Industry Profile: Mervin Manufacturing VP Marketing & Creative Pete Saari

09 Aug, 2011

Job Title: VP Marketing and Creative
Employer: Mervin MFG
Years on snow: Started on skis when I was 5
Days on snow: Never quite enough
Currently Riding: Gnu Park Pickle
Currently I am: Still getting better

Photo:  Tim Zimmerman

Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Pete: I like long walks on the beach, cobblestones back up to the top of the point break. I like sunny mornings looking out of the barrel at Mt. Baker. I enjoy hiking for pow and hurting myself on boxes and rails. I still suck at skateboarding but someday…

I hope to do something positive, it is getting close to time for me to give back a lot more than I take. I get inspired by my friends and anyone who creates…Jamie Lynn, Mike Parillo, Annette Veihelmann, Mike Olson, etc

Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Pete: I think it saved me. I thank Mike Olson for asking me to help him when I was 18 or 19. At that time I had a lot of energy and desire but no where to direct it. I was building my own surfboards and going to school at the UW but I wasn’t finding what I wanted there. When I was in my early teens I had hoped to work for K2 skis who used to build their skis on Vashon Island before they shut the factory down and moved to China. Building snowboards has been a dream come true and I have put everything I have into it.

Photo: Annette Veihelmann

Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Pete: Mike Olson and I were friends and had met at the beach surfing through our friend Mervin Leslie. Mike was looking for someone to help him build Gnu’s out of a horse barn in Burien outside of Seattle and I looked at is as an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Snowboarding was in its infancy so it was a bit of risk (and still is ha!) my parents were not happy with me bailing out on school but, that all sorted out when they saw how into it I was and that it was positive.

Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Pete: We have had to do a bit of everything to make this business work…the things I learned in school that made the largest impact were to respect people, basic math metric and american standard, French and creative writing. If I had to do it over again I would probably major in business and minor in art and a foreign language.

Shay: Tell us about your role at Mervin Manufacturing and a description of the work you do?
Pete: Like I said above Mike and I have done almost every role at Mervin MFG you can imagine…starting with “abrasive technician” then parts prep, layup, QC, Purchasing, R&D, Marketing, finance, etc. (I never was a finisher…that was always Mikes spot). These days I work on boards, graphics, ads, copy, sit our management team, my title is VP of Marketing but I am moving towards Creative Director…funny!

Photo:  Tim Zimmerman

Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Pete: Been sitting in quite a few meetings these days… I usually get to do some fun stuff, check in with Steven Cobb on our board geometries and line planning, work with Annette Veihelmann on Lib board graphics, ads etc, work with Tim Karpinski on Gnu board graphics and ads…Trevor Phillips on our websites, Shawn Bishop on Bent Metal Bindings. Lots of e-mails. If I am lucky I get some time to brainstorm and get creative with words, tech or planning. If I am really lucky it get to ride and call it work.

Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Pete: There have been a lot…When they caught “Poly” the Seattle Arsonist and he had already been an icon on the base of our boards for 3 years was a good one. Meeting Mike Olson snowboarding in knee high rubber multi buckle rain boots with bright orange and blue stretch pants and a yellow neoprene surf hood. Running gates at Ski Acres with Olson and Craig Kelly in the early 80s when he was just getting serious.  Mike wouldn’t let me use high backs and Craig was on Sims bindings with highbacks…I couldn’t make the heelside gates. Working with Steven Cobb and Mike Olson on Magne-traction and Banana Tech. The day I rode the first Skate Banana ever ridden with my son Paavo and Annette Veihelmann and it met all our expectations and more. Playing follow the leader with Billy Anderson and Jamie Lynn incredible 3 D pow video game terrain. Watching Gnu rider Danny Kass fearlessly win contest after contest. Seeing both Temple and Barrett win the Banked Slalom in the same year. Getting to work with Danny Kwock and Bob McKnight and the crew from Quik. Having Amy Howatt be our first Gnu world champion. So many fun ones I can’t list them all,mostly getting to see people make their dreams come true in one way or another. Seeing Jeff Galbraith go from local college kid to editor of Snowboarder and then start his own publications. Watching Jamie Lynn’s snowboarding grow. Seeing Travis Rice do the impossible on the mountain and in the world. Some rough ones too…when our distributor decided that rather than pay us what they owed us, they would start another snowboard company, which was rough. We basically went out of business and had to start Lib Tech and pay off all our debts as the banks and suppliers worked with us. Having an artist so angry at me he threatened to shoot my knee caps because he thought we were not paying his royalties, we were paying fairly it was a misunderstanding. Lost a few good friends along the way…Scott Stamnes and Dave Bowers were incredible inspiring people. Feel lucky to be involved every day.

Photo courtesy of Pete Saari

Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Pete: From the sounds of it global climate change is a real threat to snow sports, living in Washington State you wouldn’t know it and couldn’t call it warming.  We had incredible snowfall this year and our summer has been cold and wet. I think overall the snowboard industry is in a good place, boards work better than ever and the sport is easier to learn and more user friendly than ever.  Banana Technology has really made a difference there. Riding is creative, progressive and fun on many levels from Travis Rice’s over the top dream world to Jesse Burtner’s DIY attainability. Old dudes are still ripping young kids are killing it. Skiing is interestingly progressive again which I think in the long run will benefit snowboarding somehow. Our Gnu Backdoor binding are incredible and Bent Metal’s conventional’s are rock solid.  It feels like as an industry we are ripe for a binding design revolution that opens performance doors and makes the sport easier for all. I love that more people are hiking and split-boarding for pow, the rewards of a good day when you earned the turns are really satisfying. I wouldn’t change too much. I would like it if we could go all digital with our catalogs, do a few less trade shows and I wish it didn’t hurt so bad when your snowboard transition math is wrong or when you miss a good powder day.

Photo courtesy of Pete Saari

Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Pete: I think you need both to really fire on all cylinders.  A good education might not instantly turn into a job but it will serve you in many ways through life and you will have more opportunity to grow when you do get the job.

Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Pete: If you really want it you can pull it off but you have to willing to give it your all. Education never hurts. Do something yourself if you can. If you want to work in the media start a Zine or website someone will notice eventually and want your help…if they don’t, make the Zine something you can be proud of and it will be it’s own reward and education. If you want to film make movies. If you want to build boards figure out how build boards. Study and understand the industry, brands, riders, products, technology, marketing campaigns etc. Volunteer for anyone or company you like or feel is worthy in the industry…they always need help putting up a trade show booth or doing a regional show or event eventually they will need help and you will be at the top of the list or some other company will need someone and the company you volunteered for will recommend you. Have a good attitude, be creative and never give up. Go snowboarding and have fun.

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About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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  1. martin beran
    August 09, 2011

    great interview! This might be some of the best advice I have seen in these industry profile interviews yet

  2. Anna
    August 09, 2011

    Thanks for this Shay! I love Mervin. You should interview Barrett Christy too 🙂

  3. Frank
    August 09, 2011

    nice interniew… I like Mervin Corp…. they are so cool Mr. Saari and Mr. Olson…. both have nice humour (the Marketing of Mervin allways make me smile) and seems to be very happy camper and funny man 😉 I demo a Skate Banana on Feb 2008 in Park City Utah… Since I am a fan… Keep the good job… 😉

  4. Peterborough
    August 10, 2011

    I second the request for a Barrett interview!

  5. Brek Leines
    August 12, 2011

    I love pete! hes a really great guy and his kido is awesome too!

  6. Andy
    August 16, 2011

    All Hail Mervin!

    Great article shay!

  7. Roger
    September 11, 2011

    I’ve known of and known Peter for 25 years, I met Peter and Mike in the early days of BAKER (’85-’86) with other riders such as Ranquet, Lynn, Kelly, Donnelly, Galbraith to name a few. He wouldn’t know me by my name, only as “one of those guys from Arlington”. Peter and Mike gave my two roommates (Tim and Jerry) a GNU sponsorship while I was picked up by Burton, we spent several days down at their old Seattle factory designing their own shapes. It was such a killer time back then, to be in the sport so early. My roommates would receive bindings from GNU and the first thing we’d do to them was, take them to the cabinet shop we worked at and start popping of rivets and then start shaping the crap out of them on the edge sander. Peter and Mike are some of the nicest guys to hang out with and would be welcomed in anybodies circle of spit, even though we haven’t seen each other in years I know we could carry on as if we’d seen each other a week ago. I’m speaking for the three of us as I say, we are very proud of both you, Mike and Mervin Mfg. I hope to run into the two of you someday on the hill, We ride Stevens during the week on all powder days. Best of wishes to you Peter