Like any company that produces events, Burton Snowboards was forced to creatively reapproach their contest landscape in the wake of Covid. What ultimately paused the famed Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships birthed a new concept that’s inherent mission aimed to support grassroots snowboarding, an ode to the origins of the US Open back in 1982. As Burton announces their 20 international stops for the 2022 Mystery Series, we sat down with George Burton Carpenter to discuss where the event came from, where it’s headed, and perhaps most excitingly, the role it hopes to play in creating more affordable municipal snowboard parks across the world.
Stan Leveille: Well, I'm excited to talk about the Mystery Tour, it's been an evolving idea coming in the wake of Covid. In the wake of a lot of things. Ice-breaker question: Did you name it Mystery Series because you didn't know what it was at first?
George Burton Carpenter: Haha, let’s break the ice. We chose the name Mystery Series because it’s a concept that resonates around the globe. The word ‘Mystery’ in English translates really well into most languages. It's part of the mystique and the love of snowboarding, right? Mystery. Some of the mysterious pow days or showing up to a new place and finding unexpected spots to ride. That resonates with us all as snowboarders.
The goal from the beginning of the “Mystery Series” was to ask ourselves - what does snowboarding need? We had some time to reflect. We listened to our community, our pro riders, and developed events which resonated with different aspects of snowboarding… all at a grassroots level. Also, because it’s snowboarding, there is inherently a mystery of showing up to ride.
No deathly gap jumps? 22 foot pipe walls? got it.
Death gaps and 22- foot pipe walls are sick! Haha. Burton will always support next-level snowboarding. We’re hyped. I’d love to shout out all of our rider’s films and contest results. We’ll always back that. But that’s not the focus of the Mystery Series. These events have a focus on inclusivity. We want everyone to feel welcome and be able to push their own personal limits.
The US Open did not happen in 2021, and it was loosely understood that this new Mystery Series was “replacing” the US Open. I wanted to get into that.
The year of Covid, we had time to discuss what was happening with the US Open. The US Open in 2020 was an amazing tribute to my Dad. If you watch Dear Rider, it was one of the integral parts of the film. That US Open really felt like a collective public honoring of my Dad’s legacy, community, and the love that he created. And Covid hit right after that. We first heard it would all blow over in two weeks and then it became very uncertain. And with the size and scale of the US Open, we had to make a decision in May. Are we going to risk it and maybe have to cancel this thing? Waste time, money, and resources? Or are we just going to call it now? So we called it seven months ahead of time. We didn't announce it immediately, but we had to do that because we had to let the contractors, everyone involved, even outside of Burton, know what was happening. And with that break, we had the time to evaluate.
Covid opened up the opportunity for all of us, not just as a brand, but as individuals, to really evaluate everything going on in our lives and reflect on how it fits into the bigger picture. We sat down with our pro riders and talked about the evolution of the US Open. But we really ended up moving towards a blank slate and we asked ourselves, “If we are going to imagine a Burton contest series, what does that look like?”
Right. That was my impression. The Mystery Tour came from a rethinking of the US Open budget during a time when large scale events were not possible.
For sure. And we had the time to reflect. What was the magic of the US Open? The Open has done more for snowboarding than anything else. And we’re super proud of that at Burton. The Open legitimized professional snowboarding and our culture.
We look back at the aspects of the US Open that can’t be replicated. Originally, it represented a chance for new riders to be seen, to make a space for themselves in the competitive landscape. It accomplished that. And now the path to becoming a pro snowboarder is different. With the internet, riders are able to make a name for themselves in a plethora of ways. And being the best contest rider doesn’t mean you’re going to be the highest paid snowboarder. This is the direction we’re seeing with art in general… it’s more about engaging with your community.
There are large scale events that are pushing professional snowboarding and our culture forward. Events like the Natural Selection, Peace Park, and the Laax Open. And Burton will continue to support those events.
But for our own produced events, we brought it back to the grassroots. And the Mystery Series stop we did in Minneapolis last year felt right. Not just for the people that were there, but for all of snowboarding. We held the event at a public snowboard park. The event was inclusive of all levels, ages, and abilities. It also had the space for pro riders to show up and inspire the next generation of kids. There was a 6-year-old hiking a hip alongside Zeb and the crew. That was so sick.
Tell me more about why the Minneapolis event last year felt right?
The Minneapolis event was at Theodore Wirth Park, which is a city-owned park in Minneapolis. We partnered with Melanin in Motion run by Anthony Taylor. It's a public space where lift tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $15.
We’re seeing all these trends in the world that make it harder to go snowboarding. So there's really a major gap we needed to address. I'm very inspired, as a lot of us are, by the scene in the Midwest. Rope tows, small hills… you don't need a big space to have a good time and create a community for snowboarding. We build a bank slalom, we build a hip, we have a down tube right next to a flat box, and it’s a great day for the whole family!
So this is about helping create a new generation of Grassroots events in accessible places.
Yes! Accessible places like Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Not just financially accessible, but also close to urban centers/communities. Bring snowboarding to where people are at. And also, we’re focusing on accessibility for the new generation of snowboarders. We’re in an exciting time in snowboarding. This is the first time we’re welcoming in a second generation of young shredders into the world of snowboarding. Having parents who are riders, show up with their kids, and all having fun together… that’s super special. Banked slaloms and all-level park features create that shared space where we can all belong to the community and thrive together.
What are some other current spots that also seem to represent what the Mystery Tour is going for?
The Ruby Hill stop on February 11th in Denver is a big one! Ruby Hill is in the middle of the city, it’s owned by the city of Denver, and operated by Winter Park. Ruby Hill was the first municipal snowboard park in the US. It was founded by a guy named Bob Holme, who is spearheading more public parks at Alterra.
The Mystery Series is an effective way to show city councils, parks and rec departments, public and private foundations, why this is an important and effective way to create community, which local governments are taking more and more seriously. Burton’s pushing the energy of public snowboard parks by having Mystery Series events in these spaces.
In just over a month on December 17th, we’re doing a stop in Saskatoon that Mark McMorris and his foundation are heavily involved with. Same thing, it's in public space. You can have a great time on a small hill if you have proper park features and proper turning features. And we're going to use this as a launching point to create more. Stay tuned… you’ll be seeing a lot more Alterra + Burton partnerships in city municipalities in the next five to ten years.
And as we unpack the kind of cool and nuanced layers of the Mystery Tour, where I also do think it's worth mentioning, Burton is still supporting the major competitive snowboarding events that align with the brand.
Burton has two roles when it comes to events. We produce events and we sponsor events. We are putting more support behind the Natural Selection than any other snowboard brand. And the same thing with Peace Park. Both events are completely rider driven, which is good for snowboarding. Travis Rice is running the show with Natural Selection. Danny Davis is running the show with Peace Park. We'll continue to support those events financially and with our resources.
With this Mystery Series, we can bring the spirit of snowboarding back to the people. The Mystery Series is really going to bring the spirit of snowboarding to where people are. We're also focusing on places like Big Snow in New Jersey, which isn’t a public snowboard park, but it is very accessible to people who live in New York City.
So how does a rider who wants to ride in the banked slalom, or hit a hip with Zeb or Danny–– how does a rider find out more about this?
Head to the Mystery Series event page on Burton.com and you can sign up for events now. We'll also be promoting them on social media as they come up, so stay tuned.
Is there anything that we've missed?
Yeah, I just want to call out two things. In the US there's an opportunity for local leaders to help create more public snowboard parks. I was talking to a friend, Levi Gunzberg, who is working with the town of Brattleboro, Vermont to create a public snowboard park. We’re currently not doing a Mystery Series stop there, but Burton will donate some Learn To Ride equipment, and help that project be successful. It takes someone to spearhead these places, and Burton's here to support more of these to combat the trend that snowboarding seems to be going. Let us know if you’re doing one in your town/ city.
The second thing is that no one at Burton is saying that the US Open's going away forever. That's not what we're saying. We're saying that right now, the Mystery Series grassroots events feel really good for snowboarding. It's something that Burton’s stoked on. It's something that the pro riders are stoked on, and it's something that snowboarders are stoked on. The US Open is not going away forever, we're just saying that this is the right strategy for the time and space that we're in. It feels good.
I mean, skate parks were practically nonexistent 45 years ago, and now every town has one. And it would be cool to see these public snowboard parks in every cold town in America - or the world for that matter! We have an amazing community. We can have fun together… all ages in a small space with just some effort and love. Our culture, our community, our lifestyle can thrive in all environments. Our sport, for lack of a better word, is beautiful. And we should celebrate that as much as we can. And be grateful for it, which I always am.