1. Irony, Greed, Hypocrisy, Bluster and Snow

    brian on 2007.12.29
    at 03:56 am

    I followed a link today to this video, Sabotage Stupidity which resides on The Burton Snowboards website. It’s a series of marketing videos that are very clever, and very “in-brand” for Burton. Sabotage Stupidity is the name of Burton's campaignI’ve long had a lot of respect for Burton. They were a pioneer (but not inventor) of the snowboard, with a distinct style and attitude that really set the tone for the whole budding snowboard industry. Snowboarding itself really had to swim upstream. For many years, snowboarders were second-class citizens on the slopes–if they were even allowed on the slopes. It’s a classic story, they were different and thus they were not liked. Of course, as with any situation like this, there were a few punks who made trouble on the slopes and gave everyone else a bad name.

    I used to ski a little bit before I was introduced to snowboarding by friends. I found snowboarding to be much easier and I much preferred the slow carving possible with snowboarding that took much more work on skis. Plus, I found snowboarding easier on my joints. Today, if I were to return to the slopes, I certainly would return to snowboarding.

    Today, snowboarding has cemented its place, and especially its style, in youth culture. People of all ages enjoy this winter sport and it has many events in the Winter Olympic Games. Every major skiing goods company that is involved with snow sports is involved with snowboard in a big way. In many ways, snowboarding drives the industry. But in a few places, discrimination remains against snowboarders.

    Four well-known ski areas in the United States still have a snowboarding ban. One, Taos Ski Valley is dropping its ban later this year. The remaining three are Mad River Glen , in Vermont, and Alta and Deer Valley in Utah.

    While this is somewhat backward thinking, you may be inclined to to think “well, they’re businesses, and they’re allowed to choose whom the serve.” True. However, Alta and Taos both operate on United States Federally-owned forest lands. Thus, taxpaying snowboarders are being prevented from riding on their own land.

    Deer Valley touts the environmental stewardship of their private lands but allow noisy, polluting snowmobiling across the mountain, while prohibiting the pollution-free and silent snowboard.

    The saddest of the above stories is certainly Mad River Glen. MRG is a not-for-profit, cooperatively-owned ski area tucked away in the Mad River Valley of central Vermont. Clearly very forward-thinking people. They are 45 minutes south of the Burton HQ in Burlington. They were one of the first resorts to allow boarding, but then banned it thanks to a small number of out-of-control accidents and what sounds like a couple of personal run-ins with mountain management. Of course, there have never been out-of-control skiers who got into accidents.

    Here is where Burton returns to the story. 20 years have passed. From shunned to an absolute force in the industry, Burton is a standard of innovative design, has hordes of people wearing it’s gear off-mountain, is the leading manufacturer of boards and gear in the US, possibly the world and founder Jake Burton Carpenter stars in a Hewlett-Packard computer commercial. To say they’re mainstream is clearly unnecessary.

    Here comes Jake with a $5,000 challenge entitled “Sabotage Stupidity.” He frames the challenge as fighting oppression from the man. It’s brilliant marketing, encouraging peaceful protests at these mountains. It’s been immediately successful, with all of the targeted mountains which ban snowboard riding having been “poached” (ridden and video taped during business hours).

    The only problem is that it comes off to me as fake. Jake Burton is a force in this industry. He is basically asking his customers to bully these remaining (admittedly bullheaded) mountains to buckle to his demands. Which of course, indirectly line his pockets by further raising his notoriety (an Vermont NPR news reporter showed up at the Mad River Glen poach) and further legitimizing the sport.

    Advertising as insincere and self-interested? Say it isn’t so! Well, I’m not that naïve. But the intro describes these injustices as “elitist, fascist” and “segregation” uses images of Mother Teresa, Ghandi, the MLK March on Washington, and others really pushes this “discrimination” thing too far. Apple used similar images in it’s Think Different campaign, but that didn’t have the same negative feeling. It was more “we make computers for people who think different(ly) than other people.” This campaign is “We are a discriminated, segregated population,” which they are. But they’re comparing themselves to people who have been lynched and killed for their skin-color. Not because they recreated in a slightly different manner.

    I was certain until today that if I ever bought a snowboard that it would be a Vermont-based Burton Snowboard. After today, not only will I not give my hard-earned cash to these closed-minded resorts, but now any chance of me giving any cash to another New England business, Burton, is now in serious jeopardy.

    Posted in: Design · Environment · Nature · Sports


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