Burton Snowboards. Lifts haven’t even started turning and we’ve already given them a seasons-full of our attention. But let’s give them just a little bit more.
The “Durable Goods” thing has caught some flack for being a sign Burton has lost it, but I don’t really agree. Is the name pretentious bullshit, and exactly what you’d expect from a brand that is carried at The Pottery Barn? Yes. But swallow your bile for a minute it isn’t that different from a lot of companies (snowboarding and otherwise) hopping on the post-ironic wave of semi-sincerity. They want you to think of this not as just fashion, but fashion that makes it look like you don’t care about fashion. The same way denim jackets and Birkenstocks are suddenly trendy. It may be a stupid trend we’ll all be over in a few years, but so is almost everything else in snowboarding. It doesn’t make sense to pick on just Burton for that.
And whatever you think about a partnership with Disney (Frozen for girls, old-school Marvel Comics for boys), you have to respect Burton’s kid’s program. Making stuff that little ankle biters will get excited about, and therefore making them excited about snowboarding, is God’s work. Getting someone else to start snowboarding is a big ask, but making it so little groms don’t have to ride shit from WalMart makes it a whole lot more likely they’ll enjoy themselves and keep with it as they grow up.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and roses. First off- Burton has to be the laziest company in snowboarding when it comes to naming. If someone says they are picking up a “Burton Custom,” they could be talking about any one of eight different snowboards. And a binding! On one hand it is one of the more venerable names in snowboarding, on the other hand if it’s worth making as a different board shouldn’t it be worth giving it a different name? I’ll give them a pass on the Smalls and Split, but if they really are all that similar, what is the point of paying an extra stack for the Custom Mystery? Not to get too philosophical here, but is the Custom Flying V really the same board if the benditure is different?
Ahhh The Kit. Recently described by Donna Carpenter herself as “drug paraphernalia,” someone’s dad is always getting mad when they find out about this. But it’s kind of a symptom of the problem a lot of people have with Burton. It’s cool and all that they aren’t trying to take the “traditional family values” path and watering down their image just to get Disney to work with them, but is this really doing anything for snowboarding? On one hand we don’t need help convincing everyone we’re all a bunch of lazy stoners, and on the other hand I’m not sure the lazy stoners are looking to spend $25 (+S&H) on an Altoids tin.
The line between Analog and Burton is getting even more blurred. They appear in the primary listings on Burton’s website, and AnalogClothing.com just forwards you to a sub-page on Burton.com. Which begs the question- why did they keep Analog around? There is very little setting them apart from Burton stylistically anymore, and if it’s all on one website you can’t even pretend it extends your reach anywhere.
Now this is exactly the kind of collaboration that I hate. After just getting on board with the clickity-clack of Boa last year, Burton has decided to ditch the braided steel lines that the entire rest of the industry uses, and go with the collaboration no one was waiting for – New England Ropes. I haven’t had these on my feet personally, but I just don’t see what the desired effect is here? I don’t imagine performance will be significantly affected, and if there are any weight savings they’re likely so small it doesn’t really matter. So why do this? New England Rope is a fine and respected company, but their connection to snowboarding, or even footwear, is not exactly apparent.
Burton is a big deal, the contributions Jake made are a major part of why snowboarding is where it is today. The company positions itself as a leader and for better or for worse they are the face of snowboarding to a lot of people on the outside looking in. But part of being a leader is being in front of everyone else, maybe not literally, but at least in ideas. And it doesn’t seem like Burton has ideas anymore; the collaborations are little more than brand-synergy exercises, the technology is more often than not about market share rather than product improvement, and the team has nearly as many “image” riders as it does people who are actually still progressing the sport. And the site reflects this slouch to mediocrity, here is nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing to make me really stand up and take notice. An average site gets an average score so Burton goes on the board with 50 points, our current lowest score.