Hometown decks boost out of Breck superpipe
December 14, 2005
BRECKENRIDGE – You would think renowned freestyle snowboarder Tommy Czeschin – winner of last year’s Breckenridge Grand Prix – would have a slew of deck makers offering up their latest models for him to ride. After all, some of the best publicity a board manufacturer can get is a photo of a world-class rider like Czeschin boosting way out of the halfpipe, effortlessly grabbing a rail, and showing off a brand name on the rig’s underside in the process.But at this year’s Grand Prix, Czeschin rode into the finals on an off-the-shelf, beat-up stock demo board from Unity Snowboards, made right here in Summit County, in Silverthorne. “(That board’s) got probably 10 days of demos on it,” explains Pete Wurster, owner of the six-employee Unity Snowboards outfit. “I even took it out, chewed it up a bit, and bam, he’s in the finals riding it. He’ll probably get top-five on it.”Czeschin ended up in 16th, but his deck dilemma this week proved a great chance for Wurster’s smallish, hometown company to get a bit of free publicity with one of the big names in town riding a Unity deck.”He was in a bind, and we helped him out, and luckily it worked out really well for me, too,” Wurster said.Despite the company’s size, Wurster’s Unity Snowboards is making inroads with some of snowboarding’s top riders, and that has helped the 10-year business grow year after year.
Unity cranks out an estimated 2,000 handmade decks every year out of its diminutive manufacturing shop in Silverthorne. The company has resellers around the world (though most of Unity’s retail business is still focused in Colorado, Wurster says), but marketing efforts – both formal and informal -have led the company’s growth over the years.”Marketing in this business is huge. There’s a million ways you can spend way too much money, way too quick,” Wurster said.Unity places a number of ads in leading snowboarding magazines, which has proven to be the best way to get some good name recognition among the tight-knit snowriding crowd.But it was some recent unsolicited publicity that Wurster says made a real difference in getting the Unity name out there. For the past two years, Unity decks have made TransWorld SNOWboarding’s Top 10 Good Wood board test list – an accolade that rings true with the magazine’s thousands of impressionable readers.”That really helped us out a lot. We had been growing a lot, but when we hit that (list), the business really got pumped up. And it’s been growing ever since,” Wurster said.Attracting top riders to the Unity line is an obvious extension of that marketing effort; the company’s top name rider, veteran U.S. Snowboard Team member Luke Wynen, took 20th Wednesday.
“Luke is our main guy and he’s been riding with us for three years now. And he’s been really doing great,” Wurster said. “He’s been my top rider, and we’ve been running a bunch of ads featuring him, which really gets the board name out there.”Unity also has landed Abe Teter, the eldest member of the famed Teter riding clan. After years riding the pro circuit and as a veteran of the snowboard sponsor wars (Teter most recently rode for Palmer for three years, and Burton for seven years prior), he is stoked to be riding for a smaller-tier company like Unity.”It’s definitely more low-key. Riding for someone like Burton … can be super-hectic and super-stressful at times,” Teter said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of pressure riding for big companies like that. With a small company, it’s more down-to-earth, more homestyle.”Don’t expect Wurster and Unity to outgrow Silverthorne any time soon, though. Despite a higher cost of living, and higher operations expenses on the business end, running a snowboard business from Summit is just the right match for what Wurster would like to accomplish with Unity.”I think it’s probably the perfect place to do what I’m doing, because of the fact that like 10 percent of all lift tickets sold in the U.S. are sold here and at Vail. There’s obviously a huge amount of riding here, and a really long season, and that’s great for business,” he said.”And as far as product testing, we can press a board in the morning and ride it that same day.”
Today, you can find Unity boards locally at Mountain Sports Outlet, The Underground in Breckenridge, and Colorado Ski and Golf stores along the Front Range, among other retailers. Wurster hopes to have more of a retail presence in California and the East Coast going forward, but he’s also amped with how sales are going across the globe. The company has distributors in Japan and Switzerland, and Wurster says one of his highest growth areas is – surprisingly – Russia.”Russia right now is really big for us, and I’m not totally sure why that is,” he said.Whatever direction the business grows, Wurster is in it for the long haul.”It’s a total labor of love for sure. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s something that I’ve been doing since I was 12 – so I’ve been riding for almost 20 years,” he said. “Being in business with something that you love … that’s the dream.”Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at email@example.com.
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