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        Boardroom: From Mall Shop Manager To Snowboard Brand Owner, Mason Davey Follows His Own Path

        Boardroom: From Mall Shop Manager To Snowboard Brand Owner, Mason Davey Follows His Own Path

        FROM BACKCOUNTRYMAGAZINE.COM

        BY APRIL 26, 2016

        I first met Mason Davey, co-owner of Weston Snowboards, on a bootpack out to the Jackson Hole backcountry. I happened to be on one of his Backwoods snowboards, testing it during the Jackson Hole PowWow, a powderboard test where board shapers get together and compare notes on unique shapes. It was through our chat on the flanks of a mountain that I learned about Mason’s backstory.

        It immediately spoke to me, as it wasn’t too different from my own. A young gun moves to the big city to do what society really expects him to do—chase money and climb the ladder of success—only to learn that this path is terrible for mental and physical health. We both decided to carve out a different route, mine as a writer, his as a boardmaker.

        Mason Davey at ease in his role with Weston Snowboards.

        What surprised me most about Davey was that prior to joining Weston Snowboards, he had been a manager at an optometrist’s office at a mall in Denver—not exactly what I would call a breeding ground for future backcountry snowboard entrepreneurs. After years of living a dirtbag lifestyle, managing a small optometry shop at the base of Vail Mountain and riding every chance he could, Davey decided it was time to “follow the money” down to Denver, where cost of living was a little cheaper and the pay was much better.

        “I quickly found moving down to Denver that my quality of life was nowhere near what it was up here [in the Vail area],” said Davey. “I put on about 25 pounds, eating mall food and not being physically active like I had been up in the mountains. I just generally found myself unhappy.”

        The one upside of that year and half spent chasing money was that he was able to squirrel away a significant chunk of change, which gave him the opportunity to spend a few months traveling around Europe to figure out what was next. Upon returning the States, he knew he needed to head back into the mountains.

        So after soul searching, he came home and took a $12/hour part-time job with boutique snowboard company Weston Snowboards. “I hadn’t made that little money since I was 16 or 17 years old,” Mason recalled, but he took the job because he wanted to “help take the company to the next level.”

        A common theme in the snowsports industry is that with a good attitude, a hard work ethic and a little entrepreneurial spirit, you can start to make your own path. And that is exactly what Mason did. Within just a couple weeks of grinding away in the shop, he showed his value to the company and was hired on full time. His role at Weston quickly took on a life of its own, and drawing on his background in sales at the optometrist’s shop, he began heading up marketing and sales for Weston. As the company grew, he needed help and brought in his good friend Leo Tsou, whom he fortuitously met on the banks of a river while doing a solo camping mission. They had bonded over several splitboarding missions that winter, and Mason ultimately brought on Leo as his right-hand man.

        Once the previous owner, Barry Clark, moved to California, Mason and Leo took on running the day-to-day operations at Weston Snowboards, and it became clear that they were the heart and soul of the company. Then, just a couple of short months ago, Clark offered to sell them the company.

        From a soul-sucking job in the big city to proud owner of a snowboard company, Mason Davey has achieved the dream of so many.

        “It was a long, hard struggle uphill, but as splitboarders we like to climb mountains,” Davey says. “We obviously enjoy the ride, but you have to enjoy the climb, too.” And that’s what seems to be the key to it all: when you do what you love, you savor the climb just as much as the descent.

        New owner, same backcountry tradition

        MINTURN — Barry Clark started Weston Snowboards with heart, determination, a love of snowboarding and a little bit of beetle kill.

        Many remember the local company’s debut at the 2012 Man of the Cliff event in Red Cliff, where Clark awarded competitors with a simple board the Vail Valley could call its own — classic camber with really cool Red Cliff graphics on top.

        Clark went on to experiment with a variety of different designs and materials (including beetle kill), and along the way he created one of the most attractive storefronts in town and ended up with what he says he can confidently call some of the best boards in the industry.

        Last week, Clark sold the company with its full line of creative and rugged boards, including a splitboard that was rated among the best in the world by Transworld Snowboarding and a WinterWonderGrass 2016 board that once again pays homage to beloved region the company calls home.

        “Between family, other endeavors and no longer living close to the business, I decided it was just time,” Clark said of his decision to sell. “Our goal with Weston has always been to enable people to experience nature in a way that fundamentally changes them, makes them think bigger and makes them wonder how all of this beauty came to be. It’s been an incredible education in the action sports world and one of the greatest rides of my life.”

        In his consideration of whether to keep it going or sell, he said he would not have thought about letting it go had the right candidate not come along at the right time.

        “I was really impressed with Leo Tsuo’s knowledge of backcountry safety and his level of responsibility,” Clark said. “He has a deep love and passion for the sport and will carry on the deep backcountry tradition I’ve started with Weston.”

        LOOKING BACK

        In looking back, Tsuo may think he’s lucky to be alive, but what he was doing never seemed very risky at the time.

        “In hindsight, a lot of the things we did were really stupid when it came to avalanche stuff,” he said of his teenage years. “But we were young and dumb.”

        Tsuo grew up in Golden, and while the mountains were always near, he wasn’t catching first chair on powdery weekends.

        “My family only had enough money to take us out on a ski trip once a season,” he said. “When I was maybe 9 or 10, the first time I ever remember being so stoked that I couldn’t fall asleep was to go skiing.”

        Snowboarding for Tsuo became a backcountry endeavor, mainly for economic reasons.

        “We were in the backcountry a lot because it was free,” he said. “Loveland Pass, Berthoud Pass, that’s where we would go. I remember the first time I really felt the float of powder was on Berthoud Pass. ... That’s when I really fell in love with powder, in the backcountry, in high school.”

        A skateboarder and breakdancer as well as a snowboarder, Tsuo set aside his hobbies for college and career, charging full on into a solar industry startup like it was a fresh line through a steep chute. He didn’t let up for a decade or so.

        “I continued to chase powder through this whole startup,” he said. “Any time I was traveling out to the Pacific I’d stop in Colorado and go ride for a couple of days.”

        He continued competing in breakdancing competitions on the weekends, as well.

        Life was good, but when Tsuo found out his father was dying of cancer, he gave it all up to come back home.

        “Family and passion became my priority,” he said. “And it all came back to Colorado.”

        He began teaching breakdancing classes in Denver, as many as 35 classes per week.

        “It was hard work,” he said.

        Relaxing on a camping trip near State Bridge one weekend, he met Mason Davey. Fast forwarding to today, “I look at it as, essentially, Mason and I are taking over the business,” Tsuo said of Weston. “Who better to take over the shop, than the people who’ve been running it?”

        LOOKING FORWARD

        A few years ago, Davey had a moment when he realized he was rightly suited for a company like Weston.

        A Vail Mountain Rescue volunteer and backcountry enthusiast, he had spent years managing a shop at the base of Vail Mountain, setting his own hours and living the life, before he decided to make a change.

        “You can get caught up, living like the tourists,” he said. “I realized I don’t want to spend all my money in the bar, so I quit drinking. ... I saved up enough money to travel and do a few of the dream activities I saw myself doing as a young man.”

        He never went back to the drink, but he did go back to the grind of hard work here in the Vail Valley, taking on the responsibility of helping a young snowboard company grow in Minturn.

        “I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the couch and I thought, ‘I can do this. I can help take this company to the next level,’” he said.

        After making the change, he was spending a summer camping at State Bridge when he met Tsuo.

        “I got the sense of what type of guy he was — a good guy working with inner city youth in Denver, as in love with the backcountry as I am and getting away when he could,” Davey said of Tsuo. “He called me the next winter, we went sled skiing and built a connection being on the snow together, taking cool lines and trusting each other with our lives in the backcountry.”

        Tsuo started working at Weston when he could and saw what Davey was up to.

        “He was doing everything underneath the sun,” Tsuo said. “Running the shop, making deals, expanding markets, finding new and innovative ways to grow this brand, and was pretty much the face of this brand in the valley here for the last three seasons.”

        They have a solid staff in place, with Ben Hilley working full time and local halfpipe snowboarder Rakai Tait about to ride his Weston board in the world’s most exclusive competition for juniors, the Youth Olympic Games in Norway.

        Now charged with setting the company’s direction into the future, Davey and Tsuo intend to look at where they’ve been in the past.

        “Being in a couple accidents, knowing people who have had their close friends die in avalanches, getting caught in an avalanche ... I realized that people shouldn’t get into the backcountry like this,” Tsuo said. “It’s too easy to get into the backcountry the way that people do. You go to Loveland Pass, there’s nobody telling you if you hike up this way and cross this line, you could die. There’s something in our exploratory nature to make us want to seek that out, but I just realized that I had a passion inside me not just for riding but for trying to educate.”

        Davey said as long as the company continues to sell equipment that helps people get into the backcountry, they intend to follow through and do their best to ensure those people have the proper training to use it safely.

        “Really, if there’s going to be any new direction for us at Weston, it’s going to be all about follow through,” he said. “That much, we owe.”

        Written By

        John Laconte
        jlaconte@vaildaily.com

        Splitboard race coming to Vermont

        Bolton Valley resort in Vermont will host a 24-hour backcountry ski and splitboard race on March 19-20, 2016.
        From BoltonValley.com:
        Participants will compete for the most overall laps in a 24-hour (or 12-hour) period. Randonnée (alpine touring/skimo racers), tele skiers, and splitboarders are welcome to test their endurance.
        The 24-hour race will start at 12 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, 2016, and will finish at 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, 2016.  
        The 12-hour race will start at the same time, but will finish at midnight (12:00 AM) on Sunday, March 20.
        Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers in each of the following categories:
        Skimo/AT/Tele Skiers
        24-Hour Men's Individual
        24-Hour Women's Individual
        12-Hour Men's Individual
        12-Hour Women's Individual
        24-Hour 4-person Relay Team
        24-Hour 2-person Relay Team
        12-Hour 4-person Relay Team
        12-Hour 2-Person Relay Team
        24-Hour 4-Person MIXED Ski/Splitboard Relay Team
        Splitboarders
        24-Hour Men's Individual
        24-Hour Women's Individual
        12-Hour Men's Individual
        12-Hour Women's Individual
        24-Hour 4-person Relay Team
        24-Hour 2-person Relay Team
        12-Hour 4-person Relay Team
        12-Hour 2-Person Relay Team
        24-Hour 4-Person MIXED Ski/Splitboard Relay Team

        2016 Freeride World Tour underway

        The pinnacle of all backcountry big mountain competitive circuits, The Freeride World Tour got underway Jan 23-24, 2016, in Andorra with Sascha Hamm and Estelle Baley taking top honors for the snowboarders and Kristofer Turdell and Jaclyn Paaso winning the skier’s portion of the big mountain competition.
        Here’s the remaining Freeride World Tour calendar:
        Chamonix Mont Blanc, France, February 6, 2016

        The legendary alpine playground with a rich history of alpinism and freeride will once again welcome competitors to the Mont Blanc massif. With stunning vistas in every direction and a population of hardcore mountain enthusiasts, Chamonix is guaranteed to deliver an exciting event.
        Fieberbrunn Kitzbüheler Alpen, Austria, March 6, 2016

        Anyone who has been to the Austrian Alps knows that mountain culture runs deep in the Tyrolean Pillerseetal valley. Fantastic terrain combined with a legendary event village and warm welcome from the local community is a treat for athletes and spectators alike.
        Haines, Alaska, USA, March 17, 2016

        Descending the impossibly steep and aesthetic terrain of the Alaskan mountain is every freerider’s dream. This dream becomes reality in one of the most unique venues in freeride history. Take a ride on the wild side as riders push their limits on the most revered lines in the world, far from any ski resort or chairlift.
        Verbier, Switzerland, April 2, 2016

        For over 20 years competitors have given their most astounding performances during the Xtreme Verbier. It’s a place where legends are made and broken on the most committing and infamous venue of the tour: the Bec des Rosses. The intimidatingly exposed pyramid-shaped peak has long challenged top riders to face their fears and put everything on line to the seek the glory of victory on the definitive grand finale of the tour.

        Weston Snowboards in Lillehammer, Norway, for the 2016 Youth Olympic Games

        Weston Team rider Rakai Tait has earned an exclusive invite to the 2016 Youth Olympic Games, an elite-level event at which only one athlete per discipline per country per gender is allowed to compete. Tait will compete for his father’s native country of New Zealand where Tait has citizenship.

         

        From The Vail Daily newspaper:
        The Youth Olympic Games take place in Norway Feb. 12-21, 2016, in many of the same venues that were used in the 1994 Olympic Games. Dubbed the greatest innovation of the International Olympic Committee since the Winter Olympics were launched in 1924, the Youth Olympic Games this year will be complete with an Olympic Village, part of a more than $10 million dollar investment from the International Olympic Committee.
        Rakai Tait moved to Eagle a couple of seasons ago.
        “My family moved us here so we could focus more on snowboarding,” he said. “My parents have been so supportive of me and my brother, getting us out here so we could train on 22-foot superpipes and all the opportunity the Vail area has to offer.”
        Now a full-on local, Tait is sponsored by Minturn-based Weston Snowboards, and will be flying high out of the Oslo halfpipe on a Weston.
        “We’re really excited for him,” Weston owner Barry Clark said. “He’s a good kid with a lot of talent.”