Behind the Brand: Venture Snowboards

What's awesome about the small, independent snowboard company based in the mountains of Silverton, Colo.? What isn't?

Venture Snowboards are designed and built in Silverton, Colo., one of America's highest towns at 9,305 feet and home to the Lower 48's rowdiest terrain and about 531 of its heartiest souls. The company is owned and run by the husband-and-wife team of Klem and Lisa Branner, but don't assume they're trying to become the next Jake and Donna -- far from it.

"We are aware that our business model has its limitations; doing things the way we want, and doing it from Silverton, would not be feasible if we grew beyond a certain size," explains Lisa, 40. "But the goal has never been to dominate the market -- just to do what we love and to do it well. We haven't reached that limit yet -- there-s still room for growth -- but we're committed to growing organically, keeping our manufacturing here and doing it right."

Justin Cash/Buttery Agency

Venture's mad genius, Klemens Branner: Always thinking.

And "doing it right" actually means something in the remote, do-or-die terrain of the San Juans -- and in a market that has already killed companies far larger than Venture. Tag lines just don't mean much when you're dropping into a burly couloir at 13,000 feet with only your gear and wits to get you back to base safely.

The boards have garnered plenty of praiseboth online in the notoriously crusty splitboarding community and in board tests, like TransWorld's. Venture decks have even hauled in top honors from Backcountry magazine five years in a row.

Aside from a zero-BS commitment to the greenest possible production, including wind-powered production since '04 and sustainably harvested cores since their first protos, Venture, in operation since '99, runs a real lean show, with as little waste as possible from materials to, um, human resources. Let's just say both Branners have hat racks with a numerous pegs.

Klem, 41, who was born in Denmark and heads up most of the "mad genius" aspects of production, actually planned on working in renewable energy. He has a BS and an MS in mechanical engineering and, he quips, "I took an extra year on both [degrees]. Some people said I spent a little too much time snowboarding, but I like to think I just took my time and did it right."

Lisa is from NYC and, despite the imposing figure her Great Dane of a husband cuts, is the secret bad-a-- of the operation.

Tellingly, the Venture crew has one of team rider Skylar Holgate's old boards hanging up in their shop with tons of base missing and the edges still in -- an issue Rocky Mountain shredders from Banff to Taos can relate to.

"He probably had over 300 days on it and, when I asked him if I could trade him for a fresh one, he said, 'Oh, it’s still good,'" jokes Klem.

Courtesy Venture

Venture rider/tester and Silverton guide, Skylar Holgate, on his model, a clever creation from The Shape Shack. Most snowboarders ride lines like this a few times in a lifetime. Holgate hits them almost every day.

Skylar now has his own model with Venture and probably spends more time on-snow than five average pro snowboarders taped together, guiding at Silverton Mountain and then switching hemispheres to guide at SASS in Argentina for the other winter.

What really separates Venture from the mass-produced world are the insane size combinations they offer for such a small company: 30 length and width combos in both solid and split iterations.

"There's something to fit virtually every rider out there, male or female, petite or Sasquatch," explains Klem, who leans toward the latter, height-wise. "No one is making 181s. No one is making splitboards for the really petite ladies out there."

Venture doesn't sell women's-specific boards because, they say, "there's no such thing"; rider size and foot size matter more than what you might be packin' in your bib pants.

One of the biggest progressions for the brand is The Shape Shack, an experimental division. Here, the resident shaper is none other than Johan Olofsson, one of snowboarding's earliest superstars and long since a kind of polestar of powder. Johan's name carries mad cred when associated with an artisanal outfit like Venture.

"He's been pretty focused on pow boards, and it's no wonder: Who else can shred bindingless better than most people can ride while strapped in?  And he's also providing feedback and perspective that's helping the entire line evolve," says Lisa.

Mr. O's contributions so far have resulted in some crazy shapes, including the Powder Pig, a board that looks like more fun than a stolen credit card: 33 cm wide, 156 cm long, no edges, and inserts only near the tip and tail -- for a rope.

So why should snowboarders care who makes their board or how it's made, as long as they're having fun on it? "It's a lot like a microbrew versus a crappy beer," explains Lisa. "If you're just looking to catch a buzz, either will get the job done. But if you're looking for the superior taste experience, it's obvious which you'll choose ... "

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