Chicago is situated on a very flat stretch of the planet. In fact, from certain artificially elevated vantage points (the city has a lot of very tall buildings), the waters of Lake Michigan practically form a meniscus on the horizon of the vertically-challenged Midwestern terrain. So, not exactly somewhere you associate with snowboarding. Chicago certainly gets its fair share of freezing winter weather. On the whole, though, you usually connect far craggier places with the high-octane combination of surfing and skiing.
Despite the lack of incline, Chicago’s flagship store for Burton, the American outfit dedicated to the less than gentle pursuit of snowboarding, is every bit as exciting as the sport itself. Its funky design by lauded Tres Birds Workshops turns the retail experience into something as exhilarating as lifting off the top of a mound of lovely powder, whether you’re actually here to shop for Burton’s wares or simply to take in the experience.
The chilled architecture and design studio converted the narrow nineteenth-century townhouse into something both intriguing and functional. Deploying sustainable architecture throughout, you might even say they play a deconstructionist game. Chunky wooden beams break up both the lines of the façade and the interior spaces, alluding to folksy mountain cabins but never quite letting go of the commitment to muscular home-brew modernity. A dramatic entrance, cosy nooks and decidedly practical counter units all show off the grain of the reclaimed timber. This is no grubby hut for slacker snowboarders: the elegant lines of Eames, Mies van der Rohe and vintage American Progressive furniture declares this the realm of those who like both winter sports and good design. The various lines of merchandise are spread through the multilevel store where the floors are connected by a metal staircase that brings a nice transparency throughout.
The beautiful snowboards are displayed like works of art. Even if you have no idea how to use one, at least you can enjoy their sexy designs. Similarly, Burton’s extensive ranges of clothing –for both men and women– have proven attractive far beyond the confines of the slopes. Though firmly grounded in serving the serious boarding community there are many items –such as fetching and trustworthy jackets- useful to anyone who has to contend with cold, wet weather. Although Burton does do a few more attention-seeking items in each collection, it is noted for its restrained approach in designing winter sports clothing that remains ergonomic. In other words, it’s a good place to find something warm and functional far more fetching than an anorak and far less desperate for approval than certain other snow wear brands.
If you’re addicted to the thrill of the speeding headlong down a mountainside, chances are that you’ll find it difficult to leave without one of the funky designs on offer. In all variables of the performance-enhancing promise, you could even turn into a real board freak and get into one of those jargon-laden conversations with the regulars over the relative merits of a channel or a curve while your non-boarding friends glaze over, hoping to fall instantly into a coma.