"Meet the Owners" is a series we are running on our blog that shines a light on the diverse, influential group of people who invested in Mizu early on and helped make the brand what it is today. In this issue we meet Jason Ford. Look back into the golden days of early snowboarding and you'll see a few guys popping out of the pipe or cruising down mountains dressed head-to-toe in neon, long hair flying, having the time of their lives. Chances are, one of those guys will be Jason Ford. Jason formed part of the crew of pro-snowboarders that helped pioneer snowboarding. He reigned at the helm with legends such as Craig Kelly, Jeff Brushie and Terje Haakonsen. From his days at Burton Snowboards, to the rock n roll years at Ride and the calmer days of Salomon, Jason was the consummate pro. In recent years he has taken that professionalism to the business world and now holds a different kind of title: VP of Sports Marketing of USA Today. Jason runs the division dealing with the likes of NASCAR, INDYCAR, PGA TOUR, NFL and UFC. Not bad for a man who made his name shredding down the mountain on a piece of wood. Squaw Valley, '90 . Photo: Trevor Graves
You were one of the early pioneers of snowboarding back in the '80's. How would you describe the scene back then? Snowboarding was really cool in the 80's. There weren't a ton of people doing it and the clusters out of each region had their own thing going on. It was cool to see how the guys out West differed from the guys on the East Coast, or North West, or Canada. But once everyone got together we all were the same. It was a tight group of forward thinkers and rebels who liked to ride and push each other. It was a family of sorts.
What do you think of the way the sport has evolved? I'm proud of how the sport has grown. The riding levels are incredible and keep finding new ways to push boundaries each season — which is really hard to do. The products are in a fun phase of evolution, or in the case of ASMO (which I love riding), de-evolution. So all of that is great. If I had to be critical of any aspect, it would be the cost in general. It's starting to get a little out of hand with the price of lift tickets these days.
New Zealand, '94. Photo: Trevor Graves
Snowboarding was pretty rock n' roll back in the day -- what's your best story…? I look at my career in three phases. The Burton years, which were all about competition and traveling with Craig, Brushie, Duckboy and the rest of the Burton team. Those were pretty rock n' roll, especially on our trips to Japan with huge crowds, autographing everything imaginable (cars even), and parting between events. The second phase was with Ride Snowboards, and way more punk rock. We travelled out of a beat up van, wore jeans on the hill and didn't care about anyone except our team. We had a band mentality, which really helped Ride become what it was. The third phase was with Salomon and way less rock n' roll than any of the others. It was my evolution phase and one that got me more engaged in product, business, and thinking about transitioning my career.
Neon is back in vogue -- did you keep any of your old outfits?! Unfortunately no. With all the moving around I did, it was hard to hang on to that much stuff. Wish I did because some of that gear would have been fun to pull out for a day on the hill.
Tryol, '93. Photo: Trevor Graves
The magazine you created -- The Snowboard Journal -- was a beautiful testament to the sport. Do you think snowboarding just wasn't mature enough to appreciate it at that point in time? I loved what we tried to do with Snowboard Journal, but with the consolidation of snowboarding, the fact that it was under-finance and perhaps a little ahead of its time, it didn't make it. Riders always told us they loved the book, but unfortunately it takes more than love to run a business. Even though it’s gone, I’m really proud of what we did there and have an archive collection that I’ll keep forever.
You are a successful businessman now. How did you make that transition? I've always been interested in the way things work. The reason why people think they way they do, why they buy certain products, form partnerships, etc. I guess that exploring those questions has inadvertently led me to what I do today. It’s funny, when I get asked that question at work I always reply the same way… “I have no idea… I just kept moving forward, trying to be better than yesterday. Somehow I ended up here in front of you!” Stratton Mtn. '90. Photo: Trevor Graves[/caption] How did you end up becoming involved with Mizu? In the time between working for Future and starting at USA TODAY my buddy Kale was talking to Jussi about Mizu and what could become. I immediately loved the vision and was in a time in my life where I was able to contribute (a little) in the early stages of the company. It was a short period of time, but during it, the M8 bottle design and cap were created. Why did you believe in the brand? To me, brand is a combination of product, vision and culture — and Mizu has all of those things right now. I see the water bars, the new product offerings, and when I hear the rumors of the ‘soon to be’ products, I believe in the brand more and more. I love what the Mizu brand has become and I use the product daily. You can't believe more than that!