Many of us are caught up in the excitement of the U.S. Olympic Team’s snowboarding successes. Watching the halfpipe on the big screen in the Commons inspired us to sit down with World Champion Snowboarder, and member of our very own Grace Farms team, Adam Petraska. The first in our “Meet our Team” series, this Q & A with Adam provides some interesting insight into one of the of the most popular sports in the United States, and goes behind the scenes to learn more about Adam’s work in Operations, throughout the River Building, and amongst the 80 acres of Grace Farms.
How did you get started snowboarding?
I was born in Vermont into a family of skiers and started skiing at age two. I decided to switch sports when I got a snowboard for my tenth Christmas. I got hooked and my parents decided to enroll me at Okemo Mountain School so I could keep up with school, alongside a difficult training schedule. I spent hours a day on the slopes and had tutors for every class. The days were long, but worth it. They got me on a path that eventually landed me on the Burton snowboarding team alongside Shaun White, and on to win two World Championships and five National Championships throughout my career.
What stands out in your mind as you look back on your career as a snowboarder?
Snowboarding was still gaining recognition in the world when I was competing seriously. I was one of the first snowboarders to have the opportunity to try out for the U.S. Olympic team when snowboarding first became an event in 1998. That was a tough road, though, because it took a few Olympics Games before snowboarding became an event people were interested in following and watching. It’s crazy to have been at the forefront of that, and to see where snowboarding is now—especially after seeing the United States do so well at this Olympics, with such a wide range of ages and people dominating the sport.
How has snowboarding changed since you were competing?
Snowboarding ranks among the highest watched of any televised sport today and is becoming more and more of a family sport, as I see it. A lot of people I competed against are now coaches, probably coaching kids who could go to the next Olympics. I think you’re more likely to see families together on the mountain today then you were back then.
Do you still snowboard?
Oh absolutely. We take our kids Ainsley, 4 and Grayson, 5 snowboarding as much as we can. Grayson even builds his own jumps in the back yard. It’s so incredible to watch. And I actually met my wife, Ashley, one winter while she was visiting Okemo for a snowboarding trip with friends—so we have a lot to owe to the sport.
What surprised you most about the snowboarding event during this Olympics?
For the first time this year, the half pipe riders were asked to wear devices that allow the judges to monitor how high they jump and take other measurements to assist them in ranking the competitors. Snowboarding is increasingly about how many flips and spins you can combine in a run. It’s just developed that way—a lot more showmanship. I’m psyched to see so much positive attention on the sport, and it’s an especially exciting time around here, because so many Winter athletes hail from Connecticut—eight in total according to the Hartford Courant.
What do you do at Grace Farms?
I’m the Assistant Director of Facilities, which essentially means I’m responsible for helping preserve Grace Farms— both the expansive grounds and incredible architecture. There’s a lot involved in caring for the River building, especially considering the long-term desire to maintain the original award-winning architecture and design. This includes paying careful attention to maintaining all the paint (color, tones, and textures), the bonded gravel along the walkways leading to and around the volumes of the River building, the interior and exterior furniture all of which was designed by SANAA, the interior concrete floors, and of course the 203 panes of glass that make up the windows and doors.
Caring for Grace Farms’ landscape includes the maintenance of 80 acres of property, including a stewardship plan for all the plantings, trees, grass, and any other elements put in place by the landscape architects, who worked hand-in-hand with SANAA during the construction of the River building to create the vision for the grounds.
What is the most intriguing aspect of your job?
Well, I think technical advancements of the River building are obvious in the feats of engineering that create the structure. That’s what guests come to see day-to-day. But what I love, and maybe what people are less aware of, is the complexity of the building’s internal systems. The geothermal system impacts so much of the building’s function and lends to Grace Farms’ status as a LEED certified building. We also work to keep all the other systems running smoothly—HVAC, fire suppression and pump, water treatment, irrigation, plumbing, and septic—along with the automated building system which controls all the lighting, heating and cooling set points throughout the entire building.
As an architectural destination, the preservation of Grace Farms in all aspects is really important—even for those things people can’t see.
Photo Credit: Snowboard Nippon Vol 1 | 2000/2001