As a press person working in the snowboard industry, the lines between work and fun are often blurred. This fact is present everyday while on a business trips, because they often include snowboarding, a fun activity. However, regardless of the activities taking place, the trip’s purpose remains the same: to gain an inside perspective of a company. The information learned is then spread on to the rest of the snowboard industry and snowboard consumers who may not receive the same opportunity to get an inside look at a company, its team, or its headquarters and factories.
My Atomic trip lasted three days and the final day began with a tour of the Atomic factory. It’s huge, consisting of about four buildings merged together into one large complex. What amazed me the most from the outside of the building, was its setting. Built in the small town of Altenmarkt outside of Salzburg, the factory wasn’t an eyesore to the valley. Unlike factories in the U.S., the Atomic facility did not have a huge fence surrounding the complex, and basically just sits in the field of this beautiful valley. Security issues are obviously not the same in Austria as they are in the United States.
Atomic recently completed the construction of its new storage/shipping/packaging facility in May, and the technologies used to keep things organized were rather impressive. Computers keep track of unused space in the facility, and assign it to goods dependant upon size. Therefore, while many other companies run out of space in an attempt to keep snowboards, boots, and bindings in one area, and ski equipment and parts in another, the computer system at Atomic always efficiently uses the space.
Additional unique aspects of the Atomic factory included its wood core bending machine and its board-finishing robot, “Sepp.” All of the boards made in the factory use a full-length woodcore that is pre-bent before the molding process. After the boards are molded, they go to Sepp, who does the work of four finishers, first sawing off the overhang of the board, then polishing each edge. After this the boards are final-finished with a stone grinder.
At the conclusion of the factory tour, during a discussion of Atomic’s goal as a brand, Chris O’Donoghue explained the company position: “The goal of Atomic Snowboards is to really drop back into Atomic’s heritage¿producing great quality decks, lightweight, and high-performance oriented¿towards the market that really is the driving force. On the ski side it’s racing. That’s where their (Atomic’s) heritage is coming out of. The snowboard evolution is definitely in the freestyle scene.”
The factory tour lasted for about three hours and passed on some great information about Atomic¿but you can’t work all day, so we finished the day like tourists taking in Austria’s impressive sights. First we walked forever to get to the world’s largest ice cave, the Eisriesenwelt, only to find out we had to climb another 1,400 stairs on the tour. After the cave, we cruised to Salzburg to waltz around and then concluded our trip with a great Austrian meal in the city.