Industry Profile: Atomic Snowboard Product Director Eric Pearson
18 Aug, 2008
Eric: I grew up in a huge town (300 people) outside of Blackfoot, Idaho. Winters are cold and the mountains nearby are rad! I grew up with strict parents who taught me to work hard (I figured out the play hard thing on my own). I like short walks on the beach, funny movies and I’m an Aries.
Shay: What is your job title?
Eric: Snowboard Product Director for Atomic.
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Eric: Ha, they have questioned every choice I have made.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Eric: Round 1 was a Burton Performer with some RAD sorels. Round 2 was a Ride Timeless.
Shay: What is your current set up?
Eric: I have been rocking the Atomic Cold Smoke and our new split board, the Poacher.
Shay: What was your first job?
Eric: I grew up in a small farming community, so shoveling shit and moving sprinkler pipe are at the top of my list there. Oh, I also held a respectable position at McDonalds for 4 hours once.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Eric: Deep snow, money for sled gas, friends you can trust and no injuries.
Shay: Who are your influences?
Eric: In work related stuff Luke Edgar, learned a ton from him!!! In riding, anybody that rides because they love snowboarding. I always am stoked to see that one guy with duct tape holding his jacket together and a big grin on his face.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Eric: Started in ’87, took a hiatus for a couple years, and then never looked back.
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Eric: I try to get a lot of early days in off of my sled before the craziness of Vegas and on snow demos hit. Had about 40 this year despite an appendix that decided to blow up and a seperated shoulder.
Shay: What is your role at Atomic as the Snowboard Product Director?
Eric: Atomic has been building boards in their factory since 1992. But they didn’t put the Atomic name on them until 2001 in a limited run.
Shay: What do you feel has been the most popular Atomic Snowboard?
Eric: Definitely the Hatchet. Killer board for a good value.
Shay: Are Atomic Snowboards run and built by snowboarders?
Eric: Ha, the deadly question. Surprise, surprise, surprise, yeah! It’s not guys in three piece suits like some would like to think driving the brand. The snowboard division from the top down is run by snowboarders. Two of the three guys in Austria on the product side are former World Cup halfpipe rats.
Shay: What is your favorite Atomic Snowboard?
Eric: One of the perks of my job is having access to a ginormous quiver of decks. Depends on the day. I spend most resort days on a Hatchet or Cold Smoke. I like the Alibi as well, but I keep finding myself on softer boards.
Shay: As a Director, you gather input on designs/graphics…is that hard work communicating many ideas into one?
Eric: It’s actually pretty fun working globally to find the right mix of stuff that works for everyone. There have definitely been some battles though. Sometimes I see a graphic that I know is the perfect one for a model, and then someone else hates it. That’s when the fun begins.
Shay: What’s involved in choosing construction materials for Atomic Snowboards?
Eric: That has been the huge advantage of our boards being built in our own factory. The guys that wear the grape smuggler suits have usually tested new materials long before we have even thought of using it. So when we have ideas for materials or constructions, we usually have a pretty detailed report on how it works. Then we take that and build prototypes to see if it works for us.
Shay: How many testers take out each product?
Eric: That usually depends on who has access to it. I am a huge believer in making sure the product is built right for who it is for. Especially with new shapes. Know anything about this Shay? [Yep because I’m currently riding a test model for Atomic to provide feedback on the shape and ride]. I try to get as many people on new product as early as I can to get feedback to make sure it is right, before we go to production.
Shay: Where are Atomic Snowboards currently produced?
Eric: All boards but our kid’s boards are produced in Europe. The majority of the boards are produced in our own factory in Altenmarkt, Austria. Coolest place ever! There are like 400 lifts within about 40 miles of the factory including a glacier for summer testing.
Shay: How many times a year do you visit the Austria factory?
Eric: I have been trying to convince one of the guys there to trade me jobs for the last 3 seasons so I can hang out there more. He isn’t budging though. Usually I get over there at least once or twice a year. Come on Reini, you’d like Ogden!!!
Shay: What steps are taken to ensure durability and quality of Atomic Snowboards?
Eric: We use the best materials available to make a solid riding product. We have our own machining department so that we can build our own tooling that will build the best product. Everybody has the occasional warranty issue, but overall, our warranty rate is pretty damn low.
Shay: Prior to Atomic, what other jobs/companies have you worked at?
Eric: Do I really have to claim the whole McDonalds thing here? Let’s see, I started out like most guys in the industry working in a shop. Moved into a buying position, and then into management. I was with that shop for almost 9 years and decided that there needed to be a core skate, snow, bike shop in my hometown so I opened one. Then I started helping friends who were reps out at demos and decided that I really liked traveling. Became a rep for Atomic Snowboards in December of 2001. I have also repped some other great companies along the way. But the hardgoods just kept me drooling. I am such a gear whore.
Shay: What’s your average day like at work?
Eric: I come in around 7 to 7:30, call the crew in Austria if I need to. There is an 8 hour time difference so early mornings are the best. Then I usually try to keep up on email. Depending on the day, I have several projects going on at the same time. Graphics, board shapes, magazine stuff, check the snowboard blogs, talk to athletes, try to figure out how to run excel spreadsheets. Usually get out of here by 6 or 7 so I can go play. My boss is the shit and realizes that in winter, I might have a slight cold coming on after a dump. The best remedy is a morning at either Powder Mountain or Snowbasin.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working at Atomic?
Shaun: Oh man, how long do you want this answer to be? Remember I am from a small town.
1 – My former boss lighting a drink on fire and sticking it to his ass on top of the bar.
2 – Same boss getting us all kicked out of a bar in Missoula, MT in an incident known only as the “salad bar incident” Lets just say that the shop we were partying with, no longer has an employee, rep party after their big annual sale.
3 – All the good friends I have made all over the world.
4 – Vegas……..uh, no comment
5 – Seeing concepts become reality!! Love that shit!
6 – I could go on all day
Shay: How is working for Atomic (any cool work events, work environment, job perks?
Eric: It’s rad! Work environment is pretty laid back as long as the work gets done. Everybody rides or skis so we all want to get the work done so we can go ride.
Shay: What experience did you have or attributes to getting the job?
Eric: I feel like I climbed a tall totem pole to get here. Worked in a shop, managed shops, owned a shop, and have been a rep. It took a long time to get here, but I love what I do.
Shay: What’s the best park you’ve gotten from your job?
Eric: Getting the opportunity to travel a lot, meet new people, and ride new places.
Shay: Any disadvantages of your job?
Shay: Do you think snowboards will be radically different in 10 years?
Eric: I don’t know about radical changes, but definitely changes. Maybe headlights? Oh that’s been done already. Everyone is starting to play with camber, reverse camber, rocker, convex base areas. It’s awesome to see changes and technology being introduced into snowboarding to progress the sport.
Shay: Since you started in the industry, what’s been the biggest change in snowboards?
Eric: Inserts! Haha. Every part has been constantly improving. Boots, bindings and boards are on a huge improvement cycle right now. Small and big companies alike are bringing new innovation every year.
Eric: Definitely. Gotta know what else is out there. Most companies are building a great product. Had some great days this season on other companies boards.
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Eric: From about September until late March is super busy, and it’s just busy the rest of the year.
Shay: Education vs. Experience…which do you think is more important?
Eric: For me it has been experience, but I totally believe that a solid education will totally help you. It might have made that tall totem pole to climb, a little shorter for me.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to become a Snowboard Product Director?
Eric: The secret code in life is to do what you love. I have watched a lot of my friends dread every day that they get up to go to work. I never wake up in the morning dreading going to work.
Shay: Final thoughts?
Eric: “Keep you arms and legs inside, and have fun”