A Snowboarder With Business Savvy

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By Nick Kolakowski
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, January 14, 2007

If you build it, they will strap it to their feet. At least, that's the vision of Dave Tran, founder and head of Monument Snowboards, a line of snowboarding equipment that's sold online and in a few stores on both coasts.

To buy his first 10 boards, Tran worked tables at Millie and Al's in Adams Morgan for two months; today, he relies on money from a tech-support job plus side projects to finance the company, which he started in 2001. Tran, 31, of Woodbridge has a degree in marketing management, but he says building Monument Snowboards has been based less on textbook skills than on a certain street -- or slope -- sense.

"People think running a snowboard company is all fun and games, but it's not," he says. "It's all business, and sometimes I wonder why I picked the hardest industry to break into."

Many snowboarding companies have a corporate team of sorts, dedicated daredevils who hit tournaments and show off their boards, and Tran's is no different. His nine-person team, teenagers and 20-somethings all, recently made a short video for the company Web site ( http://www.monumentsnowboards.com) titled "cloudsHappen." It features the kinds of stunts that involve planning, skill and doubtless lots of aspirin the morning after.

What attracted you to snowboarding?

When I was at Virginia Tech, I had a lot of friends from Virginia Beach who would always talk about going. I finally was able to get a hold of a cheap board and started learning by riding on college nights at Winterplace [Ski Resort] in West Virginia. It was $10 on Wednesdays for night sessions. Ticket prices are too expensive nowadays, and it's a downer.

Where are the best places to snowboard on the East Coast? Where do you head?

My criteria usually go in this order: lift line wait, trails open and distance. I'm pretty much happy at any resort where I can get in as many runs as possible without getting bored.

As far as my favorite place to go in the mid-Atlantic, I like visiting Massanutten Resort a lot. It's two hours away from D.C. [in the Shenandoah Valley], and they are known for being snowboard friendly, with the best terrain park in the area.

Snowshoe Mountain, which is four hours away from D.C. [in West Virginia], is a fun destination as well.

For someone just starting out snowboarding, what do you recommend in terms of boards and other equipment?

I would suggest buying middle-of-the-road equipment. There's no need to buy a $600 top-of-the-line snowboard when you don't know how to use it.

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