Photo: Margie Isabelle and Paul DeVincent
Two years ago, before her boutique snowboarding company officially began in 2014, Pallas Snowboards founder Stephanie Nitsch was dreaming about starting a female-centric mountain biking company. Instead of mountain bikes, a twist of fate urged her into the world of snowboard production—and more importantly, split board production for the backcountry. To her, what mattered was being able to provide women with opportunities to be courageous, to break personal barriers and to get involved with extreme sports—regardless of how many men typically dominate the action. What she wanted was to get back to basics with action sports gear (to level the playing field, so to speak) between men’s and women’s backcountry snowboard designs while simultaneously empowering women to be bold and take risks that get them out of their comfort zone.
Two super-cool women operate Pallas: Nitcsh and Production Manager Laurel Nelson. While Nitsch was considering to start a female-driven mountain biking company, she connected with Alister Horn, the founder of Pallas’ SLC-based mentor company, Chimera Snowboards. He suggested that she move into split board production because female riders were sparse in the backcountry. “I was passionate about finding ways to get females less intimidated and more confident with recreation in general, and Alister showed me that there was a need for that in the backcountry,” Nitsch says. To complete the success of what is now the Pallas team, Horn helped reconnect Nitsch with Nelson, who currently hand-makes every deck that comes out of their warehouse.
Nelson and Horn had known each other for a good 10 years before working together on this level. “I have an engineering degree, and I came into working with Steph after Alister told me about her vision and passion to make quality split boards and snowboards that satisfied the female market,” says Nelson. By mid-season 2014, they produced their first snowboard line, and the rest is history. Now, Nelson oversees and personally crafts every single Pallas snowboard. “What used to take me a few hours in the beginning to make now takes me 20 minutes,” says Nelson.
Nitsch and Nelson seek to encourage women to enjoy outdoor recreation. Though they have a clear and profound vision of their company’s character, the value of Pallas lies in their actual product—the snowboards. “We don’t shrink it and pink it,” says Nitsch when contrasting the way Pallas makes their snowboards to other snowboarding companies. “Our boards are made for backcountry riding, not backcountry female riding. Though we market specifically toward women, if a man decided to ride on a Pallas snowboard, he would hardly feel a difference from his own engineered deck.”
Like most backcountry snowboards, Pallas boards have an aspen wood core, a wide waist and a stance that sits far enough toward the tail to allow the nose to naturally pop out and cover more surface area of the snow. The primary difference, however, is Pallas’ use of BUHMPER technology, which means that instead of a steel inside edge, they use ultra-high molecular weight plastic (UHMW). This technology gives their boards a poppy and lightweight feel without compromising the ride. “Our split boards can withstand choppy runs and still hold their edge—they’re built to accommodate strong riders,” says Nelson.
Because the Pallas team consists only of Nitsch and Nelson with Horn as a silent partner, Pallas truly is a boutique business. Both Nitsch and Nelson have full-time jobs—Pallas is their passion project. “We’re not trying to put the cart before the horse,” says Nitsch, “and as a company, we are growing at our own pace. Some weeks, both Laurel and I, between our day jobs and Pallas, work 150 hours a week.” Nitsch lives in British Columbia, Canada, and works as a writer for an advertising firm, while Nelson works for backcountry.com. The two communicate through emails and multiple conference calls each week. “I travel to Salt Lake about every two months to check in,” says Nitsch. “For now, it works, but we’re excited to keep moving forward.”
Pallas values teaching inquiring minds that backcountry snowboarding doesn’t have to be intimidating but exciting. Most of all, they ardently stress that it’s OK to ask questions, especially when learning about avalanche danger and its proper precautions. To promote their educational vision, Nitsch and Nelson’s biggest push right now with Pallas is to offer training clinics that teach individuals how to open their eyes and minds when exploring unmarked terrain. The pair also want people to realize that the fear-mongering talk that so often erupts during backcountry conversations is essentially useless. Their goal is to dispel those myths by introducing riders to the realization that knowledge precedes power, and backcountry riding has a lot to do with feeling your power.
Pallas doesn’t sponsor riders yet, but they are interested in building a street team that acts as ambassadors for the company. “Our clinics also work as a marketing tool,” says Nitsch. “We want female riders to know we exist, that we build superior snowboards, and that we connect and educate female riders with the backcountry.” Pallas Snowboards, with its vision and passion, is on its way to the top—literally! Check out Pallas, their clinics and snowboards at pallassnowboards.com.