Snowboard pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

(WCAX)
Published: Nov. 21, 2019 at 11:01 AM EST
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The father of snowboarding has died. Jake Burton Carpenter passed away at age 65 on Wednesday night due to complications from cancer.

Carpenter pioneered the sport of snowboarding and founded Burton Snowboards. The business started in a barn in Londonderry, Vermont, in 1977 and grew to be the worldwide industry leader.

Jake Burton and his company also played an instrumental role in bringing snowboarding to the Olympics, with Burton riders dominating the events.

You would be hard-pressed not to spot the Burton brand on any mountain across the region.

Our Adam Sullivan was on the slopes at Killington on Thursday where riders reacted to the news of Carpenter's death.

Thursday was a bluebird day at Killington and the conditions for skiers and snowboards looked perfect. But the news of Jake Burton Carpenter's death had many feeling the blues.

"It was a real sad thing for all snowboarders. I mean, he was the guy who founded the sport. I mean somebody invented the board before that but he was the one that took it to everybody," said Elizabeth Grace-Rutledge of Killington.

The Burton name is hard to miss on this mountain and others across the region.

"I grew up learning to ski at Bromley and you see Burton everywhere in that area," said Patrick Burns of New York.

Carpenter moved the headquarters of Burton Snowboards from Londonderry to Burlington in 1992. And while the company is synonymous with snowboarding, some say Burton revolutionized snow sports as a whole.

"I think it opened everyone's mind about the possibility of what could be done on snow, not just with the snowboard but with skis," Burns said.

Some of the early boards hang on the walls at Darkside Snowboards. The business is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and Burton and its founder, have been a staple here since the beginning.

"Great guy, personable, really friendly," said Jimbo Billings of Darkside Snowboards. "Comes in all the time and treat you just like you are a regular person."

As the company grew, so, too, did the product line, including apparel. But those who knew the man who started it all say he was as down to earth as they come.

"Always remembered who you were, always asked how things were going, how your family was going. Just anything you ever wanted from the individual, he was there and he made the time for you," Billings said.

And back at the mountain, the Burton name is memorialized as riders pay tribute to the man who started it all.

"This sport has legitimacy and it's in the Olympics because of Burton. And if you look around, you see it everywhere and so, it's an awful loss and, I mean, let's all shred in his memory today," said Jesse Phillips of Massachusetts.

It's a legacy that will likely continue to live on as long as snow sports continue to exist.

In an email sent to the staff at Burton, CEO John Lacy called Jake Burton Carpenter "our founder, the soul of snowboarding, the one who gave us the sport we love so much." The email included one, simple directive. "I'd encourage everyone to do what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that's riding," Lacy wrote. "It's opening day at Stowe, so consider taking some turns together, in celebration of Jake."

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, released a statement on Carpenter's passing. He said: "It takes millions of years to move mountains, but Jake Burton Carpenter was able to do it in a single lifetime. From snowboarders being chased from the slopes to Olympic gold medals being placed around their necks, Jake led the way and changed winter as we know it. We are forever grateful for his contributions to Vermont and snow sports around the world. My thoughts and sympathy are with his family, friends, community and the entire Burton organization."