Thank You Notes

Vermont lost four people who had an enormous impact on the outdoor sports landscape. Here, we thank them. 

If you walk into Burton’s Burlington headquarters, you will see a wall of thank you notes to Jake Burton Carpenter that Burton put up after his unexpected death this past November from complications with cancer. In the past month or two, Vermont lost him and several others who left their mark on the outdoor sports world. While we all mourn their losses, we are thankful for all they gave us.  Inspired by the Burton wall, here are our “thank yous.”

To: Jake Burton Carpenter

(April 29, 1954 – Nov. 20, 2019)

Yes, you gave us the snowboards you first crafted in your barn in Londonderry, Vt. and all that came in the 42 years after—on up to the Step-On binding and your first and only signature line, Mine 777.

But more than that, you gave us the high-octane energy that went along with everything you created. With Burton, snowsports entered the action sports world, terrain parks evolved and suddenly skiing—at the time dominated by ski racers—became fun again. As Jason Levinthal said recently, “when I saw how much fun was going on in snowboarding, I thought ‘why can’t skiing be that way?’” Inspired by your work, he went on to create the twin-tipped Line Skis and park skiing was born.

But more than that, you created an ethos of a work life-balance that few companies the size of Burton can truly live up to. You shut down the offices on snow days. You made the commitment to ride 100 days a year—rain or shine. You held a killer party at your home each year for your employees, your riders and friends. You and your wife Donna gave women ranging from Burton’s graphic designers to pro riders such as Kelly Clark equal chances to excel. You two created the Chill Foundation to give young people access to board sports who may have never otherwise played on snow or seen a surf break.

Locally, you helped to build the Swimming Hole—the coolest pool and gym ever—for the town of Stowe. You brought Talent Skatepark back, housing it at Burton’s headquarters.

You fought testicular cancer and Miller Fisher syndrome and came back as strong as ever. In your last year, you swam across Lake Zurich, went sky diving, surfed, and snowboarded in Chile. You left us an example of how to live and your three sons and your wife and business partner of 40 years, Donna, who carry on your energy and spirit. You lived well, played hard and worked hard. 

To: Spike Clayton

( Nov. 27, 1958 – Dec. 15, 2019

Your mother is probably the only one who called you by your full name, Stephen Haskew Clayton—the rest of the world knew you as Spike. You were a skier, ever since you started straightlining down Bromley Mountain ,and you were on the Alpine team at University of Vermont and served as a wax technician for the Nordic team.

But you were equally passionate about cycling—so much so that in 1984 you were ninth in the Olympic trials and raced with the Stowe-Shimano team.

Those two sports were what brought you to what was, at the time, a burgeoning Burlington outdoor gear shop, Skirack, in 1984. At first, you were the cross-country ski buyer and Nordic skiing became your passion. You did your first Stowe Derby on wooden skis, leather boots and three-pin bindings.

Your passion for cycling, and critical appraisal of the gear that you sold, helped make Skirack one of the country’s leading shops for cyclists.  You became an owner and helped it grow and were on hand, despite your battle with cancer, for the 50th anniversary celebration in November. Thank you for making Skirack what it is today.

To: Jean Haigh

(Mar. 21, 1935 – Nov. 2, 2019) 

You were doing what you loved most, leading a hike near your home in Craftsbury, when you took your last step. The wilds of the Northeast Kingdom were your home and you loved nothing more than sharing them with others. You helped found the Friends of the Willoughby State Forest and, for 20 years, worked on the Kingdom Heritage Trail, which opened this past year. You were a president of the Green Mountain Club and a long-time board member and hike leader.

And you were a true Vermonter. Born in Rutland, you grew up loving Morgan horses and skiing at High Pond, a tiny ski area near Brandon.

You got your masters in education and taught at Castleton and Johnson State Colleges. But what you loved most was teaching people about the outdoors. Thank you for that.

To: Karen Newman

(April 12, 1961 – Nov. 13, 2019)

You set a goal – to win your age group at the U.S. Aquathlon Nationals and you pursued it relentlessly until a year ago, on Nov. 11, 2018, just months after you had faced yet another bout of metastatic Stage IV cancer, you achieved that goal. You wrote about your struggles with cancer and the joy of achieving your goals, despite it, in our October 2019 issue, in a story you titled “Blessings.”

That was not your first story in Vermont Sports. You wrote about competing  in the World Championships in Aquathlon despite being barely able to sit. You wrote a book, “Just Three Words” about how at age 46, your cancer diagnosis helped you overcome your battle with bulimia.

A registered dietitian with a degree from University of Vermont, you went on to serve as the president of the Vermont Dietetics Association.

More than anything, you were a devout Christian and your determination to live fully, to never give up and die graciously inspired all of us. Thank you.

Featured Photo: After Jake Burton Carpenter’s passing this November, Burton employees put up a wall of thank you notes to the founder of the company. Photo by Lisa Lynn

Leave a comment