Burton: 40 Years of Innovation

Eds note: On Nov 20 Jake Burton Carpenter, a legend not just in snow sports but in sports, passed away from cancer. Read our 2017 interview with him on the 40th anniversary of Burton

1954: Jake Burton Carpenter, born April 29 in N.Y.C.  

 1961:  Jake skis for the first time with his family at Bromley Mountain in Vermont.

 1968: Jake  begs for, and gets, a Snurfer for Christmas. 

 1977: Jake graduates from New York University and works for a small investment banking company in Manhattan. Quickly figures out that the finance world is not that fun. Moves to Londonderry, Vt. and builds “Burton Backhills” out of his barn. 

Burton Snowboards owners, Jake Burton Carpenter and his wife Donna Carpenter, on a late November hike around Stowe Mountain Resort on Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield with their energetic dog, Lily. (BEN SARLE, for The Wall Street Journal)

 1979: Sells a mere 300 snowboards and is forced to lay off his only employees, two relatives and a friend. To keep Burton afloat, Jake goes back to New York to teach tennis and bartend. 

 1980: Burton sells 700 snowboards and hopes that the 133-percent sales increase is a trend.

 1981: Jake signs Burton’s first team rider, Doug Bouton. In the years to come, Burton will sponsor the world’s best snowboarders, including Craig Kelly, Shannon Dunn, Jeff Brushie, Terje Haakonsen, Kelly Clark, Nicolas Muller and Shaun White, to name a few. 

 1982: Meets his future wife at The Mill Tavern in Londonderry, just after midnight, New Year’s Day. 

 1982: The National Snowboarding Championships are organized at Suicide Six, Vermont by Paul Graves. Jake competes on the latest Burton equipment.

 1983: Convinces 19-year-old Donna Gaston, whose mother was concerned that he never combed his hair, to marry him. Also convinces Stratton Mountain to become the first major resort to allow snowboarders on lifts. 

 1984: Jake develops Burton’s first snowboarding outerwear line, which includes the “Powder Shell,” “Powder Pants,” and “Riding Gloves.” 

 1985: Jake and Donna move to Europe and open Burton’s European headquarters in Innsbruck, Austria.  

1986: Over 1,000 retail shops in the U.S. alone carry Burton Snowboards’ products. 

 1988: Craig Kelly comes in third in the Open’s first halfpipe event on a ‘Mystery Air’, a high-tech board that Burton built for him, completely unbranded due to a legal battle with Craig’s former sponsor Sims.

 1989: Jake and Donna move back to Vermont from Austria.

 1992:  The Burton factory and head office relocates from Manchester to Burlington, Vermont with 104 employees.

 1995: Jake and Donna create ‘Chill’, a non-profit foundation that provides life-changing experiences to underserved urban kids by taking them snowboarding for an entire season. 

 1996: Creates Burton’s first separate brand – RED Impact Protection, which introduces the first helmet designed specifically for snowboarding. 

 1996: Jake hands out equal prize money to women and men at the US Open Snowboarding Championships. It takes the X Games until 2008 to pay women snowboarders equally.

The new Step On binding

 February 1998: Goes to the first Olympics where snowboarding is officially a sport in Nagano, Japan. They spell snowboarding wrong. 

 1998-2001: Creates Gravis Footwear, Anon Optics and Analog Outerwear. The brand evolves into a year-round clothing company based in Southern California.

 2003: Japan becomes the first market where snowboarders make up more than 50 percent of resort visits. Jake and Donna take a 10-month trip with the kids to snowboard and surf on six continents.

 2004: Burton buys snowboard brands Forum, Special Blend and Foursquare and collectively renames them ‘The Program.’

 2006: Burton riders Shaun White and Hannah Teter win Olympic gold in outerwear that Burton designed exclusively for the US Olympic Snowboard Team. Burton buys Channel Islands surf company. “For me, that was like buying the Yankees,” says Jake, a serious surfer. 

 2006: Works with team riders to develop the first Stash run at Northstar-at-Tahoe, Calif.. Additional runs are stashed away at Killington, Vt. and at other resorts around the world. 

 2007: Burton’s ‘Poach for Freedom’ contest challenges riders to submit videos of themselves poaching the four mountains that still didn’t allow snowboarding. Taos suddenly announces  it is time to open its slopes to snowboarders.

 2008: Jake welcomes DNA Distribution (Alien Workshop, Habitat and Reflex Bearings) to the Burton family of brands. 

 2009: Launches Playboy “Love” board amid much controversy. Playboy line gets relaunched in 2015. 

 2010: Shaun White become the first snowboarder to win two Olympic halfpipe gold medals. Burton riders and Vermonters Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark take home silver and bronze. 

 2012: Jake and Donna become the first snowboarders inducted into the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum (VSSM) Hall of Fame. 

 2013: Burton opens its first flagship store in San Francisco on Haight Street.

 2014: Slopestyle makes its debut at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Jake is on the cover of Inc. Magazine. 

 2015: Jake gets a full knee replacement in January, and is diagnosed with Miller-Fisher syndrome in March. 

Jake and artist Jeff Koons with the limited edition board Koons did the artwork for, The Philosopher. Photo NYTimes

 2016: Donna Carpenter is named CEO and John Lacy, president of Burton.

 2017: Launches Step-On binding, revolutionizing a sport where you used to have to strap in, with click-in binding.

2018: Launches MINE 77: Jake Burton Carpenter’s first signature line of boards, apparel and luggage

2019: Burton announces it will become a B Corporation. On Nov. 9 Jake Burton Carpenter shares a letter to his staff saying his cancer has returned by he will fight it. Eleven days later, he passes.

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.

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