Venture Co-Owner: Lisa Branner

Lisa is the co-founder of Colorado-based Venture Snowboards, which she created with her husband, Klemens in 1999. Lisa heads up the business, marketing and graphics aspects of the company, while her husband is responsible for the technical side, including board design and production. Venture is best known for quality, handcrafted boards, and their strong environmental ethic: The Venture Zephyr (available in a narrow, girl-friendly size) won the Future Snowboard Magazine MVP award for the second year in a row this year, and groundbreaking on a new environmentally friendly factory in Silverton, CO is scheduled for this spring. To check out Venture for yourself, go to their website:  venturesnowboards.com .

What is your role in Venture Snowboards? How did you get involved?
I’m the mom of the mom-and-pop. My husband Klemens and I founded the company in 1999, and we still own and operate Venture today. We’re a pretty small, grassroots company. He heads up board design and manages the production side of things, and I handle public relations, graphic design, marketing, and sales, as well as the day to day operations of the business.

Describe your ideal snowboard. I bet it’s pink with bunnies.
Pink has never been my color! I actually don’t have one ideal snowboard, but try to match my board choice to the conditions on a given day. Most of the time I’m riding an all mountain freeride board that’s long, stiff and somewhat tapered. For me that’s our Zephyr 156 Narrow - it never fails me whether I’m bombing a big line at Silverton Mountain or just playing around on mellower groomed terrain. If I could only have one board this would be it! But on those days where it’s super deep there’s no substitute for a floaty powder specific board. My Euphoria fits the bill here, with a long buttery nose and a ton of stance offset. I can surf all day and barely feel it in my back leg.

You seem to be a big mountain rider. If we forced you to participate in a rail jam, would it be really amusing to watch?
If you find blood and gore amusing, yes. I never have been and probably never will be much of a jibber. I’d rather crank big powder turns than risk my dental work in the park and pipe! : )

Where did you learn to ride?
I skied a little as a teenager on the Ice Coast (I grew up in NY), but my first day ever on a snowboard was at Copper Mountain, CO in November 1994. I spent a lot of time riding at Winter Park and Copper my first few years, until I discovered bottomless powder at Wolf Creek and was drawn to the San Juan Mountains.

Can you tell me a bit about what your company does for the environment? Were you always a tree hugger?
Venture is founded on the idea of building a more sustainable snowboard. It’s the reason we got started, and a deep rooted conservation ethic has always been a part of our company. It’s a difficult proposition and we’re not environmental angels by any means, but we are taking steps in the right direction. Some of the things we do include using sustainably grown and harvested wood for all our cores, reducing and recycling waste where ever possible, and we’ve been powering our factory with wind since 2004. Over the years we’ve experimented with different, lower-impact materials and technologies like water based inks and fabric topsheets (including organic cotton and hemp), and we’re always looking for ways to reduce our impact without compromising quality and performance. We’ll be breaking ground on a new factory this fall, and its design incorporates passive and active solar elements as well as reclaimed and recycled materials. These efforts aren’t a marketing tactic - they’re just part of who we are as snowboarders. I spent a good deal of time romping around in the great outdoors as kid, and I guess it made an impact on me. I want to preserve things for the next generation, and Venture’s focus on sustainability is a reflection of that.

It seems like you get to go to a lot of different places for your job (lucky bitch), is there a resort that you wouldn’t go back to ever, even if they paid you?
I do travel a lot for demos and sales visits through the winter, but all that travel isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Sleeping on mushy hotel beds, lumpy couches, and the occasional floor gets old pretty quick! I can’t think of any one mountain that’s given me a raw deal, but if I were to blacklist any resort it would probably be one of those that got an “F” from the Ski Area Citizens Coalition for their lousy environmental practices. I won’t name names, but you can check out the list for yourself at http://www.skiareacitizens.com and then vote with your dollars!

If you weren’t running Venture what would you be doing?
I’m a total foodie and love to cook, so I’d probably be a pastry chef or open up my own restaurant - using locally grown, organic foods, of course. : )

Your 2008 line is pretty. How did they get so pretty? Are they too pretty for the boys? Good thing you have that manly black one.
I did the graphics for the new lineup, so thanks! I think that the snowflake design is simple enough to be universal and appeal to both men and women. We strive for a clean, classic look with all our graphics for exactly that reason. And you’d be surprised by how many guys like the red one.

How is it being a woman in such a male dominated industry? Are the guys all jerks, or do they just hit on you?
When I’m working demos, sometimes guys will blow me off and assume I don’t know the first thing about snowboard technology. Either that or some will get intimidated. But mostly I think guys are stoked to meet a girl who loves to ride as much as they do and can talk tech with the best of them. And being a woman in this industry really does have an up side - there’s a sense of camaraderie between women that’s sometimes hard to come by in other fields because we share a common passion.

Tell us about Venture’s stance on female-specific products. Do people complain about your philosophy ?
We don’t make women’s products, by choice. For boots or outerwear I think there’s a definite need, but with snowboards there’s really no such thing. In my opinion most women’s boards are watered down versions of men’s boards dressed up with feminine graphics. When choosing a board, if you consider the factors that matter most - height, weight, shoe size, and riding style - then you’ll end up with a great ride. This concept applies to guys with giant feet as much as it does to petite female riders. So what we do instead is to make the same premium quality board in three different waist widths and a variety of lengths, which means that riders of all sizes can find a board that fits them properly. As more women get involved in snowboarding and more dollars flow into women’s specific marketing hype, it’s sometimes tough to swim against the current. But I’ve actually had a lot of women approach me to say how much they appreciate our stance because they’ve had a hard time finding equipment that can withstand the abuses of an aggressive female rider. They’re stoked that our boards can tow the line.

Any demos lined up for this season?
We’ll definitely be hitting the snow pretty hard again this season. It’s all about bringing the boards to the people! I haven’t got the tour schedule nailed down yet, but we’ll most likely be visiting mountains in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. Hopefully we can squeeze in a few in California as well. A detailed schedule will be posted on our website later this fall.

Who do you believe is the most influential woman in snowboarding today?
I think riders like Tina Basich and Victoria Jealouse have done a lot to push the boundaries for women in snowboarding, especially when it comes to big mountain riding. They’ve shown the world that women can take on gnarly terrain with grace and skill. However, the women who inspire me most aren’t the sponsored athletes and they aren’t famous - they’re women like you and me who just get out there and do what they love. It’s exhilarating to ride with other strong women - the energy is totally different and it’s really dynamic and electric. The encouragement you get from a group of your peers is the most influential force out there!

Mittens or gloves?
Definitely gloves. They give you both manual dexterity and warmth, which is key when you’re fiddling with pack straps or splitboard hardware in subzero temperatures.

Any parting words?
Get out there and ride it like you mean it!

Posted by Kelly Vance on 03/17/08



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