Amplid are one of the best success stories snowboarding has seen in the past five years. Fantastically made snowboards, forever pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and fronted by one of the sport’s most passionate and iconic figures; Peter Bauer slides into the Big Wig hotseat for this issue’s Big Wig. Interview by Source Editor HMT.
Peter, for those who don’t know (shame on them!) tell us about your background and what led you to starting Amplid. And don’t say snowboarding!
I had been competing on the world cup circuit for almost 15 years, riding for Burton for the entire time. After my active career I got more and more involved in their board RnD, I learned a lot by seeing all the different factories and manufacturing methods. And at some point I simply thought it was time to start my own business. I saw the market being full of similar products, since it’s quite simple to go to a factory and get your own graphics onto cookie-cutter OEM-boards. For me this was a clear indication to make something original, going away from off-the-shelf materials, developing own technologies to make your riding day an even better one. This was the starting point of Amplid, and our DNA and purpose from day one.
Tell us about the company structure at Amplid.
Amplid has several locations: I am located in the Bavarian Alps, about 15 minutes from two resorts – and in Fiss (Austria), where our base is 300m from the gondola station. These are strategically two perfect places for our RnD processes. It allows me to get around 150 riding days per season. Plus the Hintertux glacier is very close as well, where we can ride and test all year around. Your question is about the “company” – but I feel being placed where you can ride 12 months per year is an important part of a snowboard company, as it keeps staff happy and psyched, and the RnD on a top notch level. Our warehouse and customer service is located in Munich.
Our team consists of a bunch of competent, great and unique people.
Gregor Common – a well know industry veteran – is our Head of Global Sales. Conrad Albert, the “other Amplid owner”, takes care of the finance stuff, business development and the overall strategic aspects of running a company. He lives right next door, so beside the fact that he is my daily partner in crime on the chairlift, he is a huge help for certain business disciplines which I am happy to hand over to somebody who’s got the black dan in it. I guess we will hear more from Conrad in the next few months, as he is one of the founders of Surf Town Munich, Europe’s biggest Surfpark to come in 2023. Hopefully surfing won’t distract us too much from our snow job … Michi Hanauer is our visual marketing guru, who is responsible for CI, board graphics, website, etc.
All these guys are excellent riders by the way, and super fun to go ride and hang out with. Then we’ve got Sabine Thieme, Jenny Balling and Annette Lakos, who are the actual masters of operations behind the curtain, as they do all the ERP work, from accounting to customer service. They are invaluable as they really keep everything together in the daily grind. And finally we have Nina Albert, Conrad’s wife, who has a heavy finance background, is super savvy in financial structuring and accounting and comes in from time to time to analyse and help optimizing our financial performance.
Amplid also owns and operates a merino business, called Pally’Hi (www.pallyhi.com), where we have a few additional people in the team. Most of the staff mentioned before are also involved with Pally’Hi, which is managed by Johannes Ritter.
How are you making your business more sustainable?
There are a couple of buttons we are pushing: Sustainably Harvested Wood – Wood cores are one of the most important materials in our snowboards. This is why we purchase all our snowboard cores from FSC–certified suppliers. These cores are made from responsibly harvested wood that meets the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC). FSC wood is verified to not be harvested illegally, in violation of traditional and civil rights, in forests where high conservation values are threatened, in forests being converted to plantations or non-forest use, or in forests where genetically modified trees are planted.
Digital Printing Technologies – Our boards with topsheet graphics are printed on new Kodak printers, which comply with AZO certification and meet the Oeko-Tex Safety Standard. Colours are solvent-free and UV bonding.
UV Lacquer – We have decreased the use of UV-lacquer down to 7% across our board range.
Silkscreen – We use water-based lacquer (with a maximum of 6% solvent) on our snowboards in order to reduce worker- and rider exposure to hazardous chemicals. Note that 100% solvent free colours need more solvent to clean the screens than you would need to actually print. As of today, that 6% ensures the use of solvent is kept to a minimum.
Non-Toxic Sidewall Finishing Solution – Used on all Amplid board models.
Basalt Fiber Stringers – This is similar to fiberglass, having better physico-mechanical properties than fiberglass, but being significantly more ecological than carbon fibre.
Flip-Flop Base Graphic Colours – Reduces material waste by offering two die-cut base graphic colourways.
Metal Edges – Are made of 20% recycled steel.
Side Walls – Are made of 20% recycled ABS.
Energy – Our production partner has a photovoltaic system which provides an average of 710.000 kW/h and feeds, in addition to the production facility, 150 households in the area. Estimated savings are approx. 456.000 kg of CO2.
Cutting down our footprint is an ongoing process. We’re only as good as the impact we have, so we’re investing to improve the lives of everyone that we engage with, all over the world. We want to make as little an impact as possible on everyone around us.
Where are you manufacturing your boards?
We have been working with Playmaker in Taiwan for the past four seasons now. And the quality is incredible. We also have a person from Austria located in Taiwan, whom we share with our friends from Nitro. Mario used to be the technical director for two factories in Austria before, and he’s been in the manufacturing business for 30 years – the Confucius of materials and processes. It helps facilitate communication, having a knowledgeable person on site. Working with such a large company provides easy access to experimental materials which you wouldn’t get your hands on being a small fish. With Playmaker we found a partner who is keen on pushing the boundaries of traditional manufacturing processes. Most of the factories are afraid or simply not interested in leaving the path of their proven every-day-routine.
Talk to us about the biggest challenges Covid threw at you and how you’ve overcome them.
In the beginning you told me not use the word “snowboarding”. My intention was not to use the word “Covid” … but since you asked: When Covid hit the market, the impact on our business was actually positive. Many countries did not open their resorts, so splitboarding was the only way to get up – and down – the mountain. We always have raw material in stock, as it’s mostly a special order for Amplid. We had so many reorders from retailers, that we needed to place three additional bulk orders for splitboards in our factory. Having all materials in stock, we had an incredibly quick turnaround time of four weeks only, from the actual order until the boards hit the warehouse. The additional buzz on our splits, especially the Milligram, made the winter 20/21 and the last financial year a very positive one for us. But even our solid boards sold really well, mainly in Austria, Switzerland and North-America, where resorts were open.
An unnerving long-covid symptom though is shipping: Shipping materials to the factory, and shipping boards to our warehouse has been a big headache this season. Ports are lacking staff, there are not enough ships running at the moment, custom offices are completely overloaded with not having enough personnel. Everything takes longer than expected. All you can do is move your own deadlines forward to prevent delays. Every segment is suffering from delays right now. From automotive to computers to snowboards…
How are you balancing your DTC business with your wholesale business?
It’s very simple: As long as you are faithful to your price policy and don’t start discounting on your own website on December 27th, there is no competition with your brick and mortar retailers. With all our retail partners, who are running their own online business, you can find Amplid products in probably around 50 online shops. With Amplid.com it is 51 – so that doesn’t really make a difference? We are also prioritising our retailers in delivery: Whatever hits the warehouse, pre-orders from retailers get served first. We are growing our online business well, but our B2B business grew a lot more during the past two seasons.
What are your best performing categories in Europe and where are you seeing the best growth year on year?
Splitboarding is for sure the most important segment for us. We make some of the lightest splits on the market with lots of useful tech and this is highly appreciated by the quite picky splitboard customer group. High end boards for surfing pow and corduroy is another category we are doing really well in. Amplid’s so called “Centrifugal Boards” with our homegrown “Antiphase” dampening technology are a real blast – so much fun to ride, really addictive!
What are the biggest opportunities Amplid’s facing right now?
Having the world’s best splitboards – in my humble opinion – helps a lot, since this is one of the few growing segments in the winter sports market.
And the threats?
Shipping lead times and costs have been increasing painfully, and as a consequence retail prices will increase for the next year by at least 10%. Hopefully this will not be an obstacle for people staying active in the sport.
What message to do you have for the snowboard industry after your lifetime on the mountain?
Go riding, as much as possible. I assume nobody chose the snowboard industry to become filthy rich. So let’s get some priceless powder days into the accounting books!