Downhill racing was once the glamour image for alpine sports, but freeskiing has definitely overtaken the sport. Some 75,000 pairs of twin-tip skis sold in North America last year, qualifying it as the fastest-growing sector in skiing. While other categories (i.e., race skis) remain flat, twin tips are up 90 percent over the previous season despite an aging skier demographic. Where once the World Cup tour arguably inspired any cutting-edge ski design, these days the concepts are considered limited in scope and application. North America’s market leader in ski manufacturing, K2, doesn’t sponsor a single racer or offer a single race ski in its entire collection.
Many modern day skiers got their start learning to turn a gate, but the action quickly becomes too limited for most accomplished skiers. And of course snowboarders, who comprise about 30 percent of the “skiing” market, generally skip the whole two-ski-thing altogether. World Cup and Olympic events are casually watched by a few, but the Winter X Games and the like are drawing ever-growing crowds. Warren Miller has spawned a whole genre of extreme ski films, with nowhere a downhill race to be seen.
The only old school element may be the graphics on the bottom of a new line of Burton snowboards. Four vintage Playboy bunnies appear on the Burton snowboard series, Love, with one woman on each of the four different sizes which the board is offered.
The board which is intended for riders to mostly use in park and freestyle terrain was part of a Burton collaboration with Playboy, and reportedly, designed by the request of two of the company’s professional snowboarders, 18-year-old Mikkel Bang and 19-year-old Keegan Valaika.
Love has already caused considerable controversy around ski towns from the Appalachians to the Sierra’s on the appropriateness of the board. Vail Resorts, which owns Colorado ski areas of Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, and Heavenly near Lake Tahoe, has prohibited their employees from using the board while on duty.
Primo, Burton’s other controversial series of board’s shows people mutilating their own hands into popular cultural hand signs such as the sign for peace and ok. However, the Primo has received a lot less attention than the Love.
Laurent Potdevin, CEO of the Burton Snowboards said in a statement on Oct. 22 that the graphics on the Love boards support freedom of expression.
“Burton supports freedom of artistic expression,” Potdevin wrote. “Board graphics are artwork, and art can be offensive to some and inspiring to others.”
“We are not breaking any laws by creating these boards, and it is our sincere belief that these graphics do not condone or encourage violence towards women in any way,” Potdevin wrote.
The statement was concluded by saying that the company planned on keeping the boards and had no intentions on recalling them.
This past weekend, company founder Jake Burton responded to protests organized in his home state of Vermont against the boards: “We cater to every demographic, every kind of rider. We have to make products that kids want, and they’re not going to want what their parents want. . . . You’d think we were selling cigarettes.”