The next time you want to take on Utah’s deep snowpack and fabled terrain, try a deck from one of these homegrown companies.
Rossignol calls Park City home, allowing one of the snowboard industry’s most established brands to design, test, and tinker with its boards within the same day.
“We relocated our North American headquarters to Park City ten years ago,” explains Communications Manager Nick Castagnoli, adding, “and if you’re passionate about this sport, it’s really hard to imagine being anywhere else.”
“Having this kind of proximity to both the playground and an international airport are such invaluable assets for our day-to-day operations,” he says. “We’re able to host focus groups, sales meetings, dealer intros, and events at our HQ and any number of world-class local resorts in the area; product test on-hill and debrief at the office – all before lunch; collaborate with local SLC design firm – Super Top Secret – on the evolution of our graphics; and probably most importantly – just be immersed in mountain culture and have the ability to easily dip out and go ride.”
Castagnoli adds that this proximity to the “playground” allows Rossignol to keep its figurative fingers on the pulse of the market, and react quickly in order to better support its athletes and specialty retailers.
Arguably the most versatile snowboard company in Utah, Rossignol produces freestyle and freeride snowboards and splitboards for men, women, and children.
Utah is a hotbed for splitboarding, partly because Salt Lake City is the birthplace of this now-prevalent way to access the backcountry. Alister Horn, founder of Chimera, suggests that once avid snowboarders hit their 30s and 40s, they transition to splitboarding the backcountry instead of hanging up their decks for good.
“We only do splitboards,” Horn explains about his company. “A lot of backcountry specific snowboards are basically the exact same snowboard you get in the resort. You actually need a different board.”
Horn points out that splitboards, by nature of how much they get used and how far out riders are in the backcountry, simply can’t fall apart. Their splitboards’ design, shape, craftsmanship, and materials need to hold up under a lot of riding and thrive in backcountry, not resort, conditions.
Chimera uses mostly local materials, artists, and board builders, most of whom are hardcore backcountry snowboarders themselves. It’s a fundamentally grassroots company, making by and for splitboarders and experimenting with board shapes and designs.
“We’re at the long end of the tail of manufacturing, making a high-end board and doing it deliberately, doing it in-country, not overseas, and doing it by splitboarders, Horn explains.
Kemper Snowboards was officially founded in 1987 by David Kemper who built the first boards in his garage in Ontario, Canada dating back to the winter of 1984/85. Once the brand started to gain momentum, Kemper moved its board production to a snowboard factory in Montreal, Canada for the 1988/89 snowboarding season. In 1989/90 the snowboard production moved to Austria.
Kemper Snowboards quickly became one of the biggest snowboarding brands in snowboard history and competed directly against Burton Snowboards, Sims Snowboards, and Barfoot Snowboards. The Kemper snowboarding brand was best remembered for fully embracing snowboarding’s neon period in both their snowboard graphics and their incredible range of funky outerwear.
In the winter of 2018, Jib Hunt, a former professional snowboarder, relaunched the Kemper Snowboards brand. In the summer of 2019, Hunt moved Kemper’s headquarters from the east coast to Park City, Utah to better position the snowboarding brand for growth and exposure within the Utah snowboarding scene.
Kemper Snowboards produces freestyle snowboards, park snowboards, powder snowboards, and splitboards.
Pallas Snowboards is a craft, small-batch company that sells direct to the consumer through a three-day-long ship-and-shred demo program.
"The longevity of a snowboard contradicts the nature of retail,” Nitsch says. “We want to build boards for quality so that they are able to last more than one season. We’re trying to ramp up the overall quality and performance of boards to last longer through high-quality production and materials.”
Based in Salt Lake City, Pallas builds both solid snowboards and splitboards in three distinct models. It’s also the only female-owned and operated company creating boards for women riders in the entire snowboard industry. Company founder Stephanie Nitsch explains that Pallas produce very high-quality high-performance boards that anyone can ride, and add nuances that enhance the women’s style of riding.
This winter, she adds, Pallas is going to make slight R&D improvements to their board line, and plunge forward with the same models.
“We still nimble enough as a company to make those kinds of design changes to boards,” she says. “We make them relatively quickly, and really take riders input into consideration.”
Riding bindingless has blossomed in popularity over the past three seasons. Like splitboarding, it’s also a backcountry snowboarding method that appeals to mature riders who prefer deep pow over monster park jumps.
“It’s not so difficult,” claims Grassroots Powdersurfing founder Jeremy Jensen. “Some people think it’s hard because they struggle with the mental part of riding without bindings.”
Jensen, who started his company 10 years ago, adds that just about anyone with a strong snowboarding background can pick up powdersurfing. Out of his small factory in Logan, Jensen produces handcrafted, custom-made boards to fit every kind of rider’s size and ability level, including kids. He also designs boards for all types of snow conditions.
“We don’t get cold smoke everyday,” says Jensen. “Depending on aspects and elevations, we get every kind of snow. We make probably 14 different models, and they’re designed to work in different types of snow conditions. There are a few of our designs that are go-tos for an average day in Utah, and they are different from what you’d use on an average day in Washington and the Sierras.”
For winter 2016-17, Grassroots Powdersurfing will release a new line of boards that pay tribute to the Winterstick snowboards from the 1970s and 80s.
Based in West Valley City, Voile builds lightweight, durable boards for backcountry travel. Most of customers are splitboard mountaineers, people who need decks designed for long, uphill slogs and technical descents.
Sales & Marketing Manager David Grissom admits, “We can’t even call ourselves a snowboard manufacturer because we’re a splitboard manufacturer. Everything we build is for backcountry travel, and we essentially invented that category. It’s grown as the basis for the entire splitboard market. What unites our company is all around that backcountry banner.”
When Grissom says Voile invented that category, he isn’t overstating. In the early 1990s, Voile founder Mark "Wally" Wariakois worked with splitboard innovator Brett Kobernik to create the first mass-produced splitboard interface hardware, DIY kit, and splitboards.
“We’re a self-contained unit here, we make the boards and hardware right here in Salt Lake,” Grissom says. “Obviously the proximity for getting after it is incredible. We have a tremendous background for testing.”
“We own the fact that we have skiers and snowboarders here,” he adds. “We’re a backcountry company, and it doesn’t matter to us. People look at us with a raised eyebrow, and we kind of laugh at it. We stopped apologizing for it.”
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