WHITEFISH - This Montana Made report features a snowboard builder who’s unlikely career path led him to northwest Montana to do what he loves most.
Notice Snowboards owner Brittan Ellingson is a third-generation Montanan and has always called Whitefish his home.
After he graduated college, he moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to work as a video editor for the popular media company, Teton Gravity Research. Then Brittan moved back to Whitefish in hopes of furthering his career in the action sports world but ended up on a much different path.
“There really wasn’t any sort of industry for action sports here. So, I got a job in the oil and gas industry as a petroleum landman -- which is basically the mediator between the oil and gas companies and the middle owners, the farmers or whoever owns the surface acres too," Ellingson said.
Ellingson says he needed something new to fill a part of his life that was missing after six years of working in the oil industry. “I need it. To be honest, like I have a creative void that needs to be filled all the time whether, you know, in anything.”
So, he moved his family to Colorado to do snowboard repairs for the company Never Summer. Then after a few months, he realized he could actually build snowboards on his own.
"I pretty much thought I had these snowboard things figured out so I sold my wakeboarding boat and built a snowboard factory," Ellingson said.
Ellingson showed us the entire process of building one of his custom boards.
“The core goes on first, and you shape the core. And then you drill out the binding inserts and then you put the sidewalls on the board, then you put the tip and tail fill on it. So, then your core is done, and then you do the base," Ellingson said.
"So, you use that same template and you cut out your base material and then you put edges on the base and then you’ve got your base done and you’ve got the core done," he continued.
"And then from there you do the sandwich construction process which is basically the base and then a layer of fiberglass and then the core and then another layer of fiberglass and then the top sheet," Ellingson said.
"And then you throw it in the press and let the glue dry and cure and then you pull it out of the press, cut off all the extras around the sides and then base grind all the glue off. Make sure you get it really good and flat and then you wax it, and then you ride it," Ellingson concluded.
He says it took a while to finally be able to make a living from the company but he is finally there, making around 70 snowboards per year and now wake surfboards in the warmer months.
“It’s been a slow burn to get it to this point but now we have an operation that runs year-round. I build wake surfboards in the summer. So, it’s a sustainable business now.”
He says just in town he has seen his business start to take off and become popular with the locals, "it’s so fun to see my boards on Big Mountain. Even just stickers on the lift towers, I’m like 'YES'!”
He says that it took a long time to get where he is now but wouldn’t trade it for the world.
"There’s nothing I would rather do than build snowboards and wake surfboards and the fact that I get to do it in Montana, is awesome. Whitefish is an amazing place, all of Montana is an amazing place you know," Ellingson said.
Ellingson says he plans to build boards in Montana for as long as he can.