Now don't get me wrong - I love the Burton AK line. I think Burton has done an amazing job of bringing style and function together into a technical outerwear so that it far exceeds the looks of most "fashion forward" 8K to 15k rated outerwear. But, like every product that rises to the top there must be an eventual decline. So hang with me here because I'm not buckling in for some standard Burton bashing. Nope, we're going to dig into this nitty gritty.
So with the AK line I'm often left wondering - are you just paying for the Gore Tex license? Because if you deconstruct the jacket and pants you're left with materials that don't expand upon a range of efficiency and protection beyond what you see in Burton's higher end Burton line up (2L &3L). Adding to this point ... the last few years, Burton has contracted with FYI Designs to help design the AK lineup, including outerwear, gloves and packs. FYI is based in the BC Interior, nestled in the mountains, with direct access to some of the best powder in North America. With FYI's pedigree as former designers for Arcteryx, you would expect this stuff to be functional and durable. But, more on durability later first I want to hack into pedigree ...
I should note all of this is purely anecdotal and from the consumer perspective. But that could be the single biggest thing I get stuck on - are you paying for something that is hinging on a brands name and reputation only? Because if that's the case then Burton is doing a disservice to those who are buying the gear for highly technical purposes. Yes, that's a loaded statement but very much true. Are you buying this gear for the latest sublaminated hyped up print your see jeremy Jones or Jussi wearing? The flip side is you are looking to buy gear that will undergo the harshest conditions out there and function day over day.
After scoping out and owning a few pieces of AK over the past five seasons I think its quite possible that AK has gone the way of sacrificing product efficiency for minimalism. Again, I understand the need the need to be lightweight and that is an essential of function but not at the cost of durability. My old Ronin gear hangs tough and in excellent condition after 15, 30, 50 days - hey today was day 76 for one pair of old ronin cargos and I've lost a belt loop over the time that's it. Around the 10 day mark all of my AK has slowly evaporated in the stitching, zipper function and actually developing stress points that tear. The final straw for me was last year when a pair of AK Stagger pants got torn in the backcountry and the was no W48 to cover it. I was lucky in the fact I got this gear off proform. Had I paid full price ... there's no chance I would buy Burton again.
The sad thing is - I still love the AK line. As far as soul of a brand I think the AK line does a really amazing job of fusing the soul of people like Jake & Craig Kelly with the innovation that today's snowboarding brings. But, at the same time when you see guys like Terje wearing more straight Burton gear than AK you know something's fishy in the lineup. So, it's a shame that AK has gone the way it has and if I pull my Burton proform out this year - I won't be buying any of the gear. Bottom line - even at profrom prices, Burton AK just isn't worth the money anymore.