Our head buyer, Jenna, recently took a trip out to Vermont to spend the week hanging out with the crew from Burton. Checkout all the details below.
Fall is an incredible time to visit Vermont. The changing leaves paint the rolling hills and mountains of quaint little towns like Stowe. Elderly folks taking carriage rides and children visiting cider mills line the roads of the country side. It’s quiet, peaceful and the smell of fall is in the air. Now enter 100 snowboard reps and 50 retailers from six different countries and you’ve got yourself a Burton sales meeting. Someone described it as a bunch of monkeys being set free from a zoo and descending on a village. I would describe it as an incredible weekend of learning about product, mingling with industry friends and getting hyped for the upcoming season.
Our adventure started with a trip to the Burton headquarters in Burlington. We first headed to “Craigs”, Burton’s R and D facility. This 10,000 square foot facility houses some of the most impressive custom built machinery to spit out prototypes and even a limited run of boards each year. Tours are actually open to the public if you want to see just how a snowboard is made. There’s even a small museum where you can see original prototypes, oddities like one of Jeff Brushie’s dreads and some of the outerwear worn by Jake Burton Carpenter, legend and founder of the company. We were also fortunate to have JG, former team rider and current legendary product developer, jump onto our tour, giving us all the inside details including how the week before, they had all spent hours in the freezer personally testing product. If this sounds fun, picture bundling up and then standing in one spot flexing the same boot over and over and over. Our headquarters tour ended with a visit to the office which we were told was extra clean due to it being Jake’s white glove test day where he would personally visit every department looking for the cleanest one with the prize being lunch. If you’re thinking corporate don’t be fooled. The day ended in a party in the parking lot where games were play, good food was had and drinks flowed freely, all the while Jake still trotting around in his all white inspectors jumpsuit.
The next day we headed up to Stowe for a full day of product meetings. We covered marketing and strategy for the upcoming 16-17 season as well as exciting new technology for the 18-19 season. This may seem far off, but Burton’s designers and product engineers are already working on things for the 19-20 season! We listened to speeches from Donna Carpenter, Jakes wife and the CEO of Burton, Burton’s new president, and even a presentation about Burton’s huge commitment to sustainability. If a day full of speeches and presentations sounds boring, add in the fact that the day was finished off with a fake variety show hosted by pro rider Jack Mitrani featuring the rest of the Burton team and premiering a new video. The day was fun, informative and everyone was even more hyped for tomorrow’s main event, the Fall Bash.
We started our day with the option of going hiking, mountain biking, golfing, or just doing nothing and trying to kill a hangover. I chose the first option along with the goal of still killing a hangover in the process. Our hike was up Mt. Mansfield, part of Stowe Resort and the highest peak in Vermont. For the next hour or so we climbed 2,000 feet of mostly rock. Fortunately we cut off the trail and onto one of the ski runs for a quick view and a picture because as we reached our destination clouds and a light mist rolled in. Our view at the top may have been spoiled but we still got a kick out of the log cabin open to whoever wanted to sleep there as well as the pit toilet that specifically had “only for #2” posted. Our decent down was a slower and slick one but by the time we made it down we were glad we had done it. 6 miles and hangover cured.
That evening temperatures were in the 50’s and the light mist hadn’t given up but the whole town was ready to party. Every year, Jake and Donna Carpenter host the Fall Bash, a huge party that they open up to friends, family and retailers everywhere. Last year there were over 1,500 people at the party, a long way from the early days when Donna said she used to cook all the food for the party herself. The evening starts off with things like pony rides, games and inflatables for the kids, but as the night comes the staffed day care set up in the Carpenters living room becomes utilized and the adults return back outdoors to play. The house itself seems that like that of a big kid. In some ways modest based on what you’d expect but with incredible features like an indoor soccer area in the basement, a zip line over a pond outside and an in ground trampoline that becomes very tempting the later it gets. The main attraction though is a wooden “mining” tunnel that runs underground from the main house to guest barn and the garage below. Longboards are placed at either end of the tunnel so that getting through it is as entertaining and efficient as possible. Outside there’s food, drinks and bands perform throughout the night. The multiple chocolate fountains are also always a big draw. It’s a big night and a great way to end a trip and start a season.
Coming out to visit Burton is always a treat and something I’m thankful I get to do. Jake and Donna are both extremely nice people who are incredibly passionate about the sport we all love. It’s obvious their passion trickles down to the employees with the level of innovation and excitement taking place in all the various departments. This event brought retailers from everywhere together to share in that excitement.