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Taking it to the slopes

Paul Raymore
Sierra Sun
Photo by Paul RaymoreBrenton Woo is the founder of Truckee-based Automaton snowboards.
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Talk to Brenton Woo for long enough and you get the feeling he must be some kind of snowboarding evangelist.

Ask him about Automaton snowboards ” the company he founded in his bedroom in Truckee just over a year ago ” and he’s prone to say things like, “Automaton was formed on the basis that snowboarding can be saved.” And while the sport may, in Woo’s eyes, need saving, his company’s mantra right now is: “Snowboarding saves lives.”

“I think snowboarding itself needs to be saved,” he said. “I think companies in the industry should have a responsibility to improve snowboarding ” to make snowboarding better. And I don’t really see that happening from the existing companies.”

But while Woo can sound like he needs to mellow out and spend more time on the mountain riding, eventually you’ve got to pay attention to what he’s saying because it’s obvious that he cares deeply about the sport and the lifestyle snowboarders lead.

Woo said Automaton is “not really a product-based company. It’s really more of an idea-based company. I want to sell the idea that snowboarding is an awesome way to live your life. It’s not about getting super rich, it’s about making the sacrifices you need to make to live this life.”

For Woo, those sacrifices have involved working as a chef for the past six years in order to support his snowboarding and surfing aspirations, and founding Automaton in his bedroom in 2003 in order to get the fledgling company off the ground.

Woo has recently upgraded his company headquarters from bedroom to dining room, and instead of selling boards out of the back of his truck, this year he’s got retailer support at a number of shops throughout California, including Totally Board in Truckee. But his dedication to making a difference in the snowboarding industry has not changed.

“I personally think snowboarding is a very emotional thing, and there’s a minority of snowboarders out there who are willing to sacrifice and rearrange their lives so they can snowboard every day,” he said. “And those are the snowboarders that Automaton is trying to support.”

One way Woo hopes to give back and to spread the gospel of the Automaton brand is to bring his team of sponsored riders to Tahoe-area resorts this winter on the Automaton team tour. The inaugural day of that effort went down at Boreal Mountain Resort on Jan. 30.

Woo hopes that kids on the mountain will be excited to see a group of sponsored riders ” all from the Truckee/Tahoe area ” on the hill having a good time doing what they do best, while interacting with other riders on the mountain.

That’s the sense of community Woo thinks other snowboard companies have forgotten about. And that’s where he hopes Automaton will fill a void.

“The [Automaton] brand is different, and I really want the brand to be different than anything else out on the market,” he said, adding that part of the difference is just the fact that Automaton is based in Truckee ” a town in the middle of the snowboarding community.

“Do you go to a car dealership to buy a vacuum cleaner? Would you buy a surfboard from someone in Iowa? Why would you buy a snowboard from someone who’s not even snowboarding?” Woo asked.

Only time will tell if others in the snowboarding community share Woo’s vision, but if he’s right about the future of snowboarding, the revolution may just start right here in Truckee.


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