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The Loooooooooong Vacation

Chasing Winter

Who The Burton Carpenter family and entourage Home Base Stowe, Vermont Long Vacation Snowboarding (and surfing) on six continents, July 2003–April 2004

Anybody who knows snowboarding knows Burton boards, and you can bet that if Jake Burton Carpenter sells it, he's ridden it. The man aims for 100 on-mountain days a year­—he keeps a running tally—and even after nearly three decades in the business, nothing grabs his attention faster than a foot of fresh powder. Unless it's the perfect wave. In July 2003, he and his wife, Donna, and their sons, George, Taylor, and Timmy (13, 9, and 6), along with a niece (Victoria, 15), a babysitter, and two friends (who would also function as tutors for the kids), left Vermont for a 10-month trip dedicated to snowboarding and surfing on six continents. "We're saving Antarctica for next year," says Donna.

Originally, Jake had simply wanted to spend a few months on the slopes in New Zealand. It was Donna, an equally avid rider, who asked : "Why don't we take more time and go around the world?" She planned the trip with Blue Charm Expeditions, an outfitter that specializes in global itineraries. "We knew we wanted to snowboard in Argentina and Chile. I had always wanted to see Machu Picchu. And the Blue Charm people recommended the Galápagos Islands." That's where Jake got funny looks when he brought his surf bag on the nature cruise." The captain was very cool; he dropped me near a good spot, and I paddled into the lineup—of sea lions," he says. "Every wave, two or three of them bodysurfed alongside me, and eventually they started chewing on my leash and towing me backward."

In Christchurch, New Zealand, where they settled for six weeks, their rental house overlooked four surf breaks and was a short drive to the mountains. "You could snowboard, surf, and skateboard all in one day!" says Taylor, who, like his brothers, seems to have been born to ride. Wherever the group landed, sports were their entrée. (Having Burton employees all over—and, as always, a bit of business to take care of—also helped.) "Even in the most exotic places, we all felt right at home as soon as we strapped on our boards," says Jake. In Hokkaido, Japan, they slurped soba noodles between runs, and as they surfed in Danang, Vietnam, an elephant swam by.

Accommodations were deliberately varied. After roughing it at the Blue Lagoon, four thatched huts on the otherwise uninhabited island of Foeata in the South Pacific, the family was ensconced in the tallest hotel in the world, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, which occupies the 53rd to 87th floors of the Jin Mao Tower. The trip was so well planned that Donna literally had a spreadsheet for each day. The kids fit in homework in the morning or at night, working through the curriculum their public schools had provided. Though they visited the Taj Mahal and went on safari in Tanzania, there was never more than a week between riding sessions—whether in Morocco's Atlas Mountains or Val d'Isère in the Alps, where Jake and Donna tested Burton's 2005 line and the whole gang went paragliding on snowboards.

When they finally arrived back home, in mid-April, the kids got ready for school. "We thought it would be good for them to finish with their classes," says Donna. "Major mistake. It would have been easier to just start again in September." Jake, meanwhile, immediately raced up the slopes to catch the last of Stowe's snow: "I still had only ninety-one days for the season, so I hiked up the mountain every day to get my hundred in."

The World According to Jake

On the Norwegian island of Tromsø we snowboarded down steep mountains that go right to the ocean— we couldn't get enough. The Rica Ishavshotel there is shaped like a ship and perches over the crystal water. We tried whale burgers, which George said tasted like "good, but slightly fishy, hamburgers."

In Kitzbühel, Austria, the backcountry run was frickin' epic. There were these wide-open rollers in the middle of a powder field. With the slightest of ollies, you would launch.

Our only chance to ride in Africa was at Oukaimeden, in the Atlas Mountains, where the chairlift ride to the top is supposedly the longest in the world. Unfortunately, the snow was rock hard. We Vermonters take pride in our hardpack skills, but this stuff was bulletproof.

Our stay at the Four Seasons resort in the Maldives was the perfect vacation. We surfed every morning and afternoon, and spent midday napping and chilling by the pool. We had a guide who got us to uncrowded surf, as heavy or as mellow as we wanted. I'll be going back there for sure.

—JAKE BURTON CARPENTER

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