In a bizarre crossover between work and play, Nick’s day job is snow related and now his hobby business, based around his passion for snowboarding, is becoming a bit more than a hobby.
Nick’s engineering company, BFA Group, supplies the Australian snowmaking industry with pumps for the snow guns at all but one of the of the Australian alpine resorts. This all came about on a trip to Mt Buller one year when they were have issues with one of their pumps. Nick was chatting to a guy in operations and told him he could fix it. That was eight years ago.
A few years later, on another trip to Mt Buller, Nick was chatting to the guys in Lifts Operations about the possibility of getting an artificial snow surface in for the lift lines. He ended up getting a hold of Powderpak, a synthetic snow ‘carpet’, and brought it across from the States.
It was trialed at Mt Buller on the bottom of Blue Bullet and they were pretty stoked with the results. In fact, after that year, it was put forward by Mt Buller as a new innovation at the annual snow industry convention. Essentially the idea with the powderpak is that the lifties don’t have to keep shoveling snow. There’s potential reduction in injury, and the focus then becomes on the client. So instead of the lifties filling holes in the snow as you’re getting on a lift, they’re just focusing on making sure the client is safely getting onto the lift.
The following year after the convention, every other resort in Australia contacted Nick saying, they wanted to get on board. That was six years ago and it’s a pretty consistent thing now, rolling over every year with all the resorts on board.
In bringing the powederpak across, Nick also bought some for himself and set up a down ramp feature in his back garden. He started sessioning it and all the local kids started coming over. “Music would be playing and we’d be having sessions in my garden and I was like, yeah, I think I could be on to something here,” he tells me.
So a couple of years ago he started a pop-up in Dandenong using an empty factory. “I though alright, I’m going to trial it and see if there’s potential for a dry slope in Australia, because there isn’t one, there never has been and I thought, lets see if it’s worthwhile. We had a good response in Dandenong. It was really good, we were busy all the time, everyone was happy and there was the ability for people to ride all year round. Summer got a little bit quiet, but there was still the core crew that wanted to ride all through summer, we had bbqs and made it fun.
here could be a whole new breed of boarder come through in Australia, where they learn everything in a dry slope according to Nick and this year PPP have stepped it up and put together a proper facility. Not so much a training facility but they’ve added more features including a jump, and set up a year round proper snowboarding and skiing facility in Carrum Downs, 40 minutes south east of Melbourne CBD.
All the ramps are designed and engineered by Nick’s engineering company. It’s modular and can be put into any factory. Focusing on the brand, Nick has set up a licence agreement with the allowing individuals with access to the trademarked PPP brand. That was 5 months ago, and PPP Canberra, Geelong and Queenstown are opening up, all within 12 months.
Keeping it in the family Nick’s wife Donna does all the back end work and his daughter works at PPP as well. “It’s a cool family thing that I can step back from and let them get involved.” His other 13 year old daughter will also come down and have a session with her mates.
Nick doesn’t manage the park, his focus is on the brand. “I think the key to the whole thing is the brand. I want Powderpak to become the thing that pops into your head. PPP it’s related to parks. Hence I’ve got a lot of riders on board to support it. I’m going to sponsor a rider to go across to the States and start building up that brand awareness across the sea as well.
Nick is intrigued in the brand side of things. He started doing some merchandise this year, t-shirts and hoodies mostly. Surprisingly to Nick, the hoodies flew out the door. And the weird thing for him was being up at Buller, Falls Creek or Hotham catching the lift and there’s all these people running around in your gear.
“The link up with the work in the snow industry is great, because I’m working in the industry that I love. We’re in a share lodge in Buller and Falls Creek, so we’re pretty lucky, I go up there, do a bit of work, catch up with the boys, go for a shred. It’s a tough life,” Nick tells me. And now what’s started as a hobby style fun business from Nick’s passion for snowboarding is expanding into other areas. Where it goes is yet to be seen, but Nick’s focus is to keep it altogether. I think you’ll be seeing a lot more of it.