The late Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of Burton Snowboards, was passionate about the power of customization. For years, he noticed that riders tended to tweak their gear to meet their specific needs. Taking a cue from the community, Burton invested in R&D to build out the field of adaptive snowboarding—creating innovative gear that adapts to individuals’ abilities and needs to make snowboarding more inclusive.
As part of this commitment, Burton teamed up with Microsoft to design new gear for aspiring amateur rider Holly Palmer, who was born with achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder that prevents the changing of cartilage into bone. While a passionate rider for the last eight years, Holly found that her gear didn’t meet her specific needs and limited her progress on the slopes.
Snowboarding has brought fun and freedom to my life.Holly Palmer, Amateur Adaptive Snowboarder
Collaboration on and off the mountain
During several Microsoft Teams calls, the Burton engineers were introduced to Holly’s riding experience, what aspects of her gear needed changing, and Holly’s immense enthusiasm for snowboarding. The to-do list quickly grew and the Burton team got to work. Not only did they use Teams to communicate across the globe, but they also collaborated on new designs, shared updated files of prototypes, and quickly found solutions when something wasn’t working for Holly.
Innovation has no limits
Maggie Leon, Associate Innovative Prototyping Engineer for Burton, looks for opportunities to make snowboarding easier for all by rethinking how inline products and equipment are designed:
“A personal goal of mine is to help eliminate as many compromises that adaptive riders have to make.”
After talking with Holly and Tim McGough, Program Manager at Telluride Adaptive where Holly has ridden in the past, Maggie was able to better understand Holly’s specific needs on the slopes. Using digital tools on her Microsoft Surface, Maggie designed a custom board that would take away many of Holly’s pain points.
These improvements included stiffening the board from underfoot out to the tip and tail, optimizing the torsional flex, and implementing Burton’s channel system to let Holly find the stance positioning that works best for her. “I was beyond stoked to show Holly the board that we designed for her,” says Maggie. “The look on her face said it all.”
The Perfect Fit
A snowboard is not the only tool that a rider needs to hit the slopes. Kyle Smith and Burton’s soft goods team wanted to make sure Holly’s kit was the best fit possible. “Because of her proportions, there is a good amount of stack-up around her lower legs and forearm that do not allow her to move as freely when strapping in and riding,” says Kyle.
To collect more data on Holly’s specific measurements, Burton partnered with MPort to conduct a virtual scan of Holly’s body. The thousands of data points enabled Burton to create a virtual avatar that Kyle used to design the garments.
The collective team is exclusively designing on Microsoft Surface devices, making adjustments using the touchscreen capabilities and the Surface Pen to optimize designs with precision ink, then output to 3D.
With the new gear empowering Holly to snowboard with less assistance, she’s setting her sights on new goals and experiences. “My next goal would be to make it down a beginner’s slope by myself in my home country. I’ve never snowboarded in Australia as I have always needed such expert help,” Holly says.
Inclusivity for all riders
Riding isn’t just a sport, it’s an attitude, a mindset, and a culture that’s represented on and off the mountain with adaptive world-class snowboarders, like Kiana Clay. Kiana suffered a life-changing motorcross accident, receiving a diagnosis of full paralysis in her dominant right arm.
The injury has pushed Kiana to continue on with her passion of riding, personifying the Burton philosophy of accessibility, adjustability, and durability.
Kiana Clay, adaptive snowboarder
Kiana now competes in adaptive snowboarding, surfing, and motocross, and hopes to qualify for the US Paralympic team.
Since her accident, Kiana has fully adapted to the one-handed lifestyle. She's learned how to write and draw again, as well as play Xbox with her feet, put her hair up with a doorknob, and live everyday life as anyone else would.
“Binding up my boots has always been a struggle and slowed me down in the mornings," says Kiana. "I used to have to use my teeth to tighten my inner boot, but Burton came up with a much more efficient and faster system for me.”
I now have gear that is designed and works for me. It has opened up a world of opportunity.Holly Palmer
Burton and Microsoft are working together to empower people to achieve more by building a rewarding, collaborative, high-performance community. The data and insights that Kiana and Holly bring to the project will form the foundation to build a snowboarding community that’s more inclusive of all abilities.
It’s an ambitious goal—and one that’s as rewarding for the engineers as it is for the riders.