In the eighties and nineties, snowboarding was a fledgling sport, a fringe movement steeped in youth counterculture that defined itself as opposed to skiing, but in those years and the decades that followed it seeped into the mainstream and became a guiding force for snowsports as a whole. Much of that growth can be attributed to Jake Carpenter, who is credited with the invention of the modern snowboard, and his company Burton Snowboards, which continues to be one the biggest board manufacturers in the world.
In that sense, Burton is now somewhat pitted against the original traditions upon which the sport was adopted; in a movement that in many ways still defines itself as at variance with the prevailing social norm, the most prominent brand — the one selling it to those not already in the know — is automatically Public Enemy No. 1. But any arguments against Burton have to tiptoe around the fact that the company continues to steer the sport as a whole through innovation, in product and culture too. The spirit of creativity still exists, even if it isn’t as apparent as in the early days when Carpenter was just a tinkerer living near a ski hill.
Carpenter still lives in the mountains, and he’s still hard at work trying to push snowboarding along, even as the sport has been declining in popularity. His latest project is a collection of apparel, outerwear, bags, accessories and hardgoods dubbed Mine77. Unlike Burton’s seasonal product releases that are dreamed up by many minds, this one is all Carpenter. “Mine77 is a way for me to be hands-on again with every detail of a product collection,” he said in a press release. “From the features, fabric and fit to the words on the hangtags and the style of a photo shoot.”
The creation of the new brand was spurred by a recent near-death experience in which Carpenter was left almost completely paralyzed for weeks due to a rare nervous syndrome. It gave him a renewed appreciation for life that compelled him to create. “After being on my deathbed a few years ago with Miller Fisher syndrome, I changed,” he says. “I wanted to live for the moment, be more creative and do some things that were outside the box.”
In the case of Mine77, “outside the box” means cargo corduroys, an apparel homage to the late Craig Kelly, leather bags, split-toe socks, paisley and tie-dye. Carpenter’s fingerprints are on every aspect of the product, from the physical design to the way each item is packaged and delivered (each clothing item comes with a stick of his favorite lip balm in one of the pockets). It’s a homecoming of sorts for Carpenter and another new path forward for snowboarding.