It’s not just about snowboards anymore. When I interviewed them in the early years, as the brothers first got started making snowboards, they were quite open about what their boards were made of and the construction techniques involved.
Twenty years later, however, try and ask either of them how their latest snowboard offering, the Proto CT with a scratch resistant Carbonium top-sheet and twin-tip technology, is made, or to elaborate on the Custom Flight core that’s the centerpiece of their Summit Custom Splitboard, and you’ll likely get the same answer.
“That’s top secret!” But there are a few secretive things that I have been able to ply from them, things that can now be shared with the growing legion of snowboarders and curiosity-gawkers following this growing company. Call it a case of good luck, but I was invited by Never Summer to visit them at the exclusive 2011 SnowSports Industries America trade show held Jan. 26-29 at the Denver Convention Center. And, as if that weren’t enough, they also invited me to go hunt feral hogs in the southeastern region of Oklahoma just two weeks after the SIA event.
OK, so maybe it wasn’t luck. In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that I grew up in Fort Collins and went to school with the brothers, learned to snowboard on the home-built boards they made out of their garage and have remained friends with them ever since.
After attending college, both Cannadays took off for California to quench their thirst for surfing. It was a short-lived hiatus, as both ditched unfulfilling careers in California and moved back to Colorado to build their dream snowboard company.
In 1991, they built their first line of snowboards, which included the symmetrical and bi-direction twin-tip SC; the asymmetrical DHC with a deeper heel side cut radius; and the XDO that had a deeper heel cut and offset sidecut radius design. The following year, Never Summer began selling to just a handful of retail stores, including Cherry Pow Pow in Vail, Snowboards of the Rockies in Frisco, Cal Surf in Minneapolis, B.C. Surf & Sport in Denver, The Board Room in Lakewood, and The Wright Life in Fort Collins.
Their company’s namesake comes from the Colorado mountain range that they grew up visiting as youngsters but continue to play and hunt in to this day.
They’ve come a long way. Now, their company has acquired a “rocker and camber” patent for its snowboard designs. NS’ rocker and camber design patent is essentially this: All of their new snowboards have a cradled, or rocker, design that provides a surf-like feel with enhanced powder flotation, and the cambered sections toward the tip and tail add snap and high-speed stability not associated with other rocker designs.
In addition to having all 13 versions of NS Snowboards on display at the SIA, they had their newest line of longboard skateboards — including the Swift, Norad, Eclipse, Concept and Ranson — set out, as well.
Probably one of the biggest advantages to expanding NS offerings and branching out with skateboards (this is their fifth year doing both), Tracey says, “is that it increases the awareness of our brand.”
“It also allows us to work and employ the same staff year-round now,” Tim adds.
Never Summer has approximately 40 employees at its Denver headquarters and factory.
The newest snowboard added to the NS line is the Proto CT, which basically fills the gap between the SL and the twin-tipped EVO. The Proto CT incorporates the powerful flex of the time-tested SL and blends it with the responsive damping of the EVO to create the ultimate allmountain true twin.
“We were one of the first to jump on this technology,” Tracey says of the rocker design, adding, “Some of the bigger competitors, like Burton, missed the window and are now trying to play catch-up.”
Tracey believes that perhaps the most exciting development ahead for snowboarding is splitboards.
“Our Summit and SL splitboards are assembled snowboards that disconnect and turn into a pair of touring or cross-country skis,” he says. “The splitboard replaces snowshoes, so you can climb up mountain sides to snowfields.”
But the Canaday brothers are both affable and humble, and they don’t like to disparage their competitors or make themselves out to be vainglorious bastards.
This humbleness makes it all that more difficult to conduct an interview with them, because outside of work they’d rather talk to you about their hobbies, have a cold one, or do whatever it is you’d like to do, rather than talk shop.
“It’s fun to have other types of hobbies, because it keeps your mind fresh and keeps you from getting burned out,” Tracey offers. “[Hunting] has been what’s kept us from getting burned out after 20 years.”
The two brothers have their own favorite types of prey. For Tracey it’s whitetail deer, especially back on the family’s private land in Illinois. Tim says his is pheasant hunting, “but I don’t get out with my bird dogs as much as I’d like to.”
“Most of our retailers know we hunt,” Tracey says. “We’re not trying to hide the fact. Actually, we started out by putting out elk jerky at trade shows about 10 years ago.”
Another thing that keeps both brothers busy is family life. Tracey and his wife Kristy have three children; Tim and his wife Catherine have two.
“My kids are getting old enough that they can keep up with us on snowboards, so I imagine we’ll get up more as they get older,” Tim says.