Snowboarder Pros Take Advantage Of Fashion Trends

snoboarderThanks to the increased exposure of televised events like the X-Games, The Vans Triple Crown of Snowboarding, the U.S. Open of Snowboarding Championships and the Goodwill Games, pro snowboarders are becoming more well known.

Add the prolific snowboard-video-game market, where kids get to play an electronic version of their favorite extreme athlete, as well as the large number of underground snowboard movies released featuring these stars and the result is a huge demand for snowboard products and pro-athlete paraphernalia.

By no means are women excluded from this phenomenon. According to SnowSports Industries America, the nonprofit trade association representing the ski, snowboard and other winter outdoor industries, among the growing trends are professionally endorsed boards, technical freestyle boards and offerings for the women’s equipment category.

Last year, world-class professional snowboarders Cara-Beth Burnside, Leslee Olson, Roberta Rodger, Janna Meyen and Tomo Yamakoshi came together for a concept that would push their sport forward, while at the same time ignite a growing industry.

It started in August 2000, when Olson, the only snowboarder, male or female, who competed in all four disciplines at Winter X 2000 and the only female to compete in all four again at the Winter X Games in 2001, began telling a few of her professional snowboarder friends about her idea to create a progressive, female-only snowboarding team.

She enlisted fellow athletes such as Burnside from Orange, Calif., a top female boarder who went to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, as part of the American Snowboarding Team and was a first-place winner at the 1998 X-Games; Rodger of North Vancouver, Canada, who has made a name for herself in the snowboarding world as a well-rounded progressive rider; Meyen of Torrance, Calif., who left Burton to join Olson, and Japanese snowboarder Yamakoshi.

Two months after telling her colleagues of the idea, Olson was able to put the plan further into action. She pitched the idea to the Yoshida Group, a multi-tiered company with such brands as M3 Snowboards, Premier Snowskates and Yoshida Gourmet Sauces. The company was immediately receptive to the idea and requested that all five riders fly to Portland, Ore., to discuss the details. By the end of the meeting, the team walked out with their dream realized: a female-only snowboarding team that would push its own snowboard brand called Chorus.

“My dream was to ride with a team of people that I could really be stoked about, friends that would push each other and encourage each other to go further,” said Olson. “Now, rather than being one girl on a team of guys, I’m riding with an awesome team of girls that inspire and care for one another.”

The girls chose a name that best symbolized their mission.

“It was a name that we liked from the get-go,” said Meyen. “Every time we narrowed the list down, Chorus was the name we came up with. It has meaning to it. [In Latin, it means] allied forces, team or troops.”

With a daunting task ahead of them, the girls met with snowboard designers and graphic artists to begin to articulate their vision. The concept behind the product is to build snowboards with women in mind and offer customized flex and shape with a strong focus on freestyle performance.

“It’s driven by us,” added Olson. “It’s everything we know about boards and we make them better.”

“This is not a girlie company and we won’t have feminine graphics on our boards. That’s not what we’re about,” said Dodger. “We want to make progressive boards that are narrow with more flex for girls. But guys want to ride our boards, too, and that’s super cool.”

According to Georell Bracelin, brand manager for Chorus, the boards accommodate a wide variety of riders and styles, while endorsed by the entire Chorus team.

“Each girl chose a word that best describes their philosophy — respect, strength, confidence, grace and determination,” she said. “Then they worked with a graphic artist to reflect the word that is on the board.”

Although each rider worked with an artist to design a graphic to suit her personality, Chorus boards are not signature models. The team worked closely together to test, ride and collaborate on designs for the entire line.

“We launched with five boards, which come in different sizes,” said Bracelin, noting that the boards were shown at SIA, NSIA and ISPO in Munich. “Coincidentally, each girl rides a different sized board.”

Chorus offers snowboards in five lengths, from 142 cm to 157 cm, which retail for $399. Chorus currently has 150 dealers internationally, including Mountain & Surf in Sacramento, Calif.; Sports Odyssey in Ludlow, Vt.; Axis in Brookfield, Conn.; Island Snow in Kailua, Hawaii, and Big Deal in Phoenix. Chorus’s largest snowboard competitor is Burton, with other competition including men’s brands Sims, Forum and Ride.

The brand has done so well that Chorus will soon expand into apparel and other related accessories. Chorus would then compete with junior brands like Roxy.

“The apparel won’t launch until next season,” Bracelin said. “There’s a demand for it. Since Chorus launched, we’ve gotten tons of response for soft goods. There’s a desire from the team to offer a line that is not so feminine or girlie. A lot of the women snowboarders are riding men’s products and wearing men’s clothes. We want to offer cool, hip and trendy sportswear that’s not in a tiny, tiny size and pastel colors.”

Bracelin said the Chorus junior line would launch with a small offering of outerwear, sweatshirts, T-shirts, caps and accessories. The target consumer will be an active female between ages of 12 to 35, who is looking for alternative, trendy, urban streetwear.

“It will be for both on and off the mountains,” she said. “It will be done in-house. We also see the possibility of eventually doing footwear and jewelry.”

As for the Chorus founders’ apparel association, Bracelin said, “Right now, some of the team riders have street apparel sponsors. We’ll cross that line when we get into it.”

According to Bracelin, Chorus’s biggest challenge is making sure the image is correct. The company plans to market its Chorus brand by advertising in publications such as Transworld Snowboarding, Snowboarder and Snowboard Canada, as well as the creation of an amateur team, through its sponsorship of Boarding for Breast Cancer, the All Girl Board Jam — a traveling snow-surf-skateboard competition for girls, and the High Cascade Snowboard Camp in Mount Hood, Ore.

The team will travel and compete in contests worldwide. Coincidentally, Olson and Meyen have upcoming video games, which Chorus will be able to do cobranding opportunities with in addition to its licensing deal with Tech Deck to create Chorus snowboard toys.

“We are doing the first mini Chorus Tech Decks,” Bracelin said. “We’ve timed it so they come out with the PlayStation releases.”

Burnside said Chorus will produce point-of-purchase postcards and posters and run ads in magazines showing the team in action.

“More girls will begin to see this and the exposure will be good,” she said. “And I think it’s good for boys to grow up seeing girls do these types of sports, too, and not think girls can’t do the same things.”

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