Unleashing the Underdog | 10 Years of West Snowboards

West Snowboards celebrate their 10 year anniversary

“What do you really want to do?” asked an old friend of David Lambert.

David’s employer had just gone bust and he was staring down the barrel of redundancy. It felt like a fork in the road.

“You know what?” he replied, “I want to create my own brand.”

It’s a familiar dream to snowboarders everywhere. Who doesn’t love the idea of sketching graphics, playing around with shapes, or designing a cool logo? But for David, the dream would become a reality. Soon after that fateful chat, he joined forces with three other friends who were keen for a new challenge and founded West Snowboards.

The four of them – David, Matt Rouiller, Michel Kropf and Ferdi Muragglia – had grown up riding together in the glory years of the 1990s. But by 2012/13, it felt like the snowboard industry had reached a low point. It was time for a refresh.

“Nowadays, smaller snowboard companies are the ones carrying the flame. Because at some point when snowboarding went big and everyone was doing it, it didn’t appeal to be the cool thing to do anymore.”

“We decided to make a Swiss brand,” says David. “We have some of the best mountains in the world, tons of good riders – some legends, even – but [at the time] there was only one global snowboard company from Switzerland: Nidecker. We figured it would make sense to have another.”

The name ‘West’ sprang from the crew’s roots in the western, French-speaking part of the country. “I had a friend at Nixon who told me that any good brand name has to be short,” explains David. “But it also has to be easy to pronounce in different languages – including Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese. So, West – why not?”

The fledgling brand’s first boards hit the mountain in the 2013/14 season, marking the beginning of a decade-long journey. Today, West enjoys a solid reputation within the industry and an army of fans, but it’s still a part-time gig for the four partners, all of whom work from home. There’s a close-knit, family vibe to the business. “The office address is my house!” laughs David. He and the other guys live within 40 minutes of each other, and stock is kept in the basement at Levitation, the board shop managed by Matt.

“There was only one global snowboard company in Switzerland. We figured it would make sense to have another.”

There’s nothing loose about the product, though. From the outset, West has leaned into its Swiss identity, recruiting local ambassadors for the team (including Absinthe legends Jonas Emery and Jules Reymond) and selecting a French-speaking factory for production so that no small details can get lost in translation. “People expect something specific from a Swiss product,” says David. “We had to reach this level of timeless quality. That might be why our marketing is a little lacking; we spend more time and energy on the boards.”

Lionel with a fs lipslide 2, at Vallée de Joux. Photo: Vincent Bapst.

Like any modern brand worth its salt, West strives to be more sustainable. The boards feature wood topsheets, water-based inks, FSC wood cores and eco-friendly epoxy. However, as being sustainable “is logical thinking” for the brand, they don’t want to use it as commercial value. “Where we could do something better, we always chose that option,” explains David. “But then, greenwashing was getting so big that we decided to communicate less about the green side. We don’t want to be in this game of brainwashing people. Because in the end, if you want to be green just stop buying anything.” Instead, he says, the focus is on building quality products that will last the distance.

Collaborations with artists and shapers have also played a significant role in West’s story so far. In 2017, for instance, they produced a limited edition board alongside the huge French hip-hop group IAM – not bad for an upstart company with four employees. But for West, being small is – well, a big part of the appeal. It gives them the freedom to move quickly and try new ideas. And it taps into something more profound. As it says on the website, David and the crew are “proud descendants of the small brands that have made snowboarding what it is today. The tradition of the underground brand continues with West.”

“I had a friend at Nixon who told me that any good brand name has to be short”

So what exactly do these small, underground brands bring to snowboarding?

“I hope it’s fun, mostly!” laughs David. “In the late 80s, early 90s, I started snowboarding because it was cool. It felt different to the masses on skis. Nowadays, smaller snowboard companies are the ones continuing that ideal, they’re carrying the flame. Because at some point in the late 90s and early 2000s, when snowboarding went big and everyone was doing it, it didn’t appear to be the cool thing to do anymore.”

Looking towards the future, the goal is simple: “Survival. We celebrate 10 years in business this coming season, and we’re kinda happy about that to start with. We haven’t focused on the US market yet but it would be cool to be recognised there at some point. We’re doing pretty well in Asia because they like Swissness. But if we can grow in North America, we’d be stoked on that.”

West looking west? Yeah, that figures.

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