MINTURN - Barry Weston Clark has a way with wood.
He grew up in the forests of Montesano, a timber town on the Pacific coast in Washington, where the trees are old and large. The area is home to loggers who have a respect for the timberland they work in, and that upbringing fostered a love for wood and timber products in Clark.
"And not just what's made from wood but the trees themselves," he said. "There was a cedar tree across the street from us that was 8 feet around. I pulled green chain at a veneer mill as a kid and just really love wood."
These days, Clark has a home in Minturn, but he owns a business in Denver. He's married with two kids and is working on relocating his family here full time. In the mean time, he does a lot of commuting.
For a guy who loves trees as much as Clark, that repeat drive back and forth is like a devout Hindu taking a job at a cattle slaughterhouse. On both of sides of him, for hours, are the once-green victims of the pine beetle that is claiming forests all across the American West.
"I make the drive through the tunnel twice a week, and it bums me out," he said. "It saddens me for my boys Zac and Colton, who are 10 and 12. I can't imagine seeing an old growth forest in Colorado restored in my lifetime, and I don't even think it'll happen for them in their lifetime. I think that perhaps it's part of what happens in nature, but I'm bummed to be a part of this part of that cycle in nature. I love to be in the woods, and I like heavy forests."
At his home in Minturn, Clark sees the logging happening across the street on Meadow Mountain and Tigiwon Road.
"Seeing those log trucks and all that wood coming out of the forests just makes you think we gotta find a way to do something with this stuff," he said.
However, "Pine is just not high-quality wood," he said. "It's hard to make good lumber out of it for building."
But then he thought about another one of his passions.
An avid snowboarder since 1984 and a backcountry enthusiast, Clark is a wood-core man through and through.
He's familiar with honeycomb, intrigued by bamboo, but he is infinitely loyal to wood as a core material in the snowboards he purchases, as you can only expect.
Somewhere between shredding powder, becoming saddened by beetle kill and generally loving wood, he had an idea.
He shared his idea with
some industry-vetted snowboard builders, and they went to work.
"We took a bunch of strands of beetle-kill wood and we milled it to the proper width and thickness, and then we glued strands of poplar wood and beetle-kill pine together and we used them for a core," Clark said. "It didn't have much structure because the pine is just not strong wood, but we added a maple top-sheet, and that really created the perfect scenario because a rocker board often has a lot of chatter, and the maple top-sheet enabled us to avoid that chatter. So we created a light board with a wood top-sheet, really beautiful."
And now he's in business in Minturn.
He's got a cool shop right by Minturn's "mean turn" on Main Street, with a facade made of Wyoming snowfence wood on the outside and a lot of really cool backcountry products on the inside.
He wants to become a leading backcountry supplier in the area and doesn't plan on distributing his boards to other shops. But he might make an exception at the backcountry outfits.
"If they don't sell beacons, probes and backcountry gear, they probably won't be a Weston Snowboards dealer," he said.
If he's successful here, eventually he may try to expand to Jackson or Telluride.
But he has a great love for the town of Minturn and wants to create a loyal following in the Vail Valley, and he has a key edge against his competitors that just may allow him to do it - a four-year warranty on manufacturer defects.
"And de-lamination is a manufacturer defect," Clark said decisively, in reference to a common problem other snowboards encounter where the base separates from the board itself after a few years on the snow.
"Boards should not come de-laminated," Clark said. "If it happens to you, first of all, you're going to have to ship it back somewhere, and if they do decide they're gonna do something about it - which, we've found (other companies) are not very good about that - you're still out of a board during the process. With us, any time from the day you got it for four years, you can bring that board into Weston Snowboards in Minturn and we will give you a brand new board that day as a loaner, and we'll either fix your board or if we can't fix it, we'll give you a new board."
Graphics for a good cause
Along the way, Clark also figured out a few tricks in applying artwork to wood.
"The printer that we have in the factory enables us to print right on a wood veneer," he said. "It's been trial and error, which I think is the best way to learn, and it's really been a fun process."
Weston Snowboard is fully equipped to provide custom graphics; recently they made a Man of the Cliff-themed board to benefit First Descents, local celebrity Ryan Sutter's favorite charity. Sutter then asked Clark to give musician Brett Dennen a custom-graphic board at Sutter's wife's, Trista, birthday party. The always-charitable Sutter doesn't limit the gift giving to his wife alone on her birthday.
"We presented it to (Dennen) at Trista's birthday party," Clark said. "It was a lot of fun."
He still has the Man of the Cliff boards for sale in his shop. It's a beautiful board, and the graphics give it terrific local appeal. It costs $399, and if you buy it, that money goes to First Descents. Founded locally by kayaker Brad Ludden, First Descents provides life-changing outdoor experiences for young adults with cancer.
"What really excites my family and me is the ability to help nonprofits," Clark said. "When you bring a snowboard to an auction and it's a First Descents board or an SOS board, that's a pretty meaningful way to support a nonprofit."
Weston Snowboards also has their beetle-kill all-mountain rocker available for $599 (local's discount not included), and they're getting ready to debut a splitboard. See more at westonsnowboards.com or visit Clark and company at 106 Main Street in Minturn.