Today we learned the sad news about Jake Burton Carpenter who passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. There are a lot of ways to describe Jake, who founded Burton Snowboards, but visionary may be the best word to characterize the man who was one of the forefathers of snowboarding.
Jake Burton’s first taste of white powder came at age 7 during a family ski trip to Vermont. He mentioned in a number of interviews how he fell in love with the sensation of gliding on snow. Burton followed this passion and became a skilled downhill skier.
In the late 70’s Jake Burton decided to plant roots in Vermont and with $20,000 to get his company off the ground he started building prototypes. He spent almost 2 years experimenting with various materials including wood, fiberglass and surfboard foam. Finally in the fall of 1978 Jake unveiled Burton Snowboards at a trade show where he struggled to close low quantity orders. Things didn’t fair much better the following year when he had barely sold 300 boards by the summer. After having to lay-off some employees, who were also family members, Jake started to see momentum build as orders for his snowboards started to grow.
By the mid-80’s snowboarding had started to boom. It was no longer a fringe sport and Jake Burton was perfectly positioned to benefit from his hard work. Burton Snowboards was now at the forefront of the sport that would come to save future Winter Olympics.
Aside from being a snowboard visionary Jake Burton co-founded Chill a non-profit that helps at-risk youth access snowboard equipment and facilities. To date they have serviced over 25,000 young people in over 25 communities.
Today Burton Snowboards employs almost 1000 people and maintains their worldwide headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.