Matt Sterbenz, the founder of 4FRNT Skis and one of the most influential players of the indie-ski movement, is moving on, having submitted his resignation to business partner Jason Levinthal this week.
After 16 years at the helm, Sterbenz is stepping down from his position Monday to begin serving as General Manager of Wintersports at a Berkley, California-based advanced materials company called Checkerspot. Sterbenz plans to stay living in Salt Lake City with his wife and son.
In an email to POWDER on Friday, Sterbenz stated his reasons for leaving, noting that it was with mixed emotions that he departs a brand he created in 2002 when the indie ski movement was just barely in its infancy. Last June he sold the brand to Jason Levinthal of J Skis.
"I've been loving this past year working alongside Jason. The biggest factor in selling 4FRNT to him last year was ensuring the company stayed independent and led by skiers with an equal passion for skiing as I have,” he wrote.
“I'm proud to have worked with everyone on our talented team and couldn't be more stoked for where the brand is today. 4FRNT is financially stronger and more stable in all aspects of business than ever before. Knowing it's in good hands and seeing a bright future for 4FRNT, I finally feel comfortable walking away to focus on furthering my professional growth beyond the business I started 16 years ago."
Though he has always had business partners and big-name athletes on 4FRNT, such as Eric Hjorleifson, Sterbenz has been the face and operational force behind the brand since its founding.
In 2002, he started 4FRNT in Truckee, California, (along with Joe Stumpf, a former VP of Mergers and Acquisitions for AT&T, who left the ski company in 2009) after being frustrated with the lack of freeride- and powder-skiing options from big European-based brands at the time. Sterbenz moved the company to Salt Lake City in 2005.
On the road, Sterbenz was often a one-man show, doing everything form building his own booths at tradeshows, acting as team manager, marketing guy, athlete, and demo rep.
"It's like skiing's co-op," he said of 4FRNT in 2009. "It's not Albertson's or Safeway; it's your organic market down the street."
Sterbenz said his new role at Checkerspot will allow him to work "with a great team of scientists that are developing new molecules for specific performance materials and applying them in breakthrough product designs.”
“I've been in the game for a long time, and I'm done working with the same old materials. I love the idea of designing with intention--creating new materials from the ground up, controlling the process every step of the way, starting with molecules to integrating them into new materials and products. Speaking as a designer and creator, this is a whole new frontier for Wintersports as we know it."
In a press release Friday, Levinthal announced that Dan Cardon has been promoted from marketing manager to brand manager of 4FRNT.
"I have immense respect for the 16 years of hard work and determination Matt put into building this great brand. It was a blast working together with him over the past year, setting 4FRNT on a new and improved course that will provide it with unprecedented stability, and a successful future,” stated Levinthal.
“As hard as it is to see Matt go, I'm happier seeing him leverage all of his experiences to catapult his career beyond skiing. I assure you that the DNA Matt wove into the soul of this brand will continue on, regardless of the team executing the work.”