By Louise Witt

(FORTUNE Small Business) – Age: 47

Bona fides: Created the world's largest snowboard company, which now dominates 38% of the market.

Snowball effect: At age 14, he bought a $15 Snurfer, a sledlike board created by entrepreneur Sherman Poppen. It was all downhill from there.

Wipeout: In 1977 he tapped three business partners, raised $40,000, and set up shop in Burlington, Vt. They churned out 1,000 boards during their first year but sold just 300. Two years later the partnership split, and he was on his own.

Catching air: Vermont's Stratton Mountain opened its slopes to boarders after years of lobbying. Other resorts soon followed while he kept refining his boards and expanding into apparel. Today 4.3 million Americans snowboard.

Waxing philosophical: That first-mover advantage you've heard so much about is no snow job. "Being there first gave us a whole different edge."