By Alicia Cunningham | May 16, 2017
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City
Industry: Lifestyle & Consumer
Nitsch loves one thing more than snowboarding: helping women be confident about exploring the great outdoors.
"Back in 2013, I was working on a business plan to bring more women into the sport of mountain biking," she says. "There was interest, but the idea was not taking off. I met Alister Horn, owner of Chimera, and he wanted to make a push into women's craft snowboards. We started talking, and I decided to parlay my interest in getting women outside on mountain bikes into getting women outside on snowboards. It's really the same idea, just different seasons."
Nitsch, 32, has working in varying aspects of the snowboarding industry since she was 19. "I started in the front line of ski resorts and snowboard shops and have worked my way to marketing and branding for ski resorts and outdoor companies," she says. "I have a strong understanding of snowboarding not only as a participant but also as an employee of the industry."
As a manufacturer, Nitsch is excited by what she's seeing in the industry. "There's a big demand for craftsmanship," she says, "and building high performance products, especially for women. When you look at the participation and number of women snowboarding compared to the options they have, it is quite embarrassing to see what's existed in the market for female snowboarders. It's reinforced a stereotype: that women are not into not being strong snowboarders."
Nitsch is excited to deliver the right equipment for women to chase their passion, their hobby, or their dream. "For too long, the industry hasn’t understood women," she adds.
The tagline of Pallas Snowboards -- "Snowboards for women made by women" -- is intentional. Nitsch knows women shop differently than men, and she wants to create an emotional response to her product. "Emotion is going to work better than a tech-heavy product spiel," she explains. "The female consumer buys nearly everything differently. We have to recognize that and position ourselves differently."
Not that she isn't ready to provide a tech-heavy product spiel. "We start with an aspen core," Nitsch says. "This makes the board strong and lightweight. We keep to a traditional manufacturing process, with fiberglass sandwiched on top of the core, and a topsheet and base on the outside. But we use a proprietary Buhmper edge on our splitboards, whereas the rest of the market is still using steel edges. No one else is doing that. That's what's interesting about small businesses. We can innovate. We are not limited as we craft our products. And since we are small-batch manufacturing, we can experiment, we can test different things out."
Having a lightweight board is crucial in catering to women, Nitsch adds. "While we are lightweight, we are also hard-charging. Often, women have had to choose one over the other. We found the best mix of the two. We design for women from the ground up."
For example, Nitsch says that when women snowboard, they carry their weight further back on their back foot. "We realized that," Nitsch says, "and we built a board that takes the pressure off of that back foot and allows for a smoother ride."
Today, Pallas Snowboards are available online, but Nitsch is making changes to get her product into shops. "It's essential," she adds. "We need to be in the stores if we want to support women on a larger level."
Challenges: The learning curve. "It's both exciting and scary," Nitsch says. "Keeping ideas fresh and growing is exciting but being on the bottom of the supply chain in receiving materials is frustrating."
Opportunities: A growing market. Nitsch organizes clinics to get more women on more snowboards. "There was a lot of support from last season's clinics and we want to use that to continue to grow," she says. "Seeing women become more confident in this sport is inspiring. It keeps me going."
Needs: Smart growth. Nitsch wants to stay boutique but feels pressure internally and externally to grow bigger and faster, noting, "Our decisions, partnerships, and collaborations have been very calculated." When she was starting out, she says she was told to not let anyone pressure her into growing quicker than she could. "I thought that was really smart," says Nitsch. "I hang onto those words quite a lot."