When it comes to holiday gifting, there are times where you just feel the need to swing for the fences.
Perhaps you’ve got a big client that you’re very much “looking forward to continuing business with in the coming year.” Perhaps you’ve got a significant other who has resigned you to a doghouse you’d like to emerge from sooner rather than later. Perhaps you’ve just had a helluva year (or several) and money just ain’t no object.
Any way you slice it, you’re in need of a true showstopper of a gift. Not only something of truly superlative quality, but something with a story — something the recipient can crow about whenever someone invariably inquires “damn, where did you get that??“
And thus we bring you the Rare Finds Gift Guide, a handy compendium of holiday swag for just about any type of person on your list (or, perhaps, if you’re just in the market for yourself — no judgement).
This installment concerns Franco Snowshapes, builders of the finest damn snowboards money can buy.
To put it simply: very, very few people in the world make snowboards the way Mikey Franco does.
“Snowboarding spent ten, fifteen years being hand-built, and then immediately went into production facilities. And thankfully, we found a place to be able to make snowboards for the masses,” the Jackson Hole native says, “but it took away a zone of heritage that surfing and skiing have had for thousands of years. We’re just like ‘ok, they had it way back, we’re gonna do it now — make ‘em by hand, go back to those original shapes, and put a modern twist on ‘em.’”
What that means is a truly bespoke piece of hardware built to spec for each and every rider. The process begins with a “rider genome profile” and phone/Skype conversation that Franco and his team use to suss out key details about the client — riding style, skill level, typical terrain, etc — much in the same way a bespoke tailor takes measurements for a suit.
Ultimately, I design for Jackson Hole. We have incredible snow, but we can also have some hard snow. I need a snowboard that’s going to be fine in all conditions.Mikey Franco, Founder of Franco Custom Snowshapes
When it comes to the type of boards Franco builds, a quick glance will tell you that these are not your typical twin-tipped freestyle numbers that dominate the industry. “When I go snowboarding, I think of surfing on snow.” says Franco. “Slashing and carving and things like that. I think that’s why you’re seeing this incredible revolution in shape.”
But make no mistake — while the shapes might hearken back to snowboarding’s early days, Franco and his team of expert shapers are utilizing cutting edge materials (from bio-resins to carbon fibers to rare metals) to ensure their boards ride like no other. Regarding their stone-ground graphite base, Franco says simply: “The fastest snowboard you will ever ride.”
The signature of a Franco board, though, is the wood “veneer” that gives each one the unique, old-timey appearance of a vintage speedboat or surfboard — these veneers are crafted from standing dead whitebark pine sourced directly from the slopes of Jackson Hole, and come with a GPS code that will take the rider to the source of the tree itself.
The true gift: using the board to go out and find it.
Your giftee should have at least two of the following: a season pass, a working knowledge of the “no friends on a powder day” philosophy, a trip to Hokkaido on his/her bucket list, a goggle tan, a Thule rack permanently affixed to the roof of his/her car, the ability to use the word “gnarly” without it sounding cartoonish.
For those looking to make a true shredding adventure out of the process, there’s the “Franco Experience” — in place of the phone/Skype convo is a full day riding Jackson Hole’s best lines guided by Franco himself, during which he analyzes the client’s riding “from head to feet” to determine the absolute perfect shape in real time. File this under “once in a lifetime experience.”
Prices start at $3K and range all the way up to $7K+ for the above personal session and full custom build — not an insignificant chunk of change, but considering each board comes with a lifetime warranty reflecting Franco’s mission “to build each board to last as long as you want it to, performing perfectly from day one to day 300 and beyond,” we’d call that a pretty good deal.
Crown Royal XR Extra Rare, the second edition to the storied Canadian brand’s Extra Rare series, is crafted from one of the final barrels of whisky saved from the now ghost LaSalle distillery.
To mark the model’s 55th anniversary, TAG Heuer’s flagship Carrera line is being driven by the brand’s premium, Swiss-made in-house column wheel chronograph movement, the Heuer 02, for the first time.
Using reclaimed agricultural tools, rare woods and ethically-sourced animal horn/bone from his native Brazil, Brooklyn knifesmith Max Poglia is crafting handsome, one-of-a-kind knives that are equal parts art and function.
With a journey that begins on the steppes of Mongolia and ends in an NYC design studio, SAVED proffers ultra-soft cashmere throws, pillows, blankets, hats, and scarves — all featuring the sort of punchy, voguish designs one might expect to catch in the background of a Wes Anderson film.
Helmed by two Canadian brothers in the heart of Alberta, AdrianMartinus focuses on gorgeous furniture and home goods painstakingly crafted from a very interesting type of reclaimed wood: old skateboards.
Hailing from the tiny island of Kagoshima in Japan’s smallest prefecture, Olive Wagyu is the rarest beef on planet earth. Only a handful of Japanese cattle farmers produce it, and in extremely limited quantities — only 2,000 of these mythic cows exist in the world at any given time.
The first generation Ford Bronco is one of the most beloved SUVs of all time, unchanged from 1966 to 1977. Illinois outfit Gateway Bronco reigns supreme in the restomod game, hunting down these classics and meticulously restoring/refurbishing them to new levels of glory.
There is no piece of equipment more essential to mountaineering than the humble backpack. And no one makes them quite like Dan McHale, a veteran climber who’s been making bespoke ultralight packs out of a workshop in Seattle for more than 40 years.
Plying her trade from a by-appointment-only studio in the heart of Nashville, Savannah Yarborough is one of the most sought after designers of bespoke leather jackets in the country — her clients include Jack White, Jason Isbell, and, with a bit of luck, you.
Images courtesy of Franco Snowshapes