When riding in the backcountry, whatever is strapped to your feet needs to perform. Steep chutes, tight trees, or sweet, untracked pow fields are all lousy places to learn that your board is subpar, and the middle of nowhere is a dangerous place to experience equipment failures.
Venture Snowboards, a small company with four year-round employees based in Silverton, Colorado, aims to deliver burly boards that kill it on the mountain, all while maintaining strong business and environmental ethics.
Started in 1999 by husband and wife team Lisa and Klemens Branner, Venture claims to produce the most durable, sustainable, and high-performance big mountain boards around. Backed up by a two-year warranty on materials and workmanship, they stick by their work.
And they should. From the first board Klem built in 1986 with a piece of plywood, rubber straps, and some duct-tape, the Branners have done business by hand. They launched Venture in 1999 from their garage in Fort Collins, Colorado. That year Klem, an engineering and renewable energy student looking to combine his degrees with his snowboarding passion, made 60 handcrafted boards, all with Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood – a practice they continue.
“From day one our focus has been on not just producing a super high performance and super durable snowboard but trying to incorporate environmental concerns in any way we could,” Lisa said.
Since 2004, Venture has powered 100% of its factory by wind. Their new factory, which should break ground this spring, is going to continue to incorporate wind and add both passive and active solar power.
“It’s just a matter of making a commitment to doing it right,” Lisa said. “Up front it might cost a bit more, but I think in the long run, number one it’s the right thing to do and number two, there are cost savings over the long haul. When we talk about growth we think, ‘How do we do that sustainably? How do we do it right?’”
In that same vein, Venture hires locally and produces all of their components in Silverton, a short split to some of the best powder and steeps in the country (they’re also the official board company of Silverton Mountain). The idea is that, not only do they save on transportation while helping the environment, but they have workers who know the mountains and snowboarding inside out.
“Having people build boards who actually ride the equipment and understand what it’s about results in a superior product,” Lisa said. “We’re all pretty meticulous. I think that’s part of being a real grassroots company and doing it here in the mountains, in the very mountains that the boards are designed to be ridden in.”
And the boards are nothing if not meticulous. Components include triaxial fiberglass for torsional stiffness, a quadratic sidecut for improved lines and smoothness, and a P-tex sidewall and base for bombproof durability.
“We constantly research new materials and test new materials. One of the biggest challenges is that if it’s not going to perform the way it should or isn’t going to hold up to the abuses that you subject it to, what’s the point?” Lisa said.
Venture’s attention to detail and focus on the backcountry (all three of their boards are offered in split) has gotten them noticed. They produced 800 boards for this season and have 50 shops distributing their sleds, in countries such as Japan, Germany, and Switzerland.
“I think part of what’s really fueled this growth is the interest in backcountry riding and boarding over the last few years. That’s really our focus and has been for the past six to eight years,” Lisa said. “It’s personally what we’re about as riders. The company reflects that as well. We’re our best customers in many senses.”
The company’s big moment came when a filmer on the Jeremy Jones production, Deeper, called up the company and said they needed some splitboards for a segment they were filming in Alaska. Venture happily sent some along. One of the riders who hopped on a Venture board was the big mountain pioneer, Johan Olafson.
“(Olafson) took the board out in some pretty gnarly conditions, rode some pretty big lines with it, and came out of it and said, ‘Wow, this board is great. I want to get involved,’” Lisa said. “That was strictly on the merit of the ride.”
Olafson’s endorsement and involvement “made a lot of people sit up and take notice,” Lisa said, and Venture is set to release an Olafson signature board next season.
With Olafson on board, a new facility coming down the pipes, and a growing interest in backcountry riding, it looks as if Venture has a bright and powdery future, albeit a busy one. So how often do Lisa and Klem get out on the snow nowadays?
“Not enough,” Lisa said. “But we’re really about being out there in the backcountry. There’s nothing better than it. It’s what keeps me sane.”
Click here to read BLISTER’s review of Venture’s big mountain board, the Zephyr.