People outside the snowboard industry might not be aware, but insiders can see the sky is falling. The viability and sustainability of snowboard brands, large and small, new and old, is certainly in question. This fear running rampant stems largely from the closure of important brick-and-mortar board shops that create culture. But it might be enough to motivate companies to rethink the system, to question the mode of how boards are distributed, and purchased. Because few brands have been able to mount any reasonable offensive against a terrifying trend that is shaking some in the industry to the core.
One company attacking the downtrend is D-Day Snowboards. And I’m admittedly a fan. In its second year, the startup is embracing a role as an industry outlier. For this year’s line-up, which just became available as of midnight last Tuesday, D-Day produced top-shelf boards bent by a renown snowboard shaper and each is priced under $400.
“It’s a really weird time in snowboarding, it’s a hard time, a dark time,” says D-Day co-founder Nico Nolan, based in Salt Lake City. “A lot of brands are getting their asses kicked and some may not be around even next season. Everybody knows what’s happening and everybody complains but very few people do anything about it. So it seemed like a good time to take everybody’s complaints and make a brand out of them.”
And Nolan, who’s allowing his skateboarding influence to inspire his company, has definitely put together a talented group of riders. Legends like Chris Roach and Mike Ranquet headline a team comprised of hard-charging icons like Mark Edlund (aka Deadlung), Andrew Burns, and Eric Messier. In short, an exciting group that makes for solid in-house marketing.
And the leader of the brand is bold and outspoken, and while his ideas may not be totally revolutionary (skating has long influenced snowboarding), his energy could definitely invigorate the industry again. “If you pay attention to the things you read in Thrasher you’re going to make better decisions than if you only pay attention to things in snowboard magazines,” said Nolan. “When we put this team together it was important to have unique individuals and for our foundation it was important that it did resemble something from skateboarding.”
The D-Day boards are shaped and pressed in the GP87 factory. The Angel Dust line of boards contains several large-nosed, wide-waisted powder shapes that all run a deep side cut that creates a lot of versatility. “A lot people could ride the Panda, our swallow tail, all season and not need another board,” says Nolan. The powder shape trend in snowboarding is real, not dissimilar to the reverse camber revolution that changed snowboarding for better or worse over the past decade. The difference this time, however, stems not from marketing gimmicks but rather functionality and a new experience on a snowboard. “Everyone is riding quiver boards, riders aren’t just staying on one deck anymore. And a lot of that comes from all the stuff in Japan” explains Nolan, “the Hokkaido influence and the Niseko influence on board shapes is currently huge. We had a couple droughts, didn’t have any snow and everyone went to Japan and now everything looks different.”
Some of the early adopters of D-Day definitely let Nolan have it after it was announced that the 2016 boards would not be made in the Never Summer factory in Colorado where the first years’ run of boards were pressed, as he opted to have them made in China. “We got some flack, a lot of diehards were like ‘we’re not buying a board that’s wasn’t made in America, you guys are not staying true to what you said you are,’” explains Nolan. “I swore we would never make stuff in China but it turns out it was the best move for our company, Never Summer makes great boards but they were Never Summer boards, not our boards. The move has given us more flexibility in having our own shapes and designs and now our materials are better and costs are lower. And basically, with the saving from getting the boards made overseas, we were able to hire two new staff members and another team rider.”
There whole approach is unorthodox but maybe that’s what we need in the sport right now? “The current foundation for snowboarding has just been destroyed, it crumbled and they built some whole new monstrosity out of it. We need to go back and start over brick by brick,” said Nolan, “Jake Burton, Tom Sims and Chuck Barfoot went out and sold boards in parking lots and that’s similar to what we will be doing, hosting demo’s throughout the winter wherever there is snow. We will literally be shipping boards from the road this year.”
The D-Day lineup is definitely different. They’re returning to snowboarding’s blue-collar roots—off-the-wall marketing, demos with the people. And they’re admittedly still learning and working out the kinks as with any young business. But to me, this is exactly what snowboarding needs to get back to. It’ll make the whole industry better.