Burton officially opened their new R&D facility in Vermont. "Craig's" named after the late snowboarding icon Craig Kelly, marks Burton's largest and most modern R&D facility to date. The plant can create about 2,000 one-off decks a year.
"We needed a way to stay on top of it," says Burton, "and this was clearly the way to do it." What's great about the facility is that it pays homage to one of snowboarding's most formative riders. Craig Kelly didn't just push the riding side of the sport, he was a legit engineer as well, and brought just as much zeal to his relationship developing products with long-time sponsor Burton as did to perfecting his snowboarding game.
"The guy was such a perfectionist in his riding and everything that he did. He could get the perfect snowboard, and then ... make it better," says Burton. "It just dawned on me one day, this [facility] is what Craig was all about."
"Prototype" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a first full-scale and usually functional form of a new type or design of a construction." Fittingly, it's also defined as "an original model on which something is patterned." Together, you get the perfect description of Kelly: an individual that was constantly refining his riding and his product designs, ultimately building a legend that would define professional snowboarding for generations to come.
Kelly's influence lead to a whole new "team-driven" paradigm of design and marketing for Burton.
"I was making all the aesthetic and functional decisions on my own," Burton recalls. There was one board graphic in particular where Kelly's input changed the process: "Craig tried not to hurt my feelings, but he conveyed to me that this was the ugliest s--- he had seen and nobody would buy it. And it sunk in that -- wow, it's easier listening to other people instead of making all these decisions myself. I went in that direction, and I think that had a lot to do with the success of the brand."
The new 10,000 square foot R&D facility, located just across the parking lot from Burton's Burlington headquarters, also features an archive room that shows the history of gear progression, from Burton-branded hiking boots and primitive, essentially binding-less boards, up to the latest high-tech products.