Has Burton snowboards gone too far with risque design? | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Has Burton snowboards gone too far with risque design?

The snowboard designs have been banned from several resorts

Jeremy Evans

Snowboard images courtesy of BurtonBurton Snowboards' new line of Love boards feature images of nude Playboy models.

Ski resorts won’t allow their employees to use them at work. Parents are speaking out against them. Vermont residents are protesting and want the company to pull them off the market.

 So the question looms: Did Burton Snowboards go too far with its Love and Primo boards, which feature designs of naked Playboy models and self-mutilation?

 Seven ski resorts across the country, including Heavenly, certainly think Burton did.

 Vermont’s Smugglers Notch and Sugarbush and Vail Resorts’ five properties ” Heavenly, Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone ” are prohibiting employees from using these boards while they’re on duty.

 “Employees are prohibited from using or displaying any equipment or gear that is inappropriate, offensive or suggestive, as deemed by the company, while on duty at our resorts,” said Heavenly spokesman Russ Pecoraro. “Employees are not permitted to store or display inappropriate, offensive, suggestive equipment or gear in locker rooms or any other facility or space related to their line of work. This includes, but is not limited to, the Burton Love and Primo snowboard lines.”

Resort officials, though, aren’t the only people incensed at the risque snowboards. Parents and snowboard shops have also taken a stand against the industry’s largest manufacturer.

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Last week, more than 100 community members protested outside Burton Snowboards headquarters in Burlington, Vt., calling for the company to pull the boards from the market. Despite the protests, Burton stands behind its product.

“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 toward women in any way,” Burton CEO Laurent Potdevin said in a statement.

The Burton Love series shows vintage Playboy photos, but the women’s nipples and genitals have been covered or cropped.

“It’s pretty much semi-porn in the public eye,” Eagle-Vail mother Susan Farrell told the Vail (Colo.) Daily. “If people buy a Playboy, they typically go to their bathroom or their bedroom. They don’t sit in the middle of town square to view it.”

In addition to suggestive images on the Burton Love boards, parents are also concerned about the cartoonish pictures of self-mutilation on the Burton Primo boards. One image shows a person cutting their own finger off with scissors.

“Truthfully, it’s not so much the nudity that bothers me as the gore and the revolting,” mother Jennie Fancher told the Vail Daily. “Especially when things like Columbine happen, do you really want to bring such darkness into teenage boys’ lives? It just seems wrong.”

According to the Vail Daily, the company created the snowboards at the request of two of Burton’s professional snowboarders.

“The imagery on the boards is tastefully done, and we believe that they will be collector’s items,” the statement from The Info@Burton Team said. “The snowboards will be fully wrapped with an 18+ age disclaimer to purchase.”

Burton, however, isn’t the first ski or snowboard company to use controversial graphics on its products.

In 2003, Rossignol introduced skis that featured the silhouette of a naked woman and Sims Snowboards partnered with adult film company Vivid to produce boards featuring naked porn stars Jenna Jameson and Briana Banks. And Rome Snowboards has an Artifact line that features the words “Live Nude Girls” and “Bend Over Babes” on the bases.

Nevertheless, Lake Tahoe snowboard shops are divided over Burton’s controversial designs. Bob Daly, owner of South Shore-based Shoreline Ski and Sports, won’t carry the products.

“There’s a lot of ways to make money in this world, but selling pornography to children is not the way I want to make my money,” Daly said. “I believe in the freedoms of America, but I don’t think I need to make money on everything they offer in the industry.

“Down-and-dirty graphics have happened before with start-up companies trying to make a name for themselves and get on the radar with some shock graphic. But for the biggest company out there to go down and dirty is ridiculous. They already have the majority of the market share, so I don’t know what market they are going after.”

John Chapman, owner of Porters in Tahoe City, offers the boards in his store. He defends the boards’ artistic talent and argues they follow in line with snowboarding’s ethic.

“We’re definitely a one-stop, full-family service shop and are sympathetic to parents who would object to having their kids see these in the stores,” Chapman said. “Because of that, we don’t display the boards, and you must be 18 to purchase one. On the flip side, though, snowboarding has always been a counter-culture, individualistic sport that allows riders to express themselves in what they wear and what gear they ride.

“These very tastefully done works of art are less offensive than any PG-13 movie, or even a Victoria’s Secret catalog. As for the Primo, the same analogy could apply to seeing scary movies, horror PG-13 movies or any episode of South Park. In my humble opinion, there are far more pressing matters in the world today to focus your energy on then protesting the same amount of skin you would see on any beach in Tahoe in the summer.”

Originally published in the October 31, 2008 issue of the Tahoe Daily Tribune and regularly vetted for accuracy.