FILE - In this March 8, 2002, file photo, the late Jake Burton Carpenter, owner of Burton Snowboards, shows an early model, right, and one of the newer snowboards, left, in his office in Burlington. Burton's company is now grappling with the impacts of climate change on the industry.

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STOWE — “Dear Rider: The Jake Burton Story” focuses on the life and vision of Jake Carpenter Burton, who helped catapult snowboarding into the world.

“Just incredible job with the arc of this story,” Chris Copley told the filmmakers during a recent Red Bench Speaker Series event hosted by the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. “Everything in this film is true.”

Copley, a former Burton Snowboards representative and U.S. Open announcer, moderated the discussion with film director Fernando Villena and co-producers Ben Bryan and Mike Cox.

Villena said Donna Burton, Burton’s wife, allowed the filmmakers to put anything in the film as long as it was true.

“So that was huge,” Villena said.

Villena hails from Miami and had edited film for 20 years when Bryan gave him an opportunity to direct the HBO documentary “Any One of Us.” They’ve been working together ever since.

Villena said he researched information about Burton’s history and met with him about “Dear Rider.”

“When I went into the room, he did everything to make me feel comfortable,” he said. “It was such a magical moment.”

Burton, one of the inventors of the snowboard, founded Burton Snowboards in the 1970s. In the early years, the company was based in Londonderry and Manchester. Now, it’s headquartered in Burlington.

Bryan, who grew up snowboarding in Idaho, said he had a passion for the sport and outdoor recreation. He later worked on outdoor sports films, landing jobs with the big brands such as Burton Snowboards then with independent filmmakers. He now oversees documentary filmmaking at Red Bull, which produced “Dear Rider.”

Bryan had been part of a team that pitched a documentary about Burton to the man himself around 2018. Burton died the following year after battling Miller Fisher Syndrome, a rare nerve disorder, then cancer.

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The film was released by HBO in 2021. Copley commended the filmmakers for getting so much of Burton’s voice into the film.

Bryan said the group spent a lot of time with Burton to get to know him and flesh out the project. They also referred to earlier interviews, including one from NPR’s “How I Built This.”

Villena described Donna being “so open and so specific about the details.”

“Donna, to me, is the shining light in this film,” Copley said. “She is someone, who in the world of snowboarding, people had no idea her level of involvement with the brand since day one.”

Copley also touted actor Woody Harrelson’s narration in the film. Harrelson and Burton “were homies,” Bryan said.

“They were part of a little poker circle,” Bryan said. “The friendship was there, and it was genuine and real.”

Harrelson read writings by Burton that went into the company’s catalogs.

Riders interviewed for the film “all feel they owe something to Jake,” Villena said. Kelly Clark, an Olympic gold medalist from West Dover, is among the group.

Villena said Burton’s “passion is unmatched. I think he surrounded himself with people who had passion like he did.”

“I realized a lot of what made Jake who he was had to do with a lot of the trauma he went through when he was young losing his brother, losing his mother, when he was a teenager,” Villena said. It made him a super independent person ... but he also wanted community.”

Boarders all over the world “bomb down the hill” together on March 11 annually to celebrate Burton’s legacy, said Copley, who did so at Stowe Mountain Resort this year.


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