After growing up in Cedarhurst, Jake Burton Carpenter’s competitive skiing career was ended by a car accident shortly after he enrolled in the University of Colorado, however, Carpenter, now known as Jake Burton, has since revolutionized winter sports.
Burton, who has lived in Vermont since he graduated from New York University, modified a Snufer, a child’s toy snowboard in 1977, and in the span of a few years his creation had taken the slopes by storm. With the PyeongChang Winter Olympics beginning on Feb. 9, and the snowboarding events getting under way Feb. 11, his company, Burton Snowboards, will be front and center.
He created the snowboard uniforms for Team USA and sponsors many Olympic athletes, including Chloe Kim, a 17-year old Southern California native, who is the favorite to take the gold in the women’s halfpipe event. Kim is the only woman to land back-to-back 1080s (three full rotations). She would have qualified for the 2014 Olympic team, but was then too young.
Kim has been sponsored by Burton Snowboards since she was 11, Burton is excited to see her have the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage. He told Sports Illustrated: “The thing that always impresses me about Chloe is that no matter how big the event, she is always super chill. She’s got a unique confidence and she puts the board down so effortless and smooth, and you can’t fake that.”
Burton is also excited to see all Team USA snowboarders wearing his company’s uniforms. “The sport of snowboarding is neither nationalistic nor team-oriented in nature,” he said in a press release. “However… If the global expectations are that U.S. snowboarders represent their country in a uniform, then Burton wants to design and manufacture it”
The jackets were inspired by the American spacesuits of the 1960s, and even include some common Korean phrases like, ‘Do you speak English?’ and ‘Wish me luck!’ sewn into the lining.
In 2015, Burton spent several weeks paralyzed due to Miller Fisher syndrome, a rare nerve disease that kept him immobile while breathing machines and feeding tubes kept him alive. He was unable to open his eyes, but he would write, which is how he kept his still active mind busy. A healthy Burton is in South Korea rooting for his athletes, just a few short years after only having control over his hands and his mind.
His innovation in and dedication to the sport of snowboarding has turned him into one of the most important figures in winter action sports. It’s difficult to imagine snowboarding, or the entire Winter Olympics as they are today without Burton’s influence. In 2012, he was inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.
Shaun White, winner of gold medals in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics men’s halfpipe event, told the New York Times in 2015, “He’s like the cool dad of the sport.”
The opening ceremony for the winter Olympics but will air on NBC at 8 p.m. on Feb. 9. The women’s halfpipe takes place on Feb. 12 and 13.