The Evolution of a Revolution

2002 Dimitrije Milovich Interview

The Evolution of a Revolution

By Salt Lake Under Ground (SLUG) Magazine

February 2002

By: Josh Scheuerman
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Full Text Transcript Below

The Evolution of a Revolution
By Josh Scheuerman

"My story starts in 1970 when I lived in White Plains, NY and I was a wannabe surfer." This is the brief confession of one of snow- boarding's history makers; Dimitrije Milovich. Dimitrije has been pushing the evolution of snowboarding for the last three decades and has been a major influence on the technology and the overall design of the sport as it exists today. His company, Winterstick, was one of the first snowboard companies ever and weathered more than its fair share of hardships as well as triumphs; starting along the way something that was revolutionary, different, and unique. The revolution today is one shared by millions around the world, but its roots can be traced back to a handful of dream- ers like Dimitrije, dreamers in search of a new freedom.

In November 1970, Surfer Magazine ran an article about Mike Doyle and his single ski. "Mike talked about how neat his single ski was and how it had come to him in a dream." Mike Doyle was a world champion surfer and an important snow "sport" innovator, but not the first snowboarder, since he still relied on poles. There was a reply in the following issue of Surfer Magazine from a snow surfer that Dimitrije read, "In your Nov. issue, Mike Doyle said he had a dream about snowskiing, my sug- gestion is to dream on if that's how snow surfing equipment is to be designed. I converted Mike to my ideas on snow surfing equipment in full consciousness of the way I have been doing it for the last six years. My snow vehicles need no such props, the snow surfer is free to walk the board and position his feet where hechooses. Very few people
know about my boards because I choose to do business on a personal level. Maybe never I'll be known as a big name inventor, but I do know the individual that I build for will have the best equipment available and they will not be bound. Wayne Stoveken."


Wayne was a surfer from Long Beach Island, NY who shaped surfboards and snowboards in his back yard. "He was the first snow surfer." There were others at the time that were involved with snurfers and skifers, but by defini- tion the first snowboarder was, "the first person who could ride mountainous terrain with out hav- ing a rope tied to the nose of the board. Wayne was the first guy. He could ride powder and differ- ent snow conditions," Dimitrije explained. The two met and arranged for patents to be regis- tered and in trade Wayne taught Dimitrije all that he knew about building snowboards. Believing that this new sport would be the future of the world, he quiet Cornell University and moved to Utah for a resort that receives over 400" of snow a year. The resort in question was Snowbird. Arriving in Salt Lake in November of '72, Dimitrije was soon hitchhiking up Little Cottonwood Canyon, hop- ing to land a job from Ted Johnson, Snowbird's then owner. twist of good fortune, Ted's wife picked him up and arranged a meeting. Dimitrije's met with Ted Johnson and showed him the patent drawings for snowboards, Ted said, "Yeah, sure come give it a try." And try he did.


Wayne moved out to Utah in 1974 and they opened a shop to build boards, aptly coining the boards Winterstick. "I visited Alta and talked to Chick Morgan Morton and he brought his ski patrol and they looked as the board. There was a screw I had screwed into the board and had a little wimpy cord and they said, OK, as long as you have something so it doesn't run away." That was the birth of the first leash on one of the oldest. boards. Homesick for the Jersey shore Wayne moved back, but Dimitrije stayed and hand built the next generation of Winterstick boards, a set of four in all. Instead of being 2 inches thick, they were only a half inch thick and all had a swallow tail. "I remember teach- ing myself, because there was no one else to watch. I would always get strange looks, it must have been '74-'75. One day before Snowbird opened, I hiked 60 steps up Great Sky and made a run. Then 80 steps, and each time I linked turns. That was the first time I had done that. When I was done, I remember clearly that I had a set of steps all the way up Great Sky Scott on both sides. That was the day I said, 'This will work'."

In 1976, the Winterstick Company was born with the help of three talented individuals; Renee Sessions (a graphic arts teacher at West High), Don Moss (an indus- trial designer), and John Griffins (an industrial engineer), an old high school friend and law stu- dent. "We were absolutely clue- less, didn't know anything about snowboard engineering or busi- ness, but we were confident we would start a whole new sport and we would be rich beyond our wildest dreams. Of course it didn't work out that way." The three had to develop entirely new technologies in epoxy and plastics, hand making new molds and presses. Their first boards were rolled out in the '77-'78 season. "At the 1977 SIA Trade Show, we were sure all we had to do was show up and we would get dozens, if not hundreds of orders. We had a film and posters, but of course we didn't sell anything. We were pretty heartbroken. That was out first introduction to the market." The following year, Dimitrije met Jake Burton at an National Goods Sporting Association NSG Association show, having booths across from each other. Since no one was talk- ing with them about their snow- boards, they talked with each other about their passion for this new sport. Their design concepts and ideas came from riding differ- ent snow conditions and terrain; the deep fluffy powder of Utah and the heavier, colder snow of Vermont. As the sport was begin- ning to get some recognition, an incident at Stratton Mountain Resort would halt the progress of the sport for years to come. A skier was paralyzed due to a skiing acci- dent, he sued and won. Suddenly all resorts unilaterally let nothing weird on the lifts. "If you weren't on downhill skis forget it, you're not getting up the mountain." Following the "Stratton Mountain Decision," if you wanted to snow- board, you were hiking. With resorts losing millions of dollars a year in insurance costs, "the assumption of risks" law was passed detailing the risks of the mountain. This disclaimer is post- ed around the resorts today and on the back of lift tickets.

With resorts refusing to let snow- boarders on the mountain, the market was just not ready for snowboards. Then in 1981, Winterstick had to close their doors. "It was pretty depressing. I had dedicated the last 10 years of my life to the sport." Never one to stand still, the following year Dimitrije learned how to windsurf and it wasn't long before he start- ed designing a carbon fiber sail mast. Partnering up with Maui Sails and Sailboards Maui, they campaigned for the speed record in England and broke it by three knots. They received 60 pages of international press and just, like that, he was in the wind surfing business. With success on the rise, Dimitrije and a friend, Dwain Duane Bush, opened a small windsurfing store and dubbed it in Milovich's honor, Milosport, but sold his share only a year later. Each sport has a life cycle and wind surfing was feeling its age. With over 150 wind surfing com- panies, the market had grown too big and collapsed on itself. "With Winterstick, I was too far ahead of the market, because the market wasn't there. And with wind surf- ing, I was too late and it collapsed. So it was back to the drawing board." Dimitrije then started Radius Engineering with friend John Griffins Ron Nelson and has been the main focus in Dimitrije life ever since. "There's a natural cycle to new ideas being adopted. There are people who resist some- thing until the very end, those are the people who still wouldn't get on a snowboard. And there are people who are early adopters. So no matter how good we could have made snowboards, every- thing has its time. The opinion of your peers must reach critical mass to convince you that some- thing is cool and to try it."

Maybe it wasn't Winterstick's time, but without them snow- boarding would have become the fastest growing snow sport in history. If it wasn't for an East coast surfer named Wayne Stoveken, hand building the first snow surfing boards, or Dimitrije Milovich quiting school to follow his dream, or other determined individuals who believed in them- selves the sport would not be what it is today.


"People ask me if I invented snowboarding... no, but I was involved in the development of the sport at its roots. If they mean the sport as we know it today, the most responsible, is clearly Jake
Burton. He did the most, kept the faith, and did an awful lot of work getting ski area acceptance. He really established the sport."


In SLUG Magazine's March issue we will follow the "Evolution of a Revolution" through the 80s and the influence that Utah has had on snowboarding through- out its history.

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!