LIVERMORE -- Jared Hill may be the luckiest guy on the slopes.
The 23-year-old entrepreneur has turned his passion for snowboarding into a business that targets snowboard enthusiasts searching for a unique, high-end product.
Hill's Aloha Products is introducing artisan, high-tech snowboards to the market this month, just in time for the first snow of the season.
"It's really a dream come true to be able to take what I'm so passionate about and fulfill it in my everyday life in Aloha," Hill said from the company's Livermore headquarters. "We feel like we have a new spin and a different outlook on the way snowboarding is done." While Hill is wild about snowboarding, he didn't set out to start his own snowboard company. Instead, he was working for his dad's high-tech manufacturing company, True-Tech, when he fell into the snowboard business.
Hill was helping the Fremont-based True-Tech open a Livermore office when the cabinet firm the company had hired went out of business. Hill's father, Doug Hill, bought the remnants of Aloha cabinets, and the younger Hill learned enough cabinetry skills to finish the project.
Once Hill got into the cabinet business, he realized that much of what he had learned about cabinetry could be applied to making snowboards. Then he had the genius idea of using True-Tech's high-tech machinery to craft cutting-edge snowboards.
"We're applying modern manufacturing techniques to an old-world skill," Doug Hill said. "You mix that with the passion of a 23-year-old kid, and it's a win."
The Hill family, which enjoys Hawaii every bit as much as they enjoy snowy slopes, kept the Aloha name for the new company.
"Everything about the name Aloha fits our family," Doug Hill said. "The company is all about family and fostering the kids."
Doug Hill is CEO of Aloha, while Jared is the founder and production manager. Big sister Meghan Krick, the marketing manager, is in charge of Aloha's clothing line of board shorts, Hawaiian shirts and sports shirts. The clothing line will also be launched this fall.
While Jared Hill has dreams of ruling the snowboard world, he's content with starting small with high-tech boards featuring designer art. The company has an exclusive deal with Southern California artist Stephen Schubert to feature his art on some boards.
"Our goal is to provide high-end boards and production," Doug Hill said. "We're only going to go after the best of the best. We've already developed some core technology that nobody else is using. Inside 99 percent of the boards on the market, there is a piece of wood. That's what gives them the flex. What we're doing is using alternate materials with the wood."
The blending of craftsmanship with technology leads to a more responsive snowboard with a better ride, Jared Hill explained.
"It will give the board a softer ride and more flex to be able to maneuver and position the board on the mountain, whether you're doing tricks or riding steep terrain in the back country," he said. "It will be a different style, a different feel of riding."
Indeed, snowboard enthusiast Gabe Schwartz agreed that a prototype Aloha board he tested for his longtime friend, Jared, felt different from any other board he's ridden.
"It's got a lot of flex," the San Francisco resident said. "They're very poppy, very playful and a lot of fun. I've never ridden a board quite as playful. I feel like I can launch myself off things easier and higher with less effort."
More flex, Schwartz explained, makes a rider feel more connected with the board and the terrain.
"If you're riding a big stiff board and hit some bumps, you're going to feel that," Schwartz said. The Aloha board "takes the bumps easier. I felt like I had more control and could jump easier. I was pleasantly surprised. I really haven't been on anything that popped quite the same way."
Ultimately, the Hills would like to open a manufacturing site near the slopes where custom boards could be made, Doug Hill said.
"Our goal is to open up a facility in the Sierras so that Jared could custom-make a board overnight for a professional," he said. "The materials are cut, designed and produced in a computer environment. The goal is that we can analyze the performance of a board before it ever gets to the snow."
Snowboards typically range in price from about $250 to $1,000 or more, Doug Hill noted. Aloha boards will be at the upper end of that range to target serious riders and high-income enthusiasts who want a unique experience.
"For me, Aloha has been my blood, sweat and tears from day one," Jared Hill said. "Where I see this going is a vibe of pleasure and serenity and peace of mind up on the mountain. I really want to focus on how we portray ourselves on the mountain."
The younger Hill came up with the company's tagline, Growing Young, to capture the youthful feel that snowboarding brings to riders of all ages.
"The whole Aloha spirit and that feel-good positive energy comes from your surroundings," Doug Hill said. "These are going to be a limited-production artisan board. I would not be surprised if people start collecting these things to put them on their walls. It so happens that you can also bolt a pair of bindings on them and go down a mountain."