Any "Love" for Burton: Controversial Snowboard Hits the Slopes

Ron KnabenbauerCorrespondent INovember 12, 2008

With the opening of many ski resorts across the nation the past two months, the ski and snowboard season seems to be well underway. However, don’t be surprised this season when you’re carving down the slopes to be passed by a few naked women.

The naked women of course are four Playboy bunnies on the Burton snowboard series, Love, with one woman on each of the four different sizes that the board comes in (152 cm, 155 cm, 158 cm, and 162 cm).

The board which is intended for riders to mostly use in park and freestyle terrain was part of a collaboration with Playboy and designed by the request of two of the company’s professional snowboarders, 18-year-old Mikkel Bang and 19-year-old Keegan Valaika.

Boulder Freeride IT Director, Nathan Minatta, a 21-year-old junior film studies major at CU said he doesn’t have a problem with the board, and likes how the company chose vintage Playboy models as its graphic.

“I like the choice of the older playboy models,” Minatta said. “It’s fine with me, plus the bindings cover most of the graphic anyways and the nipples are photo-shopped out.”

Love has already caused quite the 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.

Though members of the Vail Resorts communication department were unable to be contacted to comment, CU sophomore Christian Rhiel, a 20-year-old Psychology major and a member of CUST (CU’s Snowboard Team), plans on working part time at Vail this winter and said he was told he was not allowed to ride the Love or wear anything that might be offensive when on duty.

“[Vail] told me when I’m instructing or on duty that I’m not allowed to wear anything inappropriate,” Rhiel said. “I think employees are banned from using two boards, the Love and the Primo.”

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.

Amanda Hankison, a 19-year-old sophomore studio art and pre-journalism major at CU and membership director for the Boulder Freeride said she doesn’t like the board, but not because of the graphics.

“I don’t like it because people will just want to ride it because it has a naked girl on it, not because they want to use it for park or anything else,” Hankison said.

Though many students at CU don’t have a problem with the graphics on the snowboards, others across the United States do with many groups protesting the Love, including one protest in front of the Burton headquarters in Burlington, Vt on Oct. 23.

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.”

Potdevin’s statement also said that Burton was not breaking any laws and they don’t encourage violence towards women with the production of Love.

“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.

Burton’s Love is not the first snowboard to depict a naked woman as the image on a board, with the Sims Fader depicting naked porn stars Jenna Jameson and Briana Banks for its image starting with its 2003 model.

For Minatta, the controversy of the Love is that it’s the farthest a snowboard company has gone showing a naked woman on a board.

“This isn’t the first time a naked woman has been depicted on a snowboard,” Minatta said. “It’s just the farthest someone has gone with it, but it is still not that far.”

Though the four Love boards don’t show any nipples or anything else that Playboy has come to be known for, the controversy is what will happen when a child sees a naked woman on a snowboard.

Rhiel said he doesn’t mind the graphics but would feel weird if a kid saw him riding the board.

“I don’t have a problem with it, but I would feel awkward if there was a young kid who didn’t understand it,” Rhiel said.

Though it seems like the board won’t have an effect on many young people’s view of Burton, it has with many parents as the Burlington based company has received hundreds of letters and phone calls from parents voicing their displeasure of the board.

“Burton’s image will have an effect on some parents,” Minatta said. “But for me, the graphic is the last thing I look at when I pick a board.”

For many, the Love is great for its riding abilities, while others dislike it because of the graphics. Either way, the images of the snowboard have definitely sparked controversy.

Controversy Rhiel said that was probably what Burton was intending.

“It was creative marketing because they knew they would make controversy,” Rhiel said. “Controversy creates attention and attention sells boards.”