The Original Winterstick

1997 Dimitrije Milovich Interview

The Original Winterstick

By Eastern Edge

March 1997

Courtesy: Red Bear
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Full transcript below

dimitrije milovich


Dimitrije Milovich is a name that most of today's snowboarders are not familiar with, yet Dimitrije's personal pursuit of surfing on snow and innovative board designs have con- tributed a great deal to modern day snow- boarding.

Dimitrije grew up in White Plains, New York where he and his friend Wayne experimented with surfing on snow. This desire to surf on snow drove Dimitrije to the powder fields of Utah to develop what the world would later know as the original Winterstick.

[Image caption]"If I'm ever asked who invented the snowboard, I usually respond: It depends on what you mean by snowboard. If it means something you ride on snow and make turns with that doesn't require a leash in your hand - well, let me know if you've seen a photo earlier than this one - April 1974."

EE Take me back to the beginning. 
DM Pretty much everybody in the east coast grew up with a sled or a toboggan and if you had a sled or a toboggan you tried to stand up on

EE You grew up in New York state? 
DM Yeah, I lived in White Plains, New York. I went to elementary school and junior high there and then I went to high school in Indiana. Then I came back and that is when I first got involved in it. I had done a little bit of surfing on the east coast, but I was never really a surfer.

EE Where did you surf the times that you went?
DM Fire Island, and Jones Beach. Probably the biggest influence on my snow surfing was seeing the movie Five Summer Stories, it is
like the surf movie of all time. Probably the biggest influence on me was somebody like Jerry Lopez. I saw that movie when I was like 17 or 18.

EE Did you go out to the department store and buy a Snurfer? 
DM No, I didn't even know that Snurfers existed. I had met a guy that had done some work with some snow surf board, and his
name was Wayne Stoveken[spelling corrected], he lived in Bayonne, New Jersey. I got together with Wayne and he showed me how to make surf style snowboards.

EE How old were you when you were doing this? 
DM Nineteen, and I was going to school in upstate New York in Ithaca. I made some boards there and rode some hills with plenty of hill and plenty of snow. While I was there that was the first time I saw a Snurfer, but they were like toys, they didn't really work.

EE What did you use to hold your feet on?
DM At that time there was nothing.

EE Did you use the rope?
DM No, Just your foot on a really textured board. My first boards were really heavy, they were made like surfboards with a foam core and were about two inches thick. Actually my first board was made of redwood and it weighed about 45 pounds. I went to a ski area called Fawnstock which is in the northern part of Westchester County [NY]. There was a big blizzard and I dragged this big sucker up to Fawnstock. I took the lift up and I got first tracks down this trail.

EE Were you working on board designs when you were in Ithaca? 
DM Yeah, that was in 1970-"71 and then I decided to drop out and move to Utah, so I moved to Utah in the winter of 1972. Before I did I made a couple of boards that I thought would be a lot better, they were the first boards with flex. 

EE Where did you make these boards?
DM I made them in my garage. 

EE Who were some of the people you first rode with when you had those first boards?
DM Nobody, there wasn't anybody riding, I only rode with Wayne. I moved out here and got a job at Snowbird and I got Wayne to move out here, but he only stayed out here for a couple of years and then he moved back east.

EE You were just tinkering around in your garage again once you moved out there? 
DM Out here I rented some space and started making boards pretty seriously, because that was the reason I moved out here.

EE Was anybody letting you on the lifts at this point? 
DM Yeah sure, Ted Johnson, the guy who ran Snowbird. I showed him the patent draw- ings I had done and he said yeah, come out here and get a job and you can ride Snowbird no problem. That was 1972, and then I went to Alta and met with Chip Martin who was the manager there he said, "Yeah sure that looks neat. Do you have something to stop it from running down the hill?" I showed him this twine that I would screw to the back of the board and around my ankle and he said, sure that is fine.. The first day I was out here at Alta I didn't really know my way around and the lift attendants kept point- ing me higher and I finally made my to the top of the Sugarloaf Lift which services some neat ter- rain and when I got to the top the lift attendant ran out and he said, "Hey, what is that thing? We got to talking and he said that they just opened Devil's
Castle and he pointed me over this ridge which is like a fifteen minute hike from the top of the lift and I came over the crest of this and there was this huge bowl and I dropped in and that was my first exposure to Utah snowsurfing.

EE What was the first thing you used to keep your feet on the board?
DM I first laminated gravel to the top of the board, and then I went to glass and that worked pretty well, but I went through a lot of gloves. And then in 1973 we put real stiff nylon straps on the board that you could put over the top of your feet. We had like one or two people who would ride. I focused real hard on the construction of the snow ski and tried to combine that with the moves of surfing. I was teaching myself how to do it and I didn't have any models to go from.

EE How did you come up with the Winterstick name, is that later on?
DM No, that was about that time. Stick was slang for surfboard, and so it seemed like a pretty natural name.

EE When did you first start to sell boards?
DM I think the first real sale was in 1974-75, there was
an article in Newsweek Magazine, some journalist who had been cruising around Snowbird heard about me and did a little article on me for Newsweek. A few months later Playboy did an article on the mono-ski, Winterstick, and on the Snurfer. And out of those articles I got a gazillion letters so I put a lit tle piece of paper together and said that Winterstick was for sale and mailed it all back to all of the people who had written me and I only sold a few boards. Most of the people were interested about the concept, but weren't ready to buy. I got together with two other tal- ented people, Renee Sessions and Don Moss, and Renee was a graphic designer and Don was an industrial designer. Then we started to go real official. We went to the SIA Show, got ignored, NSGA Show and got ignored. In fact at the NSGA Show, around 1978, Jake [Carpenter] was there and nobody was talking to either of us, so we went over and talked to each other and we hit it off pretty well. We had never heard of each other before, and I don't think either one of us got an order at that show.

EE Did you have any local retail shops that would carry your own board?
DM Yeah, there were a few retail shops in Utah that were starting to carry boards, but just a few. We started to pick up some other retail shops, but that was from the SIA Show, and things started to happen, we went on a demo tour, before there was a big product liability suit at Stratton with a skier who hit a rock and won the suit, and suddenly all of the moun- tains clamped down and from that point it was really hard to get a snowboard on a hill. Once that lawsuit happened even cross-country skis were banned from the slopes. What was neat was that Jake kept plugging away at Stratton Mountain and then Vermont and some other states started enacting assumption of risk laws which basically said that if you are buy- ing the lift ticket you are assum- ing that it is a dangerous sport, that the ski area can't be liable.

EE Did all of the places that were allowing you to ride on a daily basis not allow you to ride any longer after the lawsuit? 
DM Yeah, a lot of them closed down to us.

EE So did you guys start to do more backcountry?
DM Yeah, the backcountry was always the big desire anyway because that is where all of the big chutes were at and all of the deep snow. We rode on a bunch of areas here, a lot of them would
open up for a while and then close. There were little enclaves of Winterstick, and Sims riders around the west and a lot of them would convince a resort to allow snowboarding for a while.

EE Some people have said that Winterstick was ahead of its time in design... What was the design that you guys were leading? 
 DM It was kind of a synthesis between surfing and skiing of course. Dynamically the board had to work like a ski. It had to have a foam core and glass construction It had to store energy like a ski or it wouldn't accelerate and you wouldn't get the use out of like a ski. That was an area that was highly focused on and it was pretty clear to me that if a board was going to work right it had to be designed like a ski. The need for sidecut was the same as a ski except that you weren't on such a hard medium the sidecut had to be a little more pronounced. You were trying to get the board to bend between the waist and the shuffle of the tail, as opposed to the curve of the edge. We went to the swallow tail in about 1976 and we were offering two boards at that time: the swallow tail and the round tail. The really early boards all had metal edges then when I got out to Utah I didn't really need edges. For me snow was always a three dimensional medium and it was essential to have the freedom to make turns wherever you wanted.

EE So now we are into the eighties, what hap- pened then?
DM The Winterstick company went out of busi- ness in 1980 and that is when I sort of officially quit the snowboard world. I got involved in the windsurfing business. I got involved with the world speed record and developed a mast and broke the world speed record in 1983 and 1984 with the team I was involved with in England. I traveled around Europe because the mast I developed started to be used by a lot of the top pro wind surfers and then in 1984 a company back east wanted to finance Winterstick again. By that time I had started a engineering company that I still have today, and we made the molds for them and I helped them with design in 1984- 85 and they didn't have enough capital and folded again. Since then I have had my engineering company and that has been a pretty good success.

EE How did the current Winterstick company come about? 
DM A guy here in Utah who picked up the trademark, no connection with me. We let the trademark lapse after 1985. I would have preferred the name not be used on anything, but if you snooze you loose.

EE Did they contact you and ask if you wanted to be a part of this?
DM Yeah, they did. The circumstances were pretty odd, but basically they ended up with the trademark and I told them I didn't want anything to do with it. I have my engineering business, Radius Technologies, which is doing really well and I have 17 employees | have to take care of.

EE Do you still snowboard? 
DM Yeah, I ride Jake's Burton boards exclusively. I don't snowboard as much as I used to, I have a six year old daughter.

EE Did you have any clue how big this was going to get?
DM I always imagined it would get big, but imagining it and seeing the reality are two different things. 

EE Is there anything you would like to add?
DM would just like to say that I am really excited to see everybody snowboarding.

Got any cool Winterstick Stuff?

We're always trying to uncover more history behind the brand, be it old boards, softgoods, or print media. Let us know if you think you have something unique and we'll do our best to share what we know about it. Even better if it's something we've never seen before!