This story originally appeared in the October 2014 Issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding and has been updated with photos. Subscribe here.
Like all worthy quests, this one started in pursuit of a sword. Terje's sword board, that is--a 1994 Burton Haakon Air signature pro model with the iconic wooden dagger splayed along the cherry red base.
"I hadn't thought about that board in years, but images of it were still engrained in my mind," says 35-year oldDave Martin from Castlegar, BC, Canada. "My best friend and I would watch Terje in Mack Dawg's Upping the Ante four times in a night before going riding the next day. When I saw it on my local classifieds, I immediately felt that stoke again."
Soon after, Martin started the Facebook group Vintage Snowboard Traders, a resource for riders wanting to reminisce about their most memorable childhood boards and, in some cases, track them down. Since 2011, VST has grown to just over 4,250 members. They share ads for old snowboards they find online, pick them up locally for each other, and they even organized their first vintage board swap at Baldface Lodge just outside of Nelson, BC last December.
"Having this group of guys who really covet these memories and speak the same language on message boards is cool and special," says Baldface owner Jeff Pensiero.
Old pros have taken an interest in this cult as well. A lot of pro snowboarders were paid so little in the '90s that they'd resort to selling their own boards and gear to make rent. Now they get stoked on tracking down and collecting their old rides. It's not uncommon for guys like Chuck Barfoot, Terry Kidwell, and Chad Otterstrom to be on the group's page answering specific questions about board designs. Even the late Tom Sims was a participant.
But as demand for these classics continues to rise, prices are following suit. Martin has owned as many as 130 boards at a time, but he suspects a few collectors have quivers numbering in the thousands and the supply is growing scarce. Some early wooden boards like a 1977 Burton prototype have sold for as much as $31,313.13 on eBay to collectors with deep pockets. But despite a handful of these high bidders, there's still no real way to determine how much an old used snowboard is actually worth.
Dennis Nazari owns Salty Peaks snowboard shop in Salt Lake City, where he curates a museum of over 1,000 boards and offers an appraisal service. Nazari has seen a lot of shady deals go down on eBay with artificial price inflation and even fake boards. "New collectors are a breeding ground for scammers," he
says. "Some guys are making fakes and roughing them up to look like originals." Anyone claiming to have a mint condition snowboard from 30 years ago should be treated with extra scrutiny, since that's a red flag for reproduction.
While rich dudes in Jackson and Switzerland snatch up rare boards for their collections to hang above a fireplace, hidden gems still surface all the time. "You have just as good a chance of finding a [Burton] Rippey in a thrift store," says Pensiero. "That's the cool part about it."
The magic of vintage snowboards is less about rarity and more about the collector's personal connection. Like a familiar smell, the simple graphics of an old board can evoke distinct memories, whether that's a video part or magazine cover or a poster still hanging on your childhood bedroom door. Jeff Patterson, longtime snowboard photographer and a collector who has acquired 80 boards so far, is more excited to find boards from the '90s--when he actually rode them. "Most guys want to collect from later eras that they relate to," he says.
"Some could care less about older boards." After all, the stories behind these snowboards mean just as much as the boards themselves.