words: Tyler Davis
The snowboard industry is full of personalities. Among them, there are those who ride, those who design the products we ride, and those who figure out how to sell the products we ride. Each of these individuals is as important as the next; the final puzzle can only be put together once all the pieces are in place. For the average company to be successful, it takes people with the vision to put all the components together in the right way, but for a company to be an industry leader, it takes people even more brilliant to step up and lead both behind and in front of the scenes. It is in this position where you will find Burton Snowboards’ western territory business director, Josh Fisher.
If you’ve ever had the chance to snowboard west of the Mississippi and seen, heard, ridden, watched, or bought anything with the Burton logo, chances are Josh has had his hands in it. While he’s based in Salt Lake City, as the territory director for the Western US, Fisher’s sphere of influence stretches from the snow-filled hills of the Rockies to the slush-lined lanes of Mt. Hood to the sun-drenched terrain parks of Big Bear, and anywhere in between.
Josh’s role at Burton can be broken down into four main objectives: managing the region as a business unit, gleaning insights from the market and formulating those insights to inform brand strategy, fostering community around Burton, and evangelizing brand culture in the region–all while leading an incredible group of staff whose mission is to accomplish those brand objectives. Essentially what that means, is that it’s Josh and his regional teams that are responsible for getting the Burton brand into your consciousness and getting the products into your hands, all while bringing you into the amazing snowboard community they’re so dedicated to proliferating. And while Fisher is technically the boss, he is the first to talk about how important his teams are to the brand’s success. He leads the crews, who are based out of Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, NorCal, and SoCal, as they work in close collaboration to accomplish Burton’s goals on the West Coast. And it’s their hard work that makes Josh’s role enjoyable.
While the business side of snowboarding comes with the territory, Josh is quick to point out that for him, the best part of the job ultimately comes down to the people he interacts with. “What really motivates me is developing people, and together, leading them to accomplish big things,” he says. “I am so fortunate that I get to interact with so many good people on all fronts. I am never more proud than when I get to identify someone, bring them into the brand, and am able to teach them whatever I know. The people make it. I love snowboarding so much. I’m so happy and proud to be a steward for the culture to any degree possible. If I can shape my little corner of it in any way, I’m so grateful for that opportunity.”
What Fisher describes humbly as a “little corner” has had an enormous impact in snowboarding as he has fostered and contributed to the careers of countless riders and members of the industry. This affinity for collective growth is rooted in his own experience coming up riding alongside snowboarding’s development, and actively evolving along with it. “Everyone believes their generation is the best, and for different reasons they all are, but ours is really unique because we’re roughly the same age as snowboarding,” he explains. “We grew up on a parallel timeline to the sport and culture. When I was an awkward, pre- pubescent teenager, snowboarding was too–it was going from DayGlo weirdness to flannel and dreads. Countercultural skate style, hip-hop, and punk rock came into snowboarding right as I developed my aversion to authority. I matured and developed professionally as snowboarding became real business. Now I’m a parent with a family of riders, while snowboarding’s become a full-on family activity for this generation.”
“I’ve got what I call ‘the producer theory.’ If you look at a lot of music producers, they’re usually artists who have had their career in the spotlight, then at a certain point they step into the background and use their experience and perspective to help bring the best out of other people.”
Born in Pennsylvania, Josh spent the first ten years of his childhood in Germany. While there was an American military base nearby with an American school, Josh cut his elementary teeth in the German school system. His ability to speak the language fluently led him to be the go-between for both his American and German friends. According to Josh, acting as “a conduit between the two groups was the beginning of what set me up to do what I do now with leading. It’s connecting people and organizations in meaningful ways.”
Like many East Coast kids, Josh headed west after high school and landed in Bozeman, Montana, earning a college degree while working as a pseudo-manager at World Boards. It was here where his Burton journey really started, moving from regional team rider to outside sales rep to running his own sales agency, Four Horsemen Sales, up until he moved into his current in-house role in 2018.
When asked about what changes he has seen in his eighteen years with Burton, he responds with a two-part answer. “A big shift is the change of the market landscape and the focus on the end consumer,” Josh offers. “Burton has structured things so that my teams and I are focused 100 percent on the brand and the end consumer—what’s good for the brand is kind of good for everybody. We’re empowered to go out and tell the brand’s story and build excitement wherever participants interact with it. It’s all about focusing on the brand, making sure the consumer is psyched, then allowing the consumer to interact with it on their terms, through their preferred medium. It’s not the most sexy or exciting change, but the operational changes Burton has made behind the scenes are a pretty big systemic shift in its approach to the market.”
The second change Josh mentions is something he is really passionate about, and that has been a very visible part of Burton’s strategy over this past year. “One of the coolest things is being able to support meaningful causes in the region, like Soy Sauce Nation, Beyond the Boundaries, Rally for Rocker, and Save A Brain,” he says. “I really enjoy finding those things that align with Burton’s ideals and channeling the brand’s support to something that’s already got its own juice. To be able to direct where support goes is a pretty big change and something that I’ve been stoked to see.” When I ask if there is anything in common between both of these shifts, Josh is quick to reply, “The focus on the consumer. If you’re focused on them and doing the right stuff operationally, it’s going to work out.”
One of the first things you notice about Josh is his deeply rooted passion for snowboard culture and the history behind it. Solid proof can be found hanging in his office: a drool- worthy collection of the 2000 Burton Balance boards with the For Jamil artwork by Mike Parillo in silver (he also has the multicolored set). “That Balance graphic is hands down my favorite,” Fisher says. “That was such a formative time in snowboarding for me and the story behind the artwork is beautiful.” And while he claims he’s no expert, he has a pretty stellar wealth of knowledge on Burton boards throughout their history, which he puts on full display when we get to talking about the famous Jeff Brushie boards. “In my showroom I had the trout, the DJ, and the Cruzin, and when you hang them next to each other, those boards tell the exact story of what snowboarding was going through at the time. The trout was ‘93 and you can see it’s almost like a race board. Then it went to that DJ that had the elliptical kick and the pointier nose and tail. Then it went to the Cruzin, which was literally just the DJ with the nose and tail cut down. Nothing tells the story better of what was happening in snowboarding from ‘93 to ‘95 than those boards.”
Alongside his deep knowledge of snowboard culture, Josh’s stoke for being a shred dad is infectious. “I’m so fortunate to be able to raise my family in snowboarding. It’s not an easy thing to do but I’ve carved a path to do it,” he adds. “Riley [Josh’s 11-year-old son] has been to probably twenty resorts around the country. He rode with Zeb at Natural Selection and gets to hang out with dudes like Danny and Mark McMorris at events, it’s unreal.” This is a sentiment that has become much more commonplace among like-minded people in the industry who have made a space for themselves beyond just riding; it’s one generation passing the torch to the next and it’s something that both Josh and Burton believe in and want to foster.
With people like Josh in their ranks it’s no wonder that Burton continues to be not only successful from a business standpoint but also as an important steward of snowboard culture. Josh’s love for snowboarding is contagious. Enjoy a conversation with him and you’ll come out filled with more love and knowledge about snowboarding than you ever thought possible.