Jake Burton Carpenter, founder of the Burton snowboarding company and widely considered as the founding father of the snowboarding industry and lifestyle, passed away Wednesday evening in Burlington, Vermont, from testicular cancer complications, according to a company spokesperson.
He was 65 years old.
Burton, who went by his middle name, founded his company from his Londonderry, Vermont, barn in 1977, with 300 snowboards sold the first year.
As his company grew, Burton became a spokesperson for the sport, which by the 1980’s had joined skiing as a recognized winter sports competition.
His company, headquartered in Burlington, has expanded into snow sports apparel and accessories and has a global reach with more than 900 employees.
As a teenager, he had “snurfed” on a Snurfer toy, which did not have bindings and had a rope tied to the front of the board for the snurfer to hold onto. Burton became a devotee with an eye towards creating something different and bigger.
“From that time on, I felt like it could be a sport, but it wasn’t a sport for the company that was manufacturing it,” said Burton in an interview with Business People-Vermont in 2000. “They were selling it like it was the Hula Hoop or something.”
Burton helped organize the first U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship in 1982 at Suicide Six resort in Vermont. The sport reached the Olympics in 1998 at Nagano, Japan.
Burton, who lived in Stowe, was an inductee in the US National Ski and Snowboard, Vermont and Colorado Hall of Fames.
In 1995, Burton and Donna Carpenter, his wife and co-CEO of the company, began the “Chill” Foundation, aimed at using board sports as an outlet for underprivileged and at-risk youth. The program, which began in Burlington, Vt., has expanded to 13 other locations in U.S. and Canada, including Boston.
In a letter to his employees on Nov. 9, Burton announced that his cancer had returned: “The odds are in my favor, but it is going to be a struggle for sure. As much as I dread what is facing me, it’s easier to deal with when you know that you have a family that will carry on. I feel the same way about my company, my friends and our sport. I will be back, but regardless, everything is in good hands which is an amazing feeling when entering this zone of uncertainty.”
Company co-CEO John Lacy announced Burton’s passing in an email to employees Thursday morning, writing “This all happened very suddenly, and it’s a tremendous loss for his family, his friends and all of you.”
Lacy suggested employees, who were gathering at the Burlington headquarters at noon, could also find another way to honor Burton.
“As a start of our celebration of Jake’s life, I’d encourage everyone to do what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that’s riding. It’s opening day at Stowe, so consider taking some turns together, in celebration of Jake.”
Burton and his wife have three children, George, 30, Taylor, 26 and Timi, 23.
More photos of Burton and his company through the years: