Venture Snowboards

#009 Venture Snowboards – Finding The Soul of a Snowboard Company with Klem and Lisa Branner

Venture Snowboards

Venture Snowboards on Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast

 

Thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast.

So for this episode I made it out to Silverton, Colorado to visit Klem and Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboards.  

First of all, I had never been to Silverton before so it was really exciting.  Not only was the drive from Ouray just spectacular, I also took the time the drive out to the infamous Silverton Mountain Ski Area, which of course is a double chair lift and a couple of old busses.  No lodge or anything like that.

It was super cool to have a chance to wander around Silverton.  It’s just everything an old western mountain town is supposed to be.

As far as meeting Lisa and Klem, the founders of Venture Snowboards, it was really just a highlight of my trip.  You just couldn’t meeting cooler people, really creating and living the dream out in Silverton.

We get into some history of Venture and how it grew from basically a garage operation to a factory in Silverton, but don’t let the word factory fool you.  These boards are completely hand made.  They have just been able to create a process to ensure a product of the absolutely highest quality – A fact that isn’t lost on guides all over the state.

We talk about new products and what they are riding this year as well as some awesome events to look forward to, notably a winter kickoff party with Ska brewing in Durango on November 4.

Online, you can find Venture at venturesnowboards.com and on instagram @venturesnow.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links to find these guys or anyone else we talk about in the show notes.

Alright, so here we go, my conversation with Klem and Lisa Branner of Venture Snowboards..

 


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Show Notes

[2:45] What brought you to Colorado / Silverton?

[6:10] Venture moved to Silverton in 2007, how that move has helped hone the brand

[9:30] Having a business in Silverton

[10:45] It’s all about the core

[12:45] Product development, backcountry testing

[14:00] Upcoming events – Demo days, Splitfest, Avy Level 1

[19:19] Partners speak to quality

[21:40] What’s new – Why they are riding the Paragon / Oracle this season

[24:50] Rough Cut Series – Showing the process

[27:00] Ska Brewing – Season kickoff party

 

Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with Venture Snowboards:

On the Web: venturesnowboards.com

On Facebook or Instagram @venturesnow.

Youtube: Rough Cut Series

Events:

Season Kickoff Party with Ska Brewing – Nov 4, 2017

Avy 1 for Splitboarders – Feb 9-11 & March 9-11, 2018

Spring Fling – March 31, 2018

Splitfest Silverton – April 12-15, 2018

Beartooth Sessions – May 25-28, 2018

Demo Tour – Stay tuned!

 

Partners / References:

Ska Brewing

Silverton Mountain

Silverton Mountain Guides

Silverton Avalanche School

AIARE Level 1

Irwin Guides

Silverton, Colorado

Farmington Hill

 


Transcript

 

Lisa, Klem thank you so much for taking some time to sit down talk with me about Venture snowboards. But before we kind of get into the boards themselves in you know what people are actually right now and what they’re coming here for.

What brought you to Colorado? I’m not exactly sure where you are from. If you’re from Colorado but. And then specifically how do you get up in Silverton and what made you aside from the beautiful view. Like what made you want to kind of put some roots down in Silverton.

The beautiful view that’s definitely part of it. Yeah we’re we’re not from Colorado. We’ve been in Colorado for like 20 years now. I came originally to Fort Collins and then Denver after that and then Bayfield and finally Silverton then the excuse to come to Colorado we had met in New York.

The excuse to come here was grad school but really we came for the mountains. Clem’s been a diehard snowboarder since he was in his early teens and had been out here on family vacations and just had it in his head that this is where he wanted to be. And so officially the reason was grad school but unofficially it was to get into the mountains. And we’ve been here ever since.

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Yeah. Nice. Yeah. I mean I think you know the first conversation I’ve had this week for people that there’s another guy the guys from Romp. I think they started New Hampshire came out to Western and it was like I just wanted to get to the mountains.  So schools are a great opportunity to make that kind of move. And then once you’re in Silverton you know what is it about this town that made you want to stay because it sounds like you’re slowly like kind of making your way to this southwestern part of the state.

Yeah we had our eye on this part of the state for a while and it just took us a while to figure out how to actually make it happen even in the days when we were living up in Fort Collins and Denver area. We would watch the snow forecast and when we saw it was puking in southwest Colorado I’d call Klem from work and I’d be like load up the car we’re going and we’d come down and ride and Wolf Creek was actually the place that we would go the most.

At that point in time but as we started coming down here and getting more familiar with the other ski areas and learned about Silverton mountain opening up that was kind of the clincher that clam just latched on to that idea. You know getting to know these mountains better. And the idea of this untracked terrain and big mountain terrain that you could get to with just that single chairlift and lots of hiking that was that was the appeal.

And yeah we bounced from place to place until we could figure out how to make it work I had been working a day job for years and when we made the leap down to Bayfield because we couldn’t afford Durango. And prices have only gotten worse since then. We were you know scouting the area and trying to figure out if we could make Silverton actually happen. And when the company got to a point where it was sustaining itself enough that we could both work for it full time better when we took the plunge.

So and you can just look out the window and see why. And you know I appreciate you taking the time to just show me around and give me the tour and one of the things that we were talking about was that. Venture actually started in 1999 when you were still out in Fort Collins and you were. But really when you got here and this is when you were able to I guess kind of step it up and get the real manufacturing process in place.

Exactly.  That was kind of the jump from just being in the garage and basement and all that kind of stuff to being in a real industrial space and be able to have employees and make noise and turn you into or make more of a factory than a home workshop kind of thing. Right.

And that was like 2007. You said you’ve been here 10 years. It’s grown.

Yeah yeah. We’ve been in Silverton just about a decade now.

That’s awesome. So. You know is that the moment I had it written down here you know when you go through this entrepreneurial journey it’s you know high highs and lows and all sorts of things like that. Was that was that moment when you were scouting certain was that and I guess you had built Venture Snowboards up to a certain kind of capacity at that point or was that the moment where you were like yeah like this is really kind of happening we don’t need other jobs and things like that is this how it happened before that

It was when we moved from Denver to be a field that was kind of OK. We are doing this for real. But financially we weren’t there for it wasn’t really a viable business.

Want but not always when we really just said OK this is this is a great time and I had a you know a day job that was a real pill. I was working on this around the clock trying to make it all you know. Trying to figure it all out. So that was kind of when we really made the commitment. But I would say the move to Silverton and that was that was when it kind of became real. That really cemented it.

And that also shortly after we moved to Silverton is when we started building split boards. So I really I think that being here helped us hone the brand and really define ourselves a little bit more what it was that we were about. And for us for a long time now it’s been about powder riding. It’s been about big mountain riding in back country and Silverton being surrounded by public lands and you know some of the steepest terrain in Colorado some of the steepest terrain in the lower 48 that really helps shape the boards and shape the brand. And I think help it blossom I guess you know from what we we were feeling like it was but it wasn’t quite there. And that just cemented it and really crystallized it.

Yeah well I mean Silverton mountain has this mystique right. I mean it is just totally different than anything else that’s going on in Colorado. It’s basically just like lift access back country and riding that terrain all the time being associated with that mountain. And what’s going on here. Definitely like you said I can see how that hones your brand. You definitely getting a lot of that country product testing.

I’m assuming less about her days memories many years later. It’s never good.

So it has to work or a look. Well so. So how big is venture now like as far as like how many boards are you making at this point and also how how big is your team. We had kind of spoken about this a little bit and then I guess on on top of that you know what does it mean to have a real viable business and employ people in Silverton. I mean does that mean you guys.

Were not as big as probably a lot of people think. I’m going to blame Lisa for that.

Because she does really well with all of our marketing stuff like because we do things professionally think people just think our scale is way bigger than it is. And you having walked through this place you know you get an idea of our real size here but that is for us it’s not like we’re not going for world domination here. We’re not looking to be Burton or whatever. It’s so all about just living here and building boards we want and creating jobs for our employees and. That’s about it.

You know it’s a hand-built process. So I mean when I walked in you were crossing the top sheet on the board yourself. And so you know that’s still you know a big part of your process and actually when we first started emailing about getting together the first thing you sent me was a link to a blog post that you have that outlines you know the process of the hand-built core where like how important that is and that I mean the core is the central component of the snowboard.

That’s what’s going to give it its flex and its feel it really determines the way that the board rides. And that’s definitely a point of pride for us. I mean we do everything in-house but course that’s probably close to half of the amount of time that it takes to actually build a board and we start with a pile of raw lumber in the parking lot and then we take it all the way through to a finished core.

We do our own top sheets we I mean we do it all here and you know for us I think it’s about paying attention to detail and making sure that we’re putting out the best product that we possibly can because we’re going to ride those boards to our employees are going to ride those boards. And because of that everybody cares and everybody really pays attention.

And when you live in a place like this to be able to do that in spite of the fact that it’s so remote in spite of the fact that there’s only about 600 year round residents here in Silverton it’s pretty miraculous and it takes a lot of tenacity and you know as we alluded to earlier it hasn’t been an easy road we’ve had to work day jobs we’ve had to do other things to make ends meet and make it happen. But it’s all been in pursuit of that dream right. And and being able to live the lifestyle we all hear about the lifestyle but truly we’re doing it. You know we can walk out our front door and go snowboarding. So that’s what it all boils down to that.

And I think you know sharing that passion with other people.

So I mean you walk out not only right here and go snowboarding. You go snowboarding on something you built which is pretty sweet. I mean that’s got to be a pretty cool feeling.

Yeah especially when it’s something new that you just trying out and you get to you know go and ride it for the first time. Right.

What’s that look like like you know new products. Is that just kind of an organic constantly evolving. Hey I wish this board was you know we could tweak it a little bit. Is that kind of how you come up with that is cards.

Our advantage is that you know we do it all here like we saw this thing from scratch. So anything that we want to change we can you know we make all the tooling everything. So that’s that’s that’s often a big advantage for us.

Well it’s true. I mean I just walked in and you know the new line of yours is on the wall and it definitely they’re beautiful and it really made me want to get bindings on a pair. I went out so I didn’t have to come to one of your demo days or something like that. I saw on your website you have you know some cool events throughout the year. You’ve got quite the split first in the spring playing and you know some other things like the songs like really cool opportunities to come out here first

Sure. And we’re we’re going to be putting a demo tour dates up on our website shortly. We’re still working on that schedule but typically we hit a handful of resorts at least in Colorado as well as throughout the Rocky Mountain west hopefully we’re going to be able to expand our reach a little bit this year. Hoping to get out to the Pacific Northwest and possibly even the East Coast. We’ll see.

And then you mentioned split fast which is a really amazing event for anybody who’s into split boarding. There are a bunch of them that happen all over the country. They’re largely put on by volunteers who are just passionate about split boarding. And so they organize an event in their neck of the woods and invite people to come out and tour. And we’ve had an event here for the last several years that was organized by some volunteers who have become good friends and at a certain point they just said we’re kind of done with it.

They don’t want to deal with the organizing anymore. And so we took it on last year and we had about 130 split boarders descend on Silverton the second or third weekend and April I forget what it was. And just you know get out in the snow packs a little safer at that time of year so people are able to get out into some of the bigger lines and just a lot of camaraderie a lot of you know friendships built. You know in the skins track and then you know we do we invite other manufacturers to come and demo their product out.

So it’s really it’s kind of a gathering of the tribe and it’s a really cool thing. So nice. Yeah. Looking forward to hosting it again this year. I think the dates are the 12th through the 14th of April if I’m not mistaken.

That sounds very catchy. Yeah. By the way huge shout out to John and Jason are the guys that started that it was like six years ago. So they came to us when they first got it going Really. Yes of course we’ll do whatever to get this going. But they they really built this to what it is.

The got to a point where they just didn’t want to do it anymore they just wanted to come play and not be involved in or who can blame them.

Yeah. You find out when you get your hands dirty on projects like that how much it really takes to get them organized and set up and roll right. Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes pressure. You see you guys will take the reigns for a few years and then who knows.

Right. Exactly. Well speaking of the safety and the safe snowpack I saw that you also teamed up with the Silverton avalanche.

Yeah the silverton avalanche school that’s a partnership that’s been building over several years and last year we offered their first ever in conjunction with them a split board specific Avy one class and we’ll be doing two more of those with them this year seemed to really be a concept that people were interested in. I think a lot of skiers have been getting out into the back country for longer than snowboarders have just because the gear wasn’t quite up to par and with slip boarding really a lot of advances in slipway technology we’re seeing a lot more people taking up supporting a lot more snowboarders wanting to get into the back country but not necessarily having the education or the confidence to do that and even not really knowing how the gear works.

So the focus of that class was to help them get comfortable not only with their split boards set up but then also get them that ABC1 training so that they have some knowledge when they go out there and can be smart about it because the single most important piece of equipment you have is your brain when you’re in that country.

So yeah not to mention you know when you’re if you are mixed in a crowd and there’s guys on skis and you’ve got your board they kind you kind of move at a different pace. Right. And so it’s nice to be with a crowd of people I’m sure that’s everyone’s kind of similar gear. You’re moving along. Everyone’s kind of has to do this go through the same process.

So essentially when you’re just getting started I think that’s what it’s really nice to just be with fellow split boarders and it’s kind of part of the attraction with that class. Right. But I don’t know I mean I think as you go you know like there are more probably skiers and snowboarders in Silverton and here is just a mix. You know like you remember back in the day when there was a big conflict and all that kind of stuff. But these days I probably go with as many skiers and snowboarders when I go into the back country and it’s right.

Splitboards have come along to the point where it’s not like it takes that much longer to put our stuff back together at the top. And they’re complaining and waiting for us or whatever. Right. So it’s we all just kind of get along just get out there and if you enjoy sliding down snow and you know that’s it.

Right. It’s good to hear. I like that. I mean I kind of started. Most of my snowboard on the East Coast also and so I remember the days of not being allowed on the hill and you know having to have have.

Yeah take your support on the hill so you know I carry some of that with me. You know it kind of dates you when you start talking about things like that.

But you know I you know kind of just getting back to what we talked about with the corn. You know the real quality of the product.

You know what I think it shows in the partnerships that you have you know just speaking of being involved with the ivy training program you know they’re not going to want to go out there with a bunch of people who are new to it on junky gear.

And then and you know we had kind of been talking about how earlier in the trip when I was in Crested Butte I had a chance to interview Alan Bernholtz from Irwin guides and 11 experiences. Then when I said I was coming out to talk to you guys he was like oh we use their boards in our guiding programs so say hi I know those guys around the world and you know your relationship with the with the mountain here which is extremely technical difficult terrain guided experience you know so you must feel good at it.

It really talks to the quality of the product that you’re putting out. If people like that are going to use the the tool that you’re creating. Right. I mean so you must be kind of hitting what you want to. You must be creating what you want to create. If you’re getting that that kind of feedback

Well definitely I mean I think that both of the you know the groups that you’re talking about Erwin guides and Silverton mountain guides those guys are abusing their equipment. You know there they are putting it through its paces and so to have them say yeah this is our gear choice this is what we use is a pretty big statement because it does hold up and the terrain around here especially up in Crested Butte as well is really rocky and it can really do a fair amount of damage to a board and I can’t tell you how many times people have hit something and turn their board over expecting to see you know a giant course shot and we hear the story again and again they’re amazed that it’s maybe scratched just slightly. But durability has always been a big part of our focus as well. And so yeah having those guys on her equipment and having them be happy with it does speak volumes.

Yeah some good feedback right. Because the good guys have out there testing like you said it’s getting treated the worse so. So what about you. So for this year there’s. No what’s new with the lineup.

Is anything particular. You know you’re really excited about. The lineup of boards for the season.

I’m excited about my new board. which you is riding the Paragon which we introduced last year.

But we started out just doing it as a solid. And then it got really good feedback from everyone that was on it and I really personally enjoyed it and we decided to just throw that into the mix as a split as well. So that’s yeah I’m excited about the thing that is my go to board.

Nice. Yeah and that’s that particular model we also have a women’s version called the oracle. And both of those are designed to be a little bit more versatile than what we’ve offered in the past. We actually were designing it more with east coast riders in mind. Just trying to branch out a little bit and not be so you know specific to Rocky Mountains and big terrain but we found it rode so well in this terrain that both of us that’s kind of what we’re leaning toward righting ourselves now.

But the feedback’s been great from people on East Coast West Coast and up and down the Rockies so yeah. Super fun ride. And then the other thing I should mention is we have started focusing a little more on making some women’s specific stuff in the last couple of years which for many years we had taken the stance that there’s no such thing as women’s specific gear. It’s just gear designed for your height your weight your shoe size.

But there are some things that we’ve done with the women’s specific stuff that I think make it a little more approachable and ridable for ladies shortening up the stance tweaking the flex a little bit more. The assumption is it’s going to be a smaller lighter person on it. So to be able to flex the board personally we need to just soften it up a little bit more in the response to those has been great. This year we’ve got the tempest which is our freeride shape for women and the Oracle which is more all mountain and both are available solid or split.

And we also started playing with some different glass combinations this year and some of the boards that are half Klem you want to talk a little bit more about some of the tech around that gel we just used the same Tri-X fiberglas for many many years which is kind of just a workhorse of most snowboards built really but we just wanted to try to play around with just making them a little bit more for lack of a better word accessible just easy fun to write.

You know it’s not supposed to be something that is just going to buck you and it’s just you have to be a super tough guy to ride this board. Snowboarding is about fun so. We added some different and that’s actually in the paragon as well some different fiberglass which makes a little bit more torsional forgiving and so far so good. I really like that stuff. So that’s there’s going to be more of that stuff coming out to just playing with different materials.

Cool. And then you’re also launching this new video series this year the rough cut series. Tell us what’s going on.

Yeah that’s an idea that we’ve had for many years that we wanted to give people a window into what it’s like to work at Venture Snowboards right to actually see the boards being built. You know that’s something pretty unique most skis and snowboards are not handcrafted by snowboarders in the mountains right. So that’s one of those things that. I don’t know I just think it’s really cool for people to get to see. So

we’re going through our entire production process and videoing little clips of it and or have been releasing them on social media.

And ultimately the goal is going to be to put together a longer video. But right now it’s just little clips. And so you can you know watch the core kind of going through all its different stages and. And then the board you know coming into being I don’t know if you want to say more about that claim.

 


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Yeah. I mean it’s just not a it’s not a super organized like oh we’re going to show you from you know beginnings and how the snowboard is built or whatever. Just like when there is interesting parts of the process we just always looks from this this is kind of fun. Just to give people a little taste of all the different stuff and there are many building a snowboard.

Yeah it takes a long time when you build all of your components before anything even starts to look like a snowboard. Right.

Nice. And so I mean like you said when people are you know getting a home made her handmade product I think that’s you know people want to see what’s kind of going into it. And so that gives them some some insight in to really know why I think such a high quality piece of gear. So I look forward to seeing some more of those that will be fun.

Well I don’t know if there’s anything else that you specifically wanted to mention before we kind of wrap things up. You know I really enjoyed going to learn more about your company and meet you guys here in on your turf as I just stare out these huge windows. By the way I keep looking outside but we’re talking. It’s amazing. But you know the last thing I wanted to ask and this is what I ask all my guests you know who would you like to hear on this podcast.

Is there any recommendations you would give typical brewery folk. Yeah. So you have a nice fridge full of their stuff over here. Actually they have the new you know the euphoria. For me it just came out this year is this. Yeah. Last week for this coming year. But yeah it’s. And you have a board that euphoria right. That’s the origin of the name of the beer.

Yeah these Eurphoria’s are powder boards so they brewed a beer to kind of give you that euphoric feeling that you get a super deep day. And we’ve got a great partnership with Ska brewing. They’ve been super supportive ever since we got to this part of the state and there are good people.

Yes. And speaking of which we are planning our 13th annual season kickoff party with them getting going on November 4th Saturday November 4th at Ska brewing world headquarters in Durango. So anybody who’s in the southwest. Come on out for a good time. We’re going to have live music from Farmington Hill who is a longtime favorite playing if this event will be giving away a customs sky venture snowboard and raising funds for Colorado Avalanche Information Center and some other good causes so. A great way to start the season.

All right. And I can’t think of a better way to end this. It sounds like you know we’ll make sure we get this out before November 4th so people would know about it. But again thank you so much for taking some time. And you know I just really appreciate it. Great to meet you guys.

Our pleasure. Thanks for making the trip down to this part of the mountains. Thanks for coming in. Thank you.

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