Zion Snowboards. To many of you, that name doesn't ring any bells and some of you have heard of Zion. A select few have had the pleasure of owning and riding a Zion and any of these guys and gals will tell you that Zion Snowboards kill it. As a small, local company, Zion is all about putting the fun back into snowboarding without all the big business hype. Their mission is simple. Build quality, durable boards that let you have more good times without worrying about your equipment. A couple nights ago, I got together with Walter Froese, owner of Zion Snowboards, at JJ Bean coffee shop on Commercial Drive.
Sam Masih: Hey Walter, thanks for taking time to meet up tonight. Let's jump right into this. People are probably wondering how long Zion has been around.
Walter Froese: Hey Sam, how’s it going bro? I started Zion Snowboards in 2000. Hard to believe, but Zion’s been making boards for 10 years!
SM: Zion wasn’t your start in the business. You were with Option in its hayday. How has that helped you with your own company, in terms of board quality?
WF: Option at its peak, was making the best snowboards in the world. I pretty much learned everything about snowboard quality at that factory. I ran the core department there for several years and we would be getting our cores within 3 thousands of an inch to the spec we wanted. That is about the thickness of a sheet of paper! I got a chance to see all aspects of building snowboards and it’s definitely helped me get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Option’s also used to last forever so I got a feel for how to build boards that are tough and last longer. It sucks when boards break down too fast. It's good to break in but not to break down!
SM: What does the 2011 line up have to offer?
WF: Our new line for 2011 consists of 4 models. The Z1, LOST, WHOA MAN! and WONK. The Z1 is our top of the line model with all the features we could put into a board. It's designed to be an all mountain freestyle board. The LOST is our top park board made from top notch materials, while maintaining a mid range price point. We are using a cool material called basalt fiber under the core of the LOST. Basalt is 30% stronger than regular fiberglass, so it’s designed to take some big knocks to the base from hitting all the features in the park. The WHOA MAN! is our unisex line – good for guys and girls who want a fun and forgiving board that won’t beat you up when you make mistakes. We are also super stoked to introduce the WONK for 2011. It's basically a brand new shape that we designed with the help of George Cant at Design Cartel. George, in my opinion, is the best snowboard designer out there right now. The WONK is designed to be an all mountain jib board. The WONK is good to BONK! The board is made from super tough materials and will put a huge smile on your face and an even bigger smile on your wallet’s face.
SM: Though you’re a local company, a lot of your team base is in Colorado. How'd that happen? Who rides for Zion down there?
WF: Yea, we somehow ended up with a bunch of guys from Colorado on our team. I guess it's because I have some good friends down there and things just went from there. We’ve got Floyd Ralph, Josh Stock and Chris Willett riding for ZION down in Breckenridge. We used to have Eric Willett until a little while ago. Kid is one of the best riders out there these days! Just got second in slopestyle at the X Games. Unfortunately, part of the small company curse is losing guys like this when bigger brands come along an offer them more. Super stoked that we were able to help him out along the way though and hyped to see him making it in the snowboard world!
SM: What is Zion all about, at a grassroots level? What inspires the designs for the boards?
WF: ZION is all about having FUN with your FRIENDS. We’re not as concerned with the coolest trick of the season as we are with having fun riding with a bunch of your friends. Hey, if you have all your 10’s, that’s great, but if someone is doing Tindys and having a great time, that’s just as great!
In terns of graphics, we have some really great people on our design team and our head designer Brandon Wilson has some really rad ideas. We do our best to try and not worry too much what other brands are doing graphic wise – we try and have our own feel to our designs as much as possible while still keeping in touch with general trends in the industry. This year, we had Cindy Kinash as a guest designer for the 2011 WHOA MAN! We have a lot of fun with the LOST series, which features a person or creature that is lost. The idea came from a guy I used to work with at Option, Travis Bothner, and we have kept it going. We have featured a polar bear on the beach, parrots in the arctic, man golfing on the moon, penguins in the dessert, a yeti on roller skates, and, for 2011, it’s a bear taking a shower in the forest. Its super fun coming up with weird graphic ideas.
SM: A big thing with you is giving back to the world in some way. What is the POP program and how does it work?
WF: I’ve always wanted to have my company help make people’s lives better. I didn’t really know how to do that for the longest time, but then I ran into Brian McConaghy from the Ratanak Foundation. I heard him give a speech about the brutality of child slavery – especially child sex slavery. I couldn’t get that speech out of my head for about a year. Finally, I just asked myself, what am I going to do about it? I decided that I would give a portion of what ZION makes to help rescue these kids that are forced into brutal situations. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if people could help change the world while they are out having fun? So basically by snowboarding, you can make the difference in a child’s life and help rescue them from slavery. It's all about the products you choose. There are a lot of good board brands out there. Why not choose a board that’s good like the other ones, but also makes a difference in the world? A lot of companies are pushing the “green” theme and helping out the planet. I think this is really good and we all should be a part of that – that’s a given. I think it's even better to take it a step farther and help out the people that live on the planet. That’s how the name the POP Program was born. People of the Planet. You can also check out what Ratanak is all about. As the company grows, we aim to add other causes to support as well.
SM: Any last words?
WF: We’re doing something new this year that is pretty rad. We are releasing the 2011 snowboards early. If you order one by March 1, you will get your board by the end of March or 1st week in April. We thought some of our customers would be stoked to be the first on the hill with 2011 product. You can check out our online shop for the details.
SM: I'm all out of questions for you right now. We're stoked to be able to get some of your 2011 line on the mountain in the next couple weeks for some demos.
WF: Thanks for the interview, Sam and thanks to Grouse Park – I appreciate the chance to share a bit about ZION Snowboards. Stoked on what you guys are doing at Grouse. Thanks for reading. Hope you guys are having fun out there this season – that’s what is all about.
Thanks to Hamish Baxter for getting the shots of Clinton Cameron this afternoon.