in to Burton Europe HQ in Innsbruck to be walked through the new 2017 swag and put it through its paces on-hill in Kühtai.
Beginning with a look back on Burton's long, rich heritage in snowboarding we were treated to a few nuggets from the vaults – one of Jake's first ever production models, his initial press release where he described what 'snow surfing' was to a doubtless nonplussed public and a recap of how far both the sport and the brand have come from their humble beginnings in Vermont back in 1977 – before being given some more in-depth presentations on some of Burton's key drives for the 2017 winter range.
Though they make a ton of different gear these days, Burton's foundations lie in hardware and 'Built on Boards' is a mantra we heard often. And when it comes to making boards they're still at the cutting edge, as they were four decades back.
Between booting bindings across the room, an entertaining product honcho explained their Infinite Ride concept (overbuilding their boards and then breaking them in with a fancy machine so they're good to go off the rack) and how all their high-end decks are still made in Austria before getting to the nitty gritty of 2017 where, in addition to some finely tweaked classics like the eternal Custom, Process, the Fish et al there are some killer-looking new models like the Branch Manager and Gate Keeper in the Family Tree line. Of course, as usual there are a few tasty colabs coming out too – the Led Zeppelin one on the new Easy Living was certainly turning heads.
Another key point Burton were keen to make is how women have been at the heart of their business since day 1 – and with Donna Carpenter now CEO there's no chance of this changing. Ain't no pinking and shrinking here – the women's gear is designed from the get go for the female anatomy and riding specifics, and they were proud to revel in a team that's consistently included the best female riders in a line that traces from Victoria Jealouse to Anna Gasser. The fact that their category manager frickin RIPS (as we'd discover the following day) reinforces this commitment.
And then there's sustainability. It was refreshing to hear their transparency and how Burton are self-aware enough to realise that, really, snowboarding isn't perhaps the best thing you can do for the planet – that would be the old mud hut and homegrown mung beans. But as a company their mission is to minimise their impact: from bluesign certification (guarantees that each product is made with safe chemicals and meets the highest standards for the environment and factory workers – 75% of their outerwear is now bluesign approved), factory audits to make sure conditions are above board, to having their board factory heated by wood offcuts.
As interesting as getting the chat is, though, there's no substitute for actually riding the stuff, and that's exactly what we had the chance to do the next day in Kühtai. Some took off splitboarding, others – including our crew – were content to blast around the resort at Mach 10 slashing, kicking out Methods and generally having a blast on the new steeds – keep an eye out for reviews later this year. One thing to note is the Landlord is perhaps not the ideal choice for the near-terminally hungover: the thing is a high-performance SCUD missile and doesn't take lightly to being pussy-footed around on by hungover hacks. The Modified Fish, on the other hand, is a mellower affair but one that's still capable of charging when required.
So here's to you, Burton. Thanks for the goodtimes and here's to the next 40 years...