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Reflecting on the legacy of Chris Prior

This season's boards and skis pay homage to Prior's artistic passion

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Despite passing away just over a year ago, Chris Prior's fingerprints can be found all over Prior's newest snowboard line.

"Before Chris passed away, we really redesigned most of our models," explained Dominic Morin, who worked closely with Prior for a dozen years and now serves as the company's head shaper.

"He was on a bit of a designing spree at the end, so we had a lot of fun designing new shapes, and doing different R&D projects."

Morin described Prior as a hands-on boss with a passion for refining and developing new boards and skis.

"He basically had the last word on everything," said Morin. "The shapes we have come out with are definitely inspired by his vision."

The lineup includes a couple new models—short and fat powder boards called the Thruster and, in honour of Prior, the Legacy.

But it also features many of familiar shapes, which have been refined. Some have also been given new artwork.

Models such as the MFR, the BC Split, and the Brandywine have been carried on, explained Morin. "These are all super-popular models that have been popular for years."

When asked to pick a favourite, Morin deferred. "When you have been making boards for (so) long, you love every one of them," he said. "Today was a 50-centimetre (day). I was in my garage, debating which one I would take."

It was buzzing when Pique visited the Prior manufacturing facility and shop recently, as employees churned out new boards and skis in the busy shop and carried out administrative work in the upstairs office.

Morin explained that he has been encouraged by an ongoing trend in snowboarding that is seeing people experiment with different shapes.

"I think people are more and more open to shapes, definitely," said Morin. "People tend to go towards the powder or it's more surf-vibe orientated."

The beauty of riding different boards in different conditions was something Prior long understood having come from windsurfing, where if you don't have the right board, you may get skunked, explained Morin.

"(Prior) was used to the quiver idea, and he would ride everything," he said, adding that the new shapes especially pay dividends in the backcountry.

"It's all about having the best ride possible with the time you've got."

Morin, who works closely with a core team of longtime Prior employees, explained that Prior's legacy can be felt in every element of the production cycle, from early design to using the new computer-controlled cutting machine to produce ski and snowboard cores.

"He was a really great artist," said Morin. "I'm really confident with what we are delivering; it's about remembering Chris and all of his work."

Morin said that the shop has a strong following in Whistler, and friends of Prior also gave feedback on boards, which inform the final product.

"Lots of local people are tight with the company and are good friends of the shop," he said.

"Chris had a lot of respect in town. And look—we're buried in boards."

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