Snowboards, with their metal edges, wood/fibreglass/plastic sandwiches and funky profiles certainly aren’t the most straightforward products to manufacture and it’s more or less common knowledge that the lion’s share of the world’s boards are constructed in a few key factories around the world. Traditionally, snowboards have been produced in a handful of factories in the US and Europe (Austria most notably) but recently, more and more brands are choosing affordability over heritage by moving their manufacture to China or Taiwan.
In March of this year, the snowboard manufacturing world had a bit of a shock when Elan’s OEM factory declared bankruptcy. The factory had been running for over 25 years and was responsible for Arbor, Bataleon, Capita, Dinosaurs Will Die, Lobster, and Rome snowboards. When it closed, the brands were left in search of a new manufacturing home.
The Yeah For It! Distribution brands Bataleon and Lobster have since moved to the SBF factory in China where their Switchback Bindings are constructed, while the huge GST factory in Austria (already responsible for DC, Stepchild, Flow, Niche, Drake, Jones and Yes) will be taking on Rome, Capita and APO.
In perhaps the most interesting move of the bunch, Arbor have taken their manufacturing to a city in the middle of a desert – setting up camp in the new SWS snowboard factory located in… wait for it… Dubai! Started by two former Elan factory employees with a lot of experience working for both Option and Elan, George Cant and John Colvin, the new factory is a partner with Solico, who produce the vast majority of the world’s wakeboards and kiteboards. While the factory has many advantages in the sense that Dubai is a truly international hub with some of the world’s largest ports and airports, one glaringly obvious concern springs to mind: where on earth will they test their new prototypes?
The answer, according to Cant and Colvin is Dubai’s mahoosive snowdome, located just 20 minutes from the factory. It’s hardly the Alps but it does have 5 slopes of varying steepness and difficulty and the world’s first indoor black run (which doesn’t really look all that steep to us)…
With it’s Coruscant-esque skyline, extravagant hotels, dusty backdrop and fondness for camels, it certainly takes a bit of a stretch of the imagination to visualise snowboards being made in Dubai – even if they do have a humungous snow dome on their doorstep. Nevertheless, Arbor and the guys running the new factory are confident that the move is a good one. Bob Carlson had this to say in a recent interview with Boardsport Source:
SWS’s strength provides Arbor with the confidence we need to re-focus 100-percent on our design, marketing, and sales efforts. In the end, SWS’s financial health and secure ownership structure underpins our decision to make this move.
We’ll be following the progress of the new SWS factory with interest – will the new manufacturing location be a scorching success or will business eventually dry out in the heat? Either way, look out for the ‘Made in UAE’ stamp on Arbor boards next season!