Racy Snowboards Spur Protests, Boycotts

One image shows a blond woman, wearing sunglasses, a pouty look and nothing else. Another graphic features a woman smiling, wearing a baseball hat and her birthday suit. These eye-catching images aren't from the pages of Playboy; instead they can be found on some of the season's hottest snowboards from the Burton company.

But the sexy images have spurred protests; some ski shops have refused to sell the boards and several ski resorts, including Vail, have refused to allow employees to ride them on their mountains.

"I couldn't believe it," said Lezlee Sprenger, 47, of Essex, Vt. "I came across these boards and there were depictions of violence and naked women."

Sprenger lives in the heart of ski country and her 14-year-old daughter, 6-year-old son and husband snowboard. Every year Sprenger visits the Web site for the Burlington, Vt.-based Burton Snowboard Co. to check out the latest equipment and gear. What she found this year shocked her. "It was just disgusting," she said.

The designs are part of the new limited-edition Coalition collection, sold only by premiere snowboard retailers around the country. The Love line features images of naked Playboy models and the Primo line consists of a series of drawings depicting a man cutting off his bloody fingers.

Graphics that adorn snowboards are a vital part of snowboarding culture and marketing. Bold colors and outrageous designs are part of the look that attracts millions of young kids to the sport every year.

Culture or no culture, Sprenger believes the boards are offensive. She fired off a letter and organized a protest march outside the company's headquarters, drawing a crowd of about 150 people Oct. 23.

News of the icy reaction to the snowboard line has become a hot topic in the boarding community.

Kelly Vance, editor of an online snowboarding magazine for women called Shred Betties, said her feelings about the images are mixed.

"There's been stuff that's been worse. I think female snowboarders are just a little bit jaded by now. ? So we're not too concerned," said Vance.

While she thinks the images are definitely disrespectful toward women, Vance adds that the Burton company has done a lot for female boarders.

"They were one of the first companies to come out with specific products for women. They really flaunt their female boarding team. So in some ways they're really supportive," said Vance.

Vance also noted that what attracts young kids often repels their parents. "What better way to sell the boards than to get a bunch of mothers and families upset by something."

And this certainly isn't the first time snowboards and suggestive images have gone together. In 2003, Sims Snowboards teamed up with the porn company Vivid Videos to create a line of boards featuring pictures of a naked Jenna Jameson and other porn stars.

And boards currently sold by Vermont-based Rome Snowboards feature the words "Live Nude Girls" and "Bend Over Babes." But the Burton company is a behemoth in the industry so its designs attract notice.

On the Transworld Snowboarding Magazine Web site, the Burton Love Series received a short, positive write-up that said the "mellow flex and a midwide shape" should make for a "sweet park board."

But the comments were less complimentary. BoardChick wrote: "Why do they have to have naked women on them. Shame on Burton." And "If your board rocks it shouldn't need porn on it," wrote WakeGirl05.

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