Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Co-founders John Moran and Grant Spencer are rethinking snowboards with innovative technology that allows for an adjustable shape.
Proteus Snowboards has introduced a patented mechanism that allows riders to change their camber and rocker to meet their needs throughout the day. These Colorado-made, all-terrain snowboards can morph on the fly for ice or powder.
"We've modeled it to basically give you the most extreme camber and the most extreme rocker profile that we think you would ever want," explains Moran. "Then you kind of set it exactly where you want, because we don't want to lock people into four different shapes."
That allows the rider to dial it in throughout the day. "A lot of times, I'm continually just doing adjustments throughout the day as the trails get a little choppier and people keep tracking things out," says Moran.
For example, the rider can start the day off with more of a rocker on the board for powder. As the day progresses and the snow gets harder or icier, they can use a small wrench to adjust it so that it has more of a cambered profile to carve on that terrain.
Moran, an engineer, came up with the idea while working on developing first-class airline seats in California. "I wanted to create a product for the outdoor space, something that I could relate to and actually enjoy," he says. "Eventually, I settled on the idea of snowboard that can change shape, and I knew that that would be a really difficult thing to do, but if I could pull it off it would be kind of the product that I was searching for."
Moran first went local makerspace and made a prototype. "It was a very rough mockup, but once I got that to work, I knew that I could probably make it into a snowboard," he explains.
After Moran patented his design both for snowboards and skis, he moved to Colorado in 2017 and enlisted the help of another engineer, Grant Spencer, as a co-founder. "Grant is also an avid snowboarder with an engineering and manufacturing background," Moran says.
The duo went to work designing and refining the board and CNC-centric manufacturing processes in Moran's garage. Since they were small shop building a new type of snowboard, they had to come up with unique manufacturing techniques to make custom parts and fixtures. Notes Moran: "That's something that we also can't outsource because it is new."
"Everything's made in-house in Colorado," adds Spencer. "Since we do have limited space and limited people, we've had to automate a lot of our processes and that requires a lot of automation, so we actually either build a lot of our own equipment or we take off-the-shelf [products] like bandsaws and actually modify it to get it to produce the results that we want.
"Over the course of a few seasons, we are able to take a cool concept that was applied to a mediocre board and progressed into a top-tier product that we're actually happy to put our name behind," Moran says.
They beta-tested the boards with family and friends in 2018 and launched their site around the end of the year. To help introduce people to Proteus Snowboards, the company has worked with FlowState Marketing and started doing on-snow demos at Loveland Ski Area, and have more planned for this season.
"This is the first season where I've been riding around on of my boards and I'll actually have somebody recognize it which is great. That means that we're getting that awareness," Moran says. The awareness, he observes, is the first phase of adoption. The next phase is to have people that can vouch for it after riding it.
The team doesn't anticipate selling the product to stores or stockpiling boards at this point. "We want to be pushing that innovation so that when it comes time for an order, everybody is getting the absolute best," Moran says. It allows them to offer the newest innovations on each new board he contends. "We don't want to just be, you know, having boards that sit around that are just slightly dated."
Proteus currently offers 11 different board profiles. "We try to hit a whole range that fits the majority of people, everything from 148 to 165," says Spencer. "For 157 to 165 boards, we have wide versions available."
Since the boards are made to order and delivered within three weeks, custom art isn't a problem; there isn't even an upcharge.
Moran says he would be happy for Proteus to produce about 100 boards during the 2019-20 season. "But also we want to make sure that we keep pushing our technologies," he says.
Looking ahead, the team doesn't anticipate selling or licensing the technology. Moran says he is concerned that another company might not make it with enough care and attention to detail. However, he anticipates that the company could work with a ski manufacturer in the future to perfect the technology for skis.
Challenges: Price is a challenge, as the boards start at about $600. The company's message: A Proteus snowboard will take the place of every board in your quiver, so it's worth it.
Opportunities: "Our biggest opportunity right now is just to get people on our board." says Moran. "We want to further connect with our consumer. We're the only true all-terrain snowboard out there, and we think that once people hear about it, once they actually see it at work and feel the difference, they'll know that it's unlike any other snowboard product."
Needs: "Growing that awareness to get that revenue in" says Spencer. "And then from there it's going to be manpower. That will help expand sales, and then we'll hopefully expand to a bigger space."