WHITE LINES MAGAZINE - by Andrew Duthie
Under The Influence
Peter Bauer’s never-ending search for the best snowboards money can buy
Controversial opinion alert: influencer marketing is shit. At its worst it’s a grubby, cynical business based, as comedian Bill Maher put it recently, on the notion “that you really will buy stuff just because some ding-dong holds it up on Instagram”.
While most of the snowboard socialsphere remains untainted, it’s far from immune. Even riders with glittering pro careers are putting out paid-partnership ads for coffee, gas guzzlers, teeth straighteners and even bathroom tiles. The case for the defence has been well-tread – it’s a short career, so make hay while the sun shines – but if nothing else, it makes the supposedly legit shout-outs to board sponsors that much harder to swallow.
In a different age, Peter Bauer might have racked up a truly monstrous follower count. As a multiple world champion and Burton team stalwart with serious freeride chops, there’s every chance he’d be doing Mark McMorris numbers. Of course, that all happened in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when Mark Zuckerberg still had his baby teeth and the only place you saw a # symbol was on a payphone.
Nowadays he’s 54, and looking like he could do with a slap of whichever rejuvenating jojoba scrub the winners of Love Island are flogging this week. But for every line on his face, he’s marked a thousand more on the mountains of Europe, North America and beyond. What he doesn’t understand about snowboarding simply isn’t worth knowing – and in the age of the influencer, his approach to making and marketing snowboards is just the tonic.
After hanging up his World Cup bibs and hard boots, he remained with Burton, moving into the R&D side at the brand’s European base in Innsbruck, Austria. While he stresses that they were good years, it wasn’t long before he developed an itch that the day job couldn’t scratch.
“When you design a snowboard for a big brand, the approach is completely different,” he explains from his home in Germany. “You need to cater to a very big clientele, and you can’t make it edgy. If it has too much power, if it’s too responsive, people won’t ride it. But for me, I always wanted to make boards with character.”
He parted ways with the big B in 2002, and the inevitable happened two years later when he started Amplid. Now he was calling the shots, with a focus on lighter and more responsive decks with fast bases. But it wasn’t just about upping the quality; in his eyes, the entire industry had got itself stuck in a cul-de-sac.
“In the 90’s everything was about urban riding. When you opened up a snowboard magazine, you only saw people on a rail in town, or in the air. Just doing a turn in powder was considered kind of lame, and doing a carve on corduroy was culturally not acceptable. But if you ask ten of your friends, ‘what’s your wet dream when they think about snowboarding’, it’s all about making a turn in powder. Maybe one out of ten dreams about doing a railslide and wakes up with a hard-on…”
He was proven right in due course, when eventually the industry as a whole fell back in love with the art of turning. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Peter’s fledgling brand. “This is where we were coming from, and this is what we make boards for.”
The new thirst for innovative freeride shapes has played in Amplid’s favour, but any small company still has a fight on its hands to cut through the infernal noise of Insta-posts. The era of the Forum 8 may be long gone, but a stacked team is still one way to get noticed. Despite Amplid’s substance-over-style approach, Peter’s not naive to the challenges of 21st-century marketing.
“Yeah, we have ambassadors, because first of all it’s a good social media content supply, right? It’s an important source. But Amplid is not a brand that is buying into world champions, putting them out there with a cookie-cutter product next to them, and trying to sell it there.” Rather the Amplid team is a carefully-selected band of riders, most of whom you’ve never heard of (ex-Forum man Mario Käppeli probably has the biggest name recognition out of the bunch). They don’t top podiums or film enders, but their combined knowledge and experience feeds into Amplid’s board design process. “The investments marketing-heavy brands do on the team side,” explains Peter, “we put it into R&D.”
The team feedback is important, but only one piece of the puzzle. “It’s this triangle; team riders, the consumer, and me.” This brings us to the ‘Test Pilot Program’, now in its second winter. Anyone who has bought an Amplid in the last five years can sign up for a chance to be one of ten riders selected to test new prototypes fresh from the factory, in exchange for their detailed feedback on what it’s like to ride...