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SheShreds Q & A: Niche Snowboard Designer Ana Van Pelt

by Gina Duffy on December 27, 2017
Niche Snowboards has been a long time supporter of our events, including the Ladies Night Series over the past few years, and we're stoked to again have them involved in our winter event series, Saturday February 3 and March 3, the SheShreds Jamboree at Powder Mountain!  Read more about one of the women behind Niche in this interview: 
Who: Ana Van Pelt /Co-Founder/Creative Director of Niche Snowboards
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How did the name "Niche" come about, and what does Niche as a brand mean to you?
So we were actually nameless for quite some time, and one day while in the shower Niche popped into my head and that was that! I was trying to think about the brand, and who we were, and what made us unique, and figured that as our niche in the marketplace is being the most environmentally centered snowboard company in the industry, the name seemed pretty perfect.  By definition, the word niche can mean either a job, activity, etc. that is very suitable for someone, the situation in which a business's products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people, or an environment that has all the things that a particular plant or animal needs in order to live. To me, Niche is all of those things; it's all of my deepest passions put into one project, and I feel quite lucky to have spent the last nearly seven years of my life dedicated to it. 

Q: I hear you are a pretty rad snowboard graphic designer! What is one of your favorite designs and why?
Well that's really wonderful and exciting to hear! Haha. It's hard to pick one as there is a story behind every graphic we create. There are a few designs that were really meaningful or special to me, but the 2013/14 Minx will always be one of my favorites. It was the first time I started to gain a little bit of confidence and try something out that wasn't what I thought was supposed to be what a snowboard graphic should look like' or what would fit into the industry standards - especially for a women's graphic. It was the first time I went outside of my comfort zone and just decided to make something I thought would be cool, and was a major turning point for me as a designer, and for the visual identity of the brand.  And the amount of positive feedback was absolutely insane; it was even listed as one of the Top 10 Snowboard Graphics of 2014 by Snowboard Magazine! Literally a dream of mine come true. I worked on that graphic with illustrator Zosia Olenska, and I think she deserves most of the credit for why that graphic was so successful. Her illustrations are so incredibly detailed and there is an insanely timeless quality to her work that is seriously hard to come by. That graphic really gave me the confidence to start experimenting and going outside my comfort zone, and is honestly one of my favorite graphics we've ever put out. 
Q: What is it like being a female designer in the snowboard industry? Are there any specific challenges that you have had to overcome?
I've been fortunate enough to not run into a situation where I felt belittled or not respected because I'm a female. And hopefully, as more and more women step into larger roles within the snowboard industry, I won't ever run into that issue! Honestly so far in my experience, it's actually been a benefit. Especially when it comes to designing women's products. Being a female that buys and uses snowboard gear, I know what kind of look I'm into, what I'm not into, and what things annoy me when it comes to women's product and graphic design.  Our women's designs have always done well I think because they are designed by a female snowboarder. It's been quite funny actually - before officially confirming and sending designs to print I like to get feedback from other people, both male and female. Occasionally I get feedback from guys about some of the women's graphics, like, "Shouldn't we have more color?" Then all of the female feedback will go something like, "Oh I LOVE that it's not crazy colored!" Haha. As far as my knowledge goes, most women's graphics aren't designed by women (I could be wrong about that but I'm pretty sure I'm not.). Which is funny to me because female designers would bring an especially qualified perspective to the table! Not that I'm anti-pink or purple, because I'm not, but I just feel like it's almost a lazy and predictable option. Especially if it spans your entire women's product line...
Q: Which word would you use to describe yourself, Ninja or Unicorn? and why? 
That is a touuuuugh question. A Ninjacorn? I don't know! I don't think I'm fully one or the other. Most of the time I feel like I'm pretty sly or subtly sit in the background of certain situations, jumping in at a moment's notice when the time is right, but I'm also a really friendly and bubbly person if I'm not feeling too shy or if you know me well.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Absolutely the most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing people's reactions to our products. When someone comes back or reaches out after having purchased and ridden a board, and lets us know how much they love the product or how it made their snowboard life easier or how they had the best time, is an incredibly unbeatable feeling. The same goes for people's reactions to our graphics. When people are stoked on them or get excited about them, it's like having a mini adrenaline rush for me. It can sometimes feel a little overwhelming actually as I'm an insecure person in many ways, but overwhelming in a really great way.
Q: Whats a typical day like for you?
Depending on the day and time of year it could vary pretty widely. Most days are different from one to the next which is super nice! Some days I'm just in the office at my desk checking things off my to-do list (unless it's a powder day, in which case I'll go ride for a few hours and then head into the office later), other days I'll be working on creating a new catalog or marketing campaign, some days I'll spend putting together new blog posts or checking into all of our social media accounts or updating the website; in the Spring I usually go into
graphics-mode and lose myself in music and art and research and spend day and night doodling or coloring or coming up with unique graphic concepts.  
Q: Who would you say is your role model for living life? And Why?
I don't think there is any one person, but a few people within my life who have taught me really valuable lessons and inspire me in different ways. My business partner, Kirsten Kolter, is honestly the first person who comes to mind. She has taught me SO many things in life. Her level of patience, level-headedness, kindness, compassion, loyalty, professional tact, and managing to keep her wits about her and not panic in stressful situations, have absolutely all rubbed off on me and I consider myself a better person for having known her. She is one of the most beautiful, caring, calming and wonderful people I've ever known and I'm so so lucky to have her in my life.
Q: What sets Niche apart from other snowboard companies?
There are a few things that truly set Niche apart from other snowboard companies. First and foremost, from day one, we have always been committed to making the most environmentally conscious snowboards in the industry. And not just one model within our line - every single product we make is made with the most sustainable materials possible that actually end up increasing their performance! They are much lighter, they're super snappy and responsive, feel very supple under foot, and they're incredibly durable.  We also have a really unique aesthetic and our graphics really tend to stand out as being much different from other brands. There is an exceptional amount of thought and care and detail that goes into every single one, and I think it shows. We don't just make snowboard graphics - we create pieces of art that could as easily be put up on a wall rather than under your feet. Perhaps because I come from a design background, but everyone else here at Niche is also passionate about design and we try to set ourselves and our graphics apart.
Q: I've never gotten to ride a Niche before, what can I expect when I finally get to try one? How is your "magnetraction" different from the other brands?
Riding a Niche board, you can expect them to feel surprisingly light-weight, super snappy and responsive, and very supple under foot. Our magnetraction is very similar to the original 7-bump technology, but sightly adjusted. There are many people out there who aren't super into magnetraction because they feel like it can feel a little "catch-y." On our version, we've mellowed out the first couple bumps to slowly ease into the more aggressive bumps in the middle, and then slowly ease back out. It makes the board super fluid in and out of turns, but really gives you that extra bite where you need it right in the middle of railing into a turn. It feels nimble yet powerful, and really does make icy days about a billion times better.

Q: As a snowboarder have you had to overcome any injuries? If so what is your advice to any of the girls out there currently on the sidelines with an injury?
Oh boy, I sure have... I spent two full seasons riding in a sling which was really trying for me. The best advice I could give (that I should have listened to myself) would be to take the time to heal properly. Do your physical therapy, take care of yourself, and don't push yourself too hard too quickly after recovery. It totally sucks not being able to ride, but I've definitely made the mistake of trying to get back out too quickly and then re-injuring myself. And let me tell you, that sucks even more. If you can find some other aspect of snowboarding to perfect in your down time, or something else in your life to dive into and get excited about, that is super super helpful. If you're just sitting around being bummed you can't go ride, it certainly doesn't help. Maybe you've been wanting to learn about how snowboards are made, maybe there's a book you've been dying to read, maybe you want to learn how to sew - whatever it is, put your time into something that puts a smile on your face and lets you keep learning and growing as a person. 
Q: What other things bring a smile to your face? pets? food? hobbies?
ANIMALS. Any of them, but especially smush-faced ones. Good package design (or any good design for that matter), unique artwork, music, good movies (or bad horror movies), my husband, people being kind to one another, traveling, snowboarding, nature, foggy forests, things covered in moss, old barns and abandoned buildings, clear water, deafening silence, and people with a unique perspective.


Q: Where do you see the snowboard industry heading?
For sure a continuing growth in the women's sector! And putting more creativity and passion back into things. I think a lot of soul is being injected back into the snowboard industry right now and that's really wonderful to see. 
Q: What message of inspiration can you give to all the girls and women out there pursuing snowboard dreams?
Keep pushing yourself, learn as much as you possibly can about whatever it is you're pursuing, get involved as much as you possibly can, be kind to people, and keep being stoked. Whatever you want to pursue, become an expert on that subject. You can truly do whatever you want to do in life, it just takes hard work, dedication, and setting goals for yourself along the way. As long as you keep moving forward and don't stand still, you're bound to keep moving down a path that hopefully lets you achieve your goals. Who knows, maybe those goals shift as you move forward, and that's a great thing too! It can help you refine your broader goals into more specific things that will lead to a fulfilling, happy life.
Q: Whats the best Niche board for a day in the park? and a day in the pow?
So my personal favorite board of ours in the park is the Minx. I really enjoy the park, and the Minx was an incredibly selfishly designed snowboard... haha. It's a flat camber, true twin board with a centered stance. It spins like a dream, presses well, is super stable, and torsionally stable off jumps. On a pow day I personally actually enjoy the Minx as I love the way it floats, however I would probably suggest the Sonnet more for pow or more all-mtn riding. It's our all-mtn freestyle women's BEAST; it is such an incredible snowboard. It's a hybrid camber - reverse between the feet and camber under foot - so it's going to be incredibly versatile all over the mountain as well as super stable, its got magnetraction which helps give you more grip and control (especially on icy days), and it's definitely a more aggressive ride. It's built with the highest quality materials, a sintered base, and just absolutely rips. 
Q: What made you decide to work with SheShreds?
We were excited to see an organization wanting to spread stoke within the female boardsports community, plain and simple. Sometimes in a male-dominated sport, putting yourself out there can be a little intimidating, especially at first. It's really fantastic to see SheShreds getting girls out on the snow, learning more about their gear and different aspects of riding, and the sport in general! And we really love that the message is always positive, and always building people up instead of tearing them down. It's hard not to get behind something that's purely positive and whose goal is to spread the stoke. 

Ana Van Pelt


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