“That’s Horsefeathers, Stewart!” | HF30

Horsefeathers celebrate 30 years in the game while staying true to their roots

Video (above): Horsefeathers | Snowboarding since 1989

How old is snowboarding? It depends on how you look at it, really. On the one hand, if you count the earliest Snurfers and Wintersticks, it has long since passed its Golden Anniversary and is getting ready to collect its state pension. On the other hand, how old does it feel? How about 30? Still young enough to party, but old enough to feel the hangovers? Nostalgic about the good ol’ days, but with a sense that the best is yet to come? 

When some of the biggest brands in the game are pulling out all the stops to celebrate their 10th anniversaries it’s not only a sign of snowboarding’s relative infancy but makes it all the more impressive when a brand brings out a cake with 30 candles on it. That’s exactly what Horsefeathers are doing this month. And even better, they want you to come party with them on the 28th of November.

“Their 30 laps around the sun isn’t just a testament to hard work and a head for business but why keeping it core is the only way to survive the ever-changing trends and evolutions of the sport”

From a germ of an idea in a rural Canadian town, Horsefeathers now holds one of the most infamous global teams and a huge range of technical apparel for both on and off the hill. Their 30 laps around the sun isn’t just a testament to hard work and a head for business but why keeping it core is the only way to survive the ever-changing trends and evolutions of the sport.

We caught up with Horsefeathers’ co-owner, Hanuš Salz, their marketing and sales director, Tomáš Koudela, carving wizzard Tyler Chorlton, and snowboarding’s favourite brothers, Halldór and Eiki Helgason to find out how the company went from a handful of stickers and office-cum-party-shack in the Czech Republic to one of snowboarding’s most internationally loved brands.

30 years on – still drinking in the office.

1989 – The Idea

During the early days, there was never that Eureka moment. “It all developed gradually”, Horsefeathers’ owner, Hanuš Salz, tells us. Back in Rock Creek, British Columbia, a small crew of school kids looked for a different lifestyle from the one-dimensional monotony of “farms and cowboys” that ran deep in the community. The boys found snowboarding as a way out and headed up to ride their local mountain at every opportunity.

To them it made sense. To other’s, not so much. “That’s horse feathers!” Stew Carlson’s Grandmother would say when she saw the boys – boards in hand – on their way to the local mountain or skate park. It was a pretty outdated expression, used to describe something nonsensical, irrelevant… it was the sophisticated, grandmother-friendly alternative to simply saying “what a fucking load of bollocks”. But it resonated with the crew and set the tone for the years to follow. 

“‘That’s horse feathers!’ Stew Carlson’s Grandmother would say when she saw the boys – boards in hand – on their way to the local mountain or skate park”

“There was a bunch of ‘product’ early on”, Hanuš tells us. Joel DeVille, one of the crew, worked with a reusable linoleum print in his art class at school. Nigel Price, another friend, created various designs centred around skating, riding and the word Horsefeathers (including the logo that is still occasionally used to this day) to stick on any spare garments they found lying around.

It was early days, but the seed of the Horsefeathers brand was planted. “It resonated only within a small group of people and eventually, it became a bit of a crew thing”, Hanuš explains. “At that point, we were all wishing we could do a brand, but we had absolutely no money and there was already a lineup of successful brands at that time.” But when he returned to the Czech Republic in 1992, Hanuš met Pavel Kubíček and the wheels began to turn in motion.

When Hanuš met Pavel (1992)

1994 – The “Office”

“When I met Pavel, I got him on board of the idea and we kicked it off in 1993 with 50 t-shirts and 200 stickers”, Hanuš tells us. The irony is obvious when he laughs and says, “that was our first official collection!” 

It turns out most were given out to local riding friends. Not exactly a watertight business plan by any means, but it marked a shift from a project amongst friends in the classroom to a brand that was starting to take to the streets.

The next leap came in 1994 when they opened up their first office. Again, the term “office” should be used loosely here. Life at HF HQ wasn’t exactly a nine-to-five. “There was a lot of partying going on back then and we did drink a few beers in the office and smoked regularly while working”, Hanuš says, “but in the end we always got our stuff done.”

“The term “office” should be used loosely here. Life at HF HQ wasn’t exactly a nine-to-five”

Amidst the salvaged furniture, boxes of clothing, beers cans and skateboards, Pavel and Hanuš still had a vision. “Regardless of how punk and wild we were at certain times, we never left stuff halfassed. I think that was the needed counterbalance to the no-plan, organic atmosphere of that time.”

All work and no play makes…
… nope, nevermind

1995 – That Ad

“There are two sides to the story”, Hanuš explains. “I met the owner/publisher of a newly formed Czech skate and snow mag, Board Magazine, who was looking for advertisers. We had no ads ready but wanted to feature, so we said yes anyway!” It wasn’t until later when they were looking through old books and saw that picture that they knew they had an ad. 

“It was that kind of ‘nonsense’ [read: horsefeathers] situation with kids just doing whatever. Along with the fact they needed clothing, it was just perfect,” Hanuš says. “I’m quite sure we couldn’t run an ad like that today.” 

“I’m quite sure we couldn’t run an ad like that today”

Things sure seemed pretty loose, But the professionalism and get-the-job-done attitude was there from the start. Radek Hruska, the owner of Board Magazine, reflects on what happened: “I met Hanuš and Pavel, by accident, at one of the skate shops in Prague. I presented them with the idea of a new magazine and offered them the opportunity to advertise in it. There was no rush because the mag was supposed to be published in a couple months’ time, but an hour later, on the other side of Prague, I bumped into Hanuš and Pavel and they gave me cash to run this ad. Our first client!”

Horsefeathers’ First Advert (Board Mag, 1995)

1997 – Getting Technical

Alright, business time. After several years in skate and street apparel, the guys turned their heads to snowboard outerwear. They bought everything: fabrics, zippers, insulation, labels, zippers, you name it, and put together their first official line of five technical jackets and pants. Whatever they did, it worked. Everything sold out.

Horsefeathers’ first technical outerwear (1997)

The first priority after that was to ride. They headed out to BC in a van and rode for 60 days straight. However, on their return, Horsefeathers hit a junction. “After coming back from a two-month riding trip in Canada, the reality was quite different. “There was a pile of work waiting for us and we had to decide whether to let the HF project slip, or give it our maximum.”

It was crunch time. But, with the wind in their sails, Horsefeathers set their sights on building the brand. 

2000-15 – Think Global; Act Local

The turn of the millennium signalled in a new era for the Horsefeathers. In 2000, they announced an official team – a crew of local Czech shredders – before growing more international and singing Finish heavy hitter, Ville Uotila.

Ville Uotila floats a smooth BS1 into the Horsefeathers team (2008)

In 2004, they released their first full-length film, Fragments, began featuring at ISPO, and won Source Magazine’s breakthrough brand of the year in 2009. Their presence grew in the cities and mountains, alike, drawing crowds and pro riders to their legendary events, the City Jib and Pleasure Jam. 

Horsefeathers were moving up to the big leagues now. So, how do you go toe-to-toe with the juggernauts of the industry? Put simply, you don’t. You keep it true to your roots. Hanuš explains:

“Keeping close to the core of snowboarding is always about having fun in the mountains with, friends and family and enjoying the freedom of the sport in it’s purest sense. If you asked me, or our crew, if they want to go ride pow during ISPO, or any other event, I’m quite sure you know what the answer would be. Our first Horsefeathers Pleasure Jam in 2007 at Dachstein was cancelled because it dumped 50cm of fresh overnight. Everyone just rode powder and I felt that pure stoke of snowboarding, even without the event. And the parties that year were exceptionally wild…” 

“Horsefeathers were moving up to the big leagues now. So, how do you go toe-to-toe with the juggernauts of the industry? You don’t. You keep it true to your roots”

Gaining a reputation as snowboarding’s official party animal is the cultural equivalent of having Keith Richards, Oliver Reid, and John Belushi admire your ability to hold your liquor, but Horefeathers still ran a slick operation behind the scenes and always kept one eye on the future. “Even though we always wanted to keep it fun and games, sometimes there was more work than we bargained for. In the last four years, we’ve focused all our energy on like-minded riders and select projects that make sense” Hanuš tells us. “It’s given us more room to be able to enjoy the process.”

The City Jib – Horsefeathers takes to the streets
The City Jib – Horsefeathers takes to the streets

“We’re not like all the super big brands, and companies”, Tomáš Koudela, Horsefeather’s marketing and sales director explains to us. “A lot of people think we’re the same size as them, but we’re not, we don’t really like competing as a brand. You need to do it your way and keep it fun.”

Who then, do you get to ride for a brand that embodies all those values? Riders who’ve made their name outside the competition ropes? Rider’s that bring their own unique style, approach, and expression to riding? Rider’s who do it their way and keep it fun? C’mon, who d’you think…

The Global Team – Eiki, Måns, Tyler and Halldór

Between 2015 and 2018, Horsefeathers adjusted their focus more towards delivering quality, technical, snowboard apparel and recruited a few familiar faces to help spread the word. Scanning the scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find four riders better suited to the brand’s philosophy. From the carving crack, Tyler Chorlton, to Swedish powerhouse, Mans Hedberg, and every snowboarder’s favourite snowboarders, Eiki and (joining in 2018) Halldor Helgason. 

Horsefeathers first Global Team: Eiki Helgasson, Måns Hedberg and Tyler Chorlton (2015)

Alongside Horsfeathers four key outerwear lines – Addicted to Powder, Urban Mountain, Base Camp and Technical Apparel – Tyler now has his own signature colourway from the ATP line, while both Eiki and Halldor have their own signature lines thrown into the mix. We caught up with the boys for the lowdown.

Tyler’s ATP Signature Colourway

The Addicted To Powder Series (as the name pretty much sums up) is designed for rider’s chasing backcountry booters, fall-line descents, or just looking for the best waterproof and breathable performance around the resort.

“I’m really stoked with the jacket, we’ve been fine-tuning it for the last five years”, Tyler tells us. “I’m the oldest and longest-standing team member now, and what’s great is creating these solid relationships with the people in the company.”

“We’re constantly looking for better, more durable fabrics for elbowcarves”

This close-knit family within Horsefeathers has led to tonnes of collaboration and input from the whole team. With one of the most creative and technical carving games out there, Tyler had a few inputs to add to the Halen Jacket this year. “I got them to modify the elbow stitching so the elbowcarves don’t damage the thread. We’re constantly looking for better, more durable fabrics for elbowcarves… maybe next year we’ll even try an elbow patch as people have been requesting it!”

It’s a jacket built for the backcountry though. “The main thing I need is superior breathability”, Tyler explains to us. “So, we used the new Clo insulation which really helps you breathe when out hiking, but has plenty of insulation to keep you warm.”

Addicted to Powder – Tyler’s Signature Halen Jacket and Ridge Pants Colourways
Testing out the elbows. Tyler in his Signature ATP colourway.

Halldor’s atrip Line

Halldor’s atrip line has now been brought under the wing of Horsefeathers, giving him the chance to get pretty creative with his designs. “Horsefeathers pretty much gives me full freedom to do whatever I want”, he says. “That’s one of my favourite things about ‘working’ together with the team – it’s rider owned and rider driven which makes the whole set up so simple compared to some other brands that I’ve worked with in the past.”

“I had been looking back at so many of the 90’s snowboard movies like Snowboarders In Exile and also the book Snow Beach and I was getting so much inspiration from that”

For his 2019/20 signature collection, Halldor worked alongside legendary snowboard artist, Scoph, to create the 90s inspired colourways. “I was hyped to change it up from what I had been doing the previous years with atrip”, he tells us. “I wanted to go from the mellow earth-toned colours and clean looking stuff back to something a little bit crazier again. I had been looking back at so many of the 90’s snowboard movies like Snowboarders In Exile and also the book Snow Beach and I was getting so much inspiration from that that I really wanted to put that into my new atrip line somehow.” 

And when asked how it performs in the mountains? 


Halldór’s 90s inspired atrip line
Halldór’s 90s inspired atrip line

Eiki’s Signature Line

Anyone’s who’s seen Eiki’s pro models from Lobster and Switchback will quickly start to get an idea of the look he’s digging for this season. “I finally got the oil theme that I have been trying to get going for years but never been happy with the results so they had never made the cut”, he explains. “Finally it all came together this year!” 

When Eiki found himself without an outerwear sponsor a few seasons back, Horsefeathers were quick to sign him to the team. “ I instantly felt like they had the exact mindset that I do so I was hyped that we decided to work together.” 

“It’s real snowboarding!”

Asked about his time with Horsefeathers, Eiki’s highlights pretty much sum up everything the brand stands for. “I think the City Jib Session in Czech a few years ago was one of my highlights with the team”, he says. “The set up was insanely fun and fully functional at the same time, lots of riders sent it on every feature all over the place and everyone was just pumped on riding together and pushing each other. But I got mad unlucky because I arrived the day before the contest and my board bag didn’t show up so I had to borrow boots and a brand new set up right before dropping!” 

“It’s real snowboarding!” Eiki says when asked what it’s like to ride on the Horsefeathers team. We can’t argue with that. So where do they go from here?

Eiki’s Signature Horsefeathers Line
Eiki’s Signature Horsefeathers Lin

The Next 30

Has there been one defining factor that’s lead to the success and longevity of Horsefeathers, then? “I don’t think I could pinpoint specific events. It is more of a continuous flow of events and decisions, each linking into the next”, Hanuš reflects. “ Without intending to sound philosophical, it’s definitely that long term learning curve about work, people and yourself. Nevertheless, the main highlight is to be working with the most awesome crew today and to be able to say we’ve been around for three decades.”

“Whatever anniversary Horsefeather’s decide to celebrate next, you can be sure it’ll be a testament to their growing success and popularity”

That success is no fluke. By streamlining the brand’s focus on outerwear, scouring the world for a team of riders who embody the company’s core values and, most importantly, never losing sight of why they started in the first place, Horsefeathers has continued to go from strength to strength over the last three decades. They perfectly balance a professional, slick business operation, with some of the best technical outerwear on the market, and still keep one foot out of the office (and firmly strapped into their binding). 

“It’s a funny thing,” Tomáš says. “When you’re a young brand, you can celebrate five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five year anniversaries, but what happens after thirty years? Forty? That sounds weird. Maybe a fiftieth?”

Whatever anniversary Horsefeathers decide to celebrate next, you can be sure it’ll be a testament to their enduring success and popularity. And it’ll be one hell of a party, too.

Get involved with the HF30 party on the 28th Nov, in Pilsen, here.

The full Horsefeathers Winter 19/20 Outerwear Range is available here.


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