Bend entrepreneurs will gift snowboard company, SnoPlanks to OSU-Cascades

The founders of SnoPlanks, a Bend-based snowboard company, will donate the company to OSU-Cascades. Photo by Mighty Creature Company.
Dec. 6, 2023

The founders of a Bend-based snowboard company will donate it to Oregon State University – Cascades to provide students a hands-on opportunity running an outdoor products company.

OSU-Cascades officials are planning an innovative model, called SnoPlanks Academy, to operate the company. It incorporates leadership and management of SnoPlanks, a snowboard brand and production company, into students’ academic experiences. The company was founded by entrepreneurs James Nicol and Ryan Holmes.

“We’re extremely grateful for the doors this extraordinary gift will open for OSU-Cascades students and faculty, transforming how they approach learning and teaching with experiences that can also help attract and retain students” said Sherm Bloomer, chancellor and dean of OSU-Cascades. “A cross-disciplinary team, sponsored by OSU-Cascades and OSU’s College of Business, has already formed to design the SnoPlanks Academy and how students will advance their career skills by engaging in the operation, sustainability and growth of the company.”

Team members foresee engaging students in OSU-Cascades’ undergraduate business, engineering, outdoor products, and arts, media and technology programs to draw the skills and talents required to bring SnoPlanks products to market. They plan to select the company’s first student leadership team in the coming months.

“SnoPlanks Academy will provide students resume-building experiences – from product design and supply chain management to financial analysis and go-to-market execution – that employers look for,” said team member and OSU-Cascades business instructor Todd Laurence.

Nicol and Holmes were popular guest lecturers in Laurence’s business classes where they spoke to students about the production, marketing and sales aspects of Snoplanks. Inevitably, said Laurence, the co-owners were surrounded afterwards by students eager to intern and work at SnoPlanks.

"This new venture is a unique and innovative learning opportunity for our students that we are excited to be a part of," said Tim Carroll, dean of the College of Business. "It also reflects the dynamism of the Bend business community and OSU-Cascades – entrepreneurial, clever, cross-disciplinary and supportive. SnoPlanks founders James and Ryan have already inspired OSU-Cascades students with their vision, and we are grateful for the chance to develop this platform – for business and learning."

When Nicol and Holmes launched SnoPlanks in 2012, they produced boards by hand and with bamboo, a lightweight and flexible wood that created a sustainable, high-performance powder board. The company won an early-stage award at the 2015 Bend Venture Conference, the same year the founders completed the Bend Outdoor Worx accelerator program for outdoor companies. 

SnoPlanks snowboards have been carried by national resellers such as Tactics and Backcountry, and featured in publications such as Outside Magazine, Snowboarder and Teton Gravity Research.

“This is the next, best possible chapter for SnoPlanks,” said Nicol, “to pass the brand along to future generations and see its reinvention. Our goal is to continue building a positive community, and to help transform opportunities for teaching and learning at OSU-Cascades.”

About OSU-Cascades:  Oregon State University’s campus in Bend brings higher education to Central Oregon, the fastest growing region in the state. Surrounded by mountains, forest and high desert, OSU-Cascades is a highly innovative campus of a top-tier land grant research university, offering small classes that accelerate faculty-student mentoring and experiential learning. Degree programs meet industry and economic needs in areas such as innovation and entrepreneurship, natural ecosystems, health and wellness, and arts and sciences, and prepare students for tomorrow’s challenges. OSU-Cascades is expanding to serve 3,000 to 5,000 students, building a 128-acre campus with net-zero goals.