Ski Resort Life

Skier of the Decade: Jake Burton Carpenter, 1980's

Snowboarding’s version of an obsessive and promotionally talented entrepreneur like skiing’s Howard Head or Bob Lange emerged in the form of Jake Burton Carpenter, a well-spoken, neatly groomed, athletically handsome guy in his 20s. In 1977, Burton had begun to manufacture a device resembling the Snurfer, a toylike surfboard he’d ridden as a boy. Burton called his a Backyard Board. In 1980, he sold 700 boards for $49 a pop. In the ensuing decade sales soared into the tens of thousands as he enhanced its performance with a ski-quality running surface, metal edges, high-back bindings and a soft lace-up boot.

When the resorts and the trade shows turned away the young, unruly snowboarders, Burton was as amused as he was angry. The ski areas were being run by men who used to scrounge lift tickets in parking lots and free lunches in base lodges, just like the rebellious kids they now wouldn’t allow on their slopes. By 2000, Burton had forged a Vermont-headquartered firm with operations around the world, forever changing the mountains and wintersports culture.