With heavy hearts, we learned of the passing of Jake Burton Carpenter this morning. Just ten days ago, we heard that his cancer had returned, but there was hope for recovery. Ten days later, the global snowboard community is in mourning.
Since he began making bindingless pow surfers out of a barn in Londonderry, VT in 1977, Jake dedicated his life to his love for sliding on snow, and he never relented. Along with his wife, Donna, and the many talented team members at Burton Snowboards, Jake and the company fought for mainstream acceptance of snowboarding at ski resorts. They built unprecedented programs for children, beginners, and underprivileged youth, and gave many of our sport’s icons the platform they needed to move snowboarding forward. Indeed, no person did more for snowboarding than Jake. And he loved it more than anyone as well.
This was on display when the Burton US Open moved to Vail, CO in 2013. Despite the weight of the decision to uproot the contest and move it west, Jake and the crew knew it would mean better conditions for the riders. And on the day of slopestyle finals, despite all the responsibilities that came with the premiere event in snowboarding, Jake rallied a crew of a dozen folks to take advantage of new-fallen snow. I was lucky enough to be among them.
Jake led us down a backcountry run off the backside of the mountain that ends at the town of Minturn, 20 minutes down the road. The snow was knee deep, playful. There was a moment where Jake was leading me and Todd Kohlman, Burton’s archivist, through widely spaced aspens, throwing spray. We were close enough to each other that you could see his smile. He wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to ride powder with friends, even with the gravity of the US Open pulling him in.
That is the moment that sticks with me when I think of Jake. A snowboarder first and always. A pioneer committed to sharing his love of the sport at every opportunity. And as we say goodbye to his time on earth, his love for snowboarding will live on with every turn we make, because without Jake, snowboarding wouldn’t be what it is today: a simple act that builds community, culture, friendship and camaraderie that lasts a lifetime.
Today, our love goes out to the Burton Carpenter family—to Donna, George, Taylor and Timi. It also goes out to the extended family at Burton Snowboards and all whose lives he has touched—we feel your pain. For every turn we make, we ride with Jake.