Page 2 of 4
Like most other mountain professionals in the world, France's ski-hill managers were less than enthusiastic about the new sport. Too dangerous, too disruptive, too youth-oriented: the arguments against allowing one-plankers onto their precious mountain lifts were myriad. So Serge decided to change their perception.
In an attempt to show the industry what the snowboard movement was all about, Dupraz organized a first "gathering of the tribes" in Portes Du Soleil in 1985. Again, the event followed surf culture — riders got to show their stuff on a huge powder slope and were judged on style and line. Serge's Euro Cup event (the first ever snowboard competition in the Alps) exceeded all expectations. And it brought a legitimacy to the sport that didn't exist before. Slowly but surely, mountain managers relented and snowboarders became an everyday sight on the hill.
And slowly but surely, board design evolved and changed to meet the new demand. Dupraz, as usual, was on the leading edge of those changes too. The first French rider to race in foreign snowboard competitions, the 24-year -old was pushing the sport's performance limits on every front. And his design thinking reflected that involvement. One of the first shapers to produce a "carving" board — Hot's One-Sixty — Dupraz's strikingly accessible "all-mountain" design became France's all-time bestseller. And Hot's numbers went through the roof — from 800 boards produced in 1986-87 to over 8,500 in 1989-90!
Meanwhile Hot's Pro Team (the industry's first) was also making waves. Led by the camera-friendly Serge Vitelli, Eric Rey and Dédé Masziewski, the team won championship after championship and showcased the new carving style from Chamonix to Blackcomb Mountain. "It was an exciting time to be in the snowboard business," acknowledges Dupraz. "Seemed in those days like the sport had no limits..." But clouds were building on the horizon.
Rising production costs, desperately bad snow years in the Alps and a licensing conflict with his manufacturer gradually sucked the energy right out of Dupraz. By 1990, the guy was totally burnt out. The man who had started it all in France — the passionate rider, designer and promoter — virtually disappeared from the scene.
"I hate conflicts," he confides. "I hate blackmail; I can't stand dealing with people who have hidden agendas. The battle I was waging with my board manufacturer was tearing me to pieces. I might be naïve — even innocent, if you want — but I got involved in this business to create fun glisse tools. I never did it for the money." He sighs. "Though it broke my heart at the time, dropping out was my only recourse."
May 19, 2013, 9:15 AM
Owners watch helplessly as flames and smoke pour out of their home More...
May 18, 2013, 2:00 PM
Investigation into Paradise Valley water source for mountain resort continues More...
May 17, 2013, 11:02 AM
Sea to Sky Highway to be intensely monitored for high-risk driving More...