In the Factory with Johan Olofsson

I recently ran into Johan Olofsson at the Venture Snowboards factory–his new board sponsor–in Silverton, CO where I interrupted some very important prototype work to ask the man some questions. Johan’s still in the game and riding strong–here’s what the legendary Swede had to say:

How did the relationship with Venture come about?

It actually started up in Haines (AK) a few years ago when I was on a splitboard trip for Deeper. I didn’t own a splitboard so a buddy of mine sent me some and I rode them for the trip. When I went back to Sweden and Norway and was doing some splitboarding back there, I called Venture up to see, you know, see what was going on and get some more boards. Then we started to talk, and that’s how it all started.

Have you ever gotten this hands-on before in a snowboard factory?

This is pretty close to being really involved in it, where with Burton it was a bigger deal. It’s really hard to get in, it’s like a 6 month deal to do any changes. It’s a big ordeal.

Going back to Deeper, when you guys were stuck in the tents for like 7 or 8 days did any thoughts of cannibalism come up?

Hah , no, we were good. We had food. We were running a little bit short for a while, but once you’re out there, even if it’s a snowstorm, it kinda wears on you a little bit a few hours per day, so you at least got to get out, maybe do that one run or whatever. It gets to you after a while if you stress like that, but it worked out good.

Being ‘old’ in snowboard terms myself, I’m pretty familiar with your early career, but I did a google search on you anyway because I don’t keep up much with the industry these days. Did you know that the Smithsonian Museum’s website has your AK footage from TB5 listed as #8 on their top 10 list of “Snowboarding’s Greatest Moments?”

Well no I didn’t know that. That’s cool. That AK footage and everything that happened up there went a long way. It’s cool that it’s still recognized. It’s nice. What was #1?

Sherman Poppen’s invention of the Snurfer, I think. But #9 was Terje’s boycott of the Olympics. I wanted to ask you about where you stood on that back then, because I know a lot of people (myself included) looked at the Olympics as something that wasn’t good for snowboarding. Looking back to that period of time, it seemed like to the turning point, which I think you put best in another interview, when snowboarding went from being “Rock ‘n’ Roll” to “Latte’s and Laptops.”

I did a lot of competing in World Cup half pipe and big airs, Innsbruck Big Air, but it came to that point when the Ski Federation got snowboarding into the Olympics, I think it was really good that Haakon said no. I kinda always wanted to get out of it. I never liked competing. I was maybe ranked like top 10 in the pipe tour.

That (Terje) said no was great, but a lot of people stayed in it. They got an easy ticket because they were starting to ride the FIS tour and it all went to pretty much bullshit. I don’t know, for me I quit competing (in) the World Cup as well at that time, but it was more because I wanted to get back into riding mountains or just riding whatever, not just riding a pipe or a built kicker. But yeah, they got it and I hope they’re happy.

I’m glad I was a part of those early days where I thought it was pretty cool, but it’s a lesson you learn how easy it is to lose the pride of the sport, the foundation of the sport. All of a sudden someone comes in and buys you and they’ve bought the soul of the sport. Nobody knows about that when they watch the Olympics. With the Olympics all of the sports reporters, back in all the countries, they can be involved in snowboarding. Before that they were just like “What the hell is going on? What is this snowboarding? This is not a sport! But oh yeah, Olympics…” now that’s something they can report on.

You know what I thought was total crap, and I just thought about this, was when uh, what the hell’s her name? Oh yeah, Lindsay Jacobellis, when she blew her Olympic boardercross run because she butt-checked her method off the last jump. She caught so much crap for that, like she failed her country, and I thought that was lame.

I’m sure most snowboarders would think that they are not part of a nationalistic sport ‘cause all those years growing up as a snowboarder everyone was against you. You had to fight for your space on the slopes and the resort, couldn’t ride this, couldn’t do that, then all of the sudden everybody wants to be in it. I don’t know, somehow I think there’s a lot of people that should have stayed in the cross country tracks who started snowboarding, cause, you know, once the Olympics started rolling they were the happiest ones, collecting helmet sponsors or whatever. But that’s what happened. It was the best thing that Haakon said no. If he would have not said no then nobody would’ve thought that it would’ve been a wrong thing, so hands-down to Haakon for sure.

So what do you have planned for this winter?

This winter I am going to try and ride as much as possible. I left everything open. Just heading up to Canada. Ride, shoot, film, that usually works itself out naturally these days so I try not to make too many plans so you can roll with the conditions and how the season goes.

Are you filming with any of the major film companies this year?

Not that I know of, but I’m sure I will run into some people as the season rolls by, and if not, it’s all good. My goal this year is to ride as much as possible. Knock on wood. We’ll see.

Johan, thanks for your time. So those prototype boards you were working on earlier, is it cool if we take them outside and run them over some rocks?

Yeah sure, that’s what they were made for. We got some handrails set up; break them in a bit.

Hey kiddies, “what’s the big deal” you ask?” 1996. Johan’s opening part in TB5. That’s the big deal.



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