August 25, 2022
When it comes to snowboarding, there are two entrepreneurs that are changing the game. Meet Alister Horn, founder of Chimera Backcountry Snowboards, and Steph Nitsch, founder of Pallas Snowboards. These sibling companies each put their own spin on splitboards, an innovative product that combines skiing and snowboarding.
“Splitboards are backcountry snowboards,” Alister said. “They're quite different from a regular snowboard because they can split into two skis. You use the skis to go up the mountain, and then use the snowboard to come back down. This allows you to board in places where there’s not a ski lift, exploring areas that are purely backcountry.”
The origin story of these two snow sport brands starts with Alister’s company, Chimera.
In 2009, Alister was on the hunt for the perfect splitboard. However, there weren’t many companies making this product, and the few that existed were not ideal in design. So, Alister began experimenting with creating his own.
“I started researching and talking to people that sold glue, epoxy, and fiberglass,” Alister said. “It took me a couple of years to even get to the point where I could make one that didn’t break and fall apart.”
Eventually, Alister perfected his board design, and Chimera Backcountry Snowboards was born. The name “Chimera” refers to a beast from Greek mythology that is a mixture of a goat, a lion, and a snake.
“Over time, Chimera has come to represent something that’s a mix of two bodies, two beasts in one animal,” Alister said.
Today, Chimera sells a number of splitboard designs, including Sceptre, Shop Rat, and Unicorn Chaser. Each design features its own intricate artwork.
“Snowboarding used to be about having good artwork on boards,” Alister said. “Some boards are still like that, but many today are very generic looking. We figure that, if you're buying a special snowboard from us, we might as well make it look fun.”
Chimera also offers a White Label collection for riders interested in special-purpose shapes. Through special request orders, customers can also order “Unsplitboards,” or regular snowboards. The brand also sells apparel, including hats, hoodies, and shirts.
When it comes to Chimera’s customers, the positive feedback is overwhelming.
“We have customers who have been buying boards with us for the last 10 years,” Alister said. “We focus on such a tiny field that most notable companies cannot afford to put effort into, and as a result, we have a flourishing and very loyal customer base.”
While Alister was satisfied with the success of Chimera, he began to notice another gap in the market—splitboarding gear for women. This leads to the origin story of Chimera’s sister brand, Pallas Snowboards.
Pallas’ story starts in 2013 when Steph met Alister through a mutual friend. Steph’s focus at the time had been to partner with brands to market mountain biking gear to women. After hearing that Alister was looking to do a similar project to Chimera with women’s splitboarding, Steph was on board.
“It was cool to be able to parlay my interest in forming this women's community around sports, but shift the perspective from mountain biking to snowboarding,” Steph said. “Snowboarding is actually a sport that I've been involved in much longer than mountain biking.”
After a few months of communication between the two founders, Pallas Snowboards was born. “Pallas” is also a reference to Greek mythology, named after the Greek god Athena’s best friend.
Pallas offers a number of splitboards and snowboards featuring original artwork by Steph, including Hedonist, Epiphany, and Zeitgeist.
“At the time Pallas was created, the graphics for women’s gear really pandered to what companies thought women’s gear should look like,” Steph said. “That’s why we're focused on bringing more innovation and premium design into gear that enables women to literally stand on top of mountains.”
Steph’s brand offers a limited number of handmade boards that are built to order. Pallas also sells a number of apparel items, including flannels, hats, and sweatshirts.
“The best feedback we receive is when we connect with women who really feel like they haven't been welcomed in the snowboard community,” Steph said. “We do demos sometimes where we let people take our boards out for an hour or so to see if they like it. Women will come back with their minds blown, saying that they've never been able to ride like this before. That in itself is the best feedback when customers are willing to buy a board on the spot because it introduced them to a whole different way of riding the mountain and a whole new level of confidence.”
When it comes to Chimera’s plans for the future, Alister said that they will soon be selling regular snowboards for the first time.
As times have shifted and women are more equally represented in sports, Steph said that it is Pallas’ goal to support other underrepresented groups in snowboarding as well. The brand will also soon be releasing its first freestyle snowboard.
Chimera and Pallas are looking forward to using Soapbox to help not only fulfill their e-commerce orders but manage the company’s unique “try before you buy” approach to selling. Customers can order boards online to try, and after a trial run, either send them back or purchase them.
“Snowboards are expensive, they’re the kind of thing that customers really want to take a look at before they commit,” Alister said. “We've been putting a lot of stock into our mail order program, and we’ve seen a lot of successful sales from that. Soapbox comes in by helping us distribute these boards and ship them.”
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