On Wednesday afternoon at 3:40 pm, after roughly 20 hours of travel time through eerily uncrowned international airports, four jet-lagged American snowboarders landed in Geneva, Switzerland–Nidecker’s European Vacation was officially underway. The trip was given away to two shop owners who turned in their preseason orders before the brand’s March deadline. Retailer Owners Jimmy DeLong of the Other Side in Vail, Colorado and Tony Smith of Elements Board Shop in Missoula, Montana were the recipients and somehow TransWorld Media’s Justin Cobb and myself were lucky enough to be called along to document the trip.
Starting in Geneva the plan was to spend the night in the area, before heading to the Nidecker factory further up the lake the following day. Meeting up with our appointed guide, Export Manager Lionel “Ritchie” Magnan we got checked into a hotel and rolled downtown for the evening. But as we soon found out, roll is kind of an understated driving description with Lionel behind the wheel. It was apparent almost immediately that near misses, weaving, and close proximity to cliffs would be the standard for the trip. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
After a somewhat restful night of sleep, we all met up with Lionel again at breakfast. The first order of business was a short tour of the factory just 20 minutes outside of Geneva before heading up to the mountains later in the afternoon. As the last independent snowboard factory in Europe, Nidecker’s headquarters is quite impressive. In what looked like the typical Swiss chalet with a very atypical minimalist concrete and aluminum-designed addition on the back, the compound houses the brands corporate offices, warehouse, and high-end factory. Overall the company employs about 45 people at the office and factory. In addition to the tour, DeLong and Smith met with President Henri Nidecker and each of the key people in the marketing, product, and graphic departments. In each meeting the pair offered their opinions on the brand and its U.S. positioning–Nidecker was stoked on the input.
Later in the afternoon we headed up into the mountains for a short riding session with Board Product Manager Teva Tschan, Technical Product Tester Mark Bazu, and a few of the local engineering students who have been working with the brand for the last five years to test product on a regular basis. The vibe was fun–super mellow and slushy but a good warm up for the days to come. With four more days on snow ahead, this story is just getting started. Stay tuned for daily updates from Switzerland on transworldsnowboarding.com.