Racy Snowboards Spur Protests, Boycotts

Travis Mclain, 29, and the owner of Radio Boardshop in Aspen, Colo., has had the boards in stock for a few weeks. Mclain first saw the boards at a trade show and thinks they've been "toned down since then."

Mclain said the images are comparable to something you might see on "primetime television or an R-rated movie." And, he adds, he never considered not stocking the boards because of the racy content.

"I never even really questioned it. I didn't think it would create such drama," said Mclain.

The drama hasn't escaped the notice of the large ski resorts as they gear up for the beginning of another ski season.

In fact several large resort areas have crafted policies to ban the boards at least for their employees.

Vail Resorts -- the owner of five major ski areas including Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge in Colorado -- will not allow its "employees to use skis or snowboards while on duty or in uniforms, which contain inappropriate, offensive, suggestive or derogatory pictures or statements, " according to representative Kelly Ladyga.

At Killington Resort in Vermont, company spokesman Tom Horrocks also said employees will not be allowed to "use any equipment deemed offensive to our guests while on duty."

However, all the resort owners agree that there's not much they can do if a ticket-buying boarder shows up at the mountain carrying one of the Burton Love boards.

Burton bills itself as the "world's largest snowboarding company." It's certainly the best known. Jake Burton Carpenter started the business in a small garage in Vermont in the mid-'70s.

He created the contemporary snowboard by designing a slightly different surface to an existing sled toy called a snurfer. Since then, the Burton company has grown into a multimillion-dollar concern with offices worldwide and it's as much of a Vermont success story as Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

The company has refused to meet with protesters and has had little to say about the controversy except to issue a written statement that reads, in part, "the Burton Coalition line and the Playboy limited edition snowboards were created at the request of two of Burton's professional snowboarders."

"Both Burton and Playboy were founded on principles of individual freedom and the collaboration has resulted in boards that reflect this attitude. The image on the boards is tastefully done. ? The snowboards will be fully wrapped with an 18+age disclaimer to purchase," the statement reads.

Of course, the problem for Lezlee Sprenger and others is that the boards won't be fully wrapped on the slopes, leaving parents to contemplate the prospect of their tween staring at a nearly naked Playboy centerfold.

Karen Tronsgard-Scott, the director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, also attended the protest in Burlington last week.

Tronsgard-Scott believes Burton's refusal to talk to its critics is disheartening.

"You know snowboarding is a really edgy sport. It's built on being edgy. Snowboarding is supposed to stick it to the man. But Burton is a multimillion-dollar company. They are the man. They have a lot of power and influence. ? This feels like 'David and Goliath' a little bit."

Still, Sprenger isn't disheartened. She believes the protest she started from her home computer is taking root; she can list the ski resorts that have taken action.

"Smuggler's Notch, Sugarbush, Killington. We've also heard that a really big ski outfitter in the West won't carry the boards now so it's cross-country. Our little voices here in Burlington, Vt., we're having an effect."

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