Shaun White’s Next Mountain: Businessman, Snowboard Maker


In many ways, this fall is like so many others for Shaun White. The three-time Olympic halfpipe champion, now retired, was on a glacier in Switzerland earlier this month, taking turns in the halfpipe, trying to figure out what works, what has potential and what needs a complete overhaul.

He is preparing for the winter, although this time there are no major competitions to come. He evaluates his snowboards, but this time he sees what others might like, not necessarily what he needs to win.

The 36-year-old’s first full season in retirement also marks the start of his first year as a full-fledged business owner. The brand he introduced with a soft opening ahead of the Beijing Olympics earlier this year will be fully operational from Monday. The name is White Space. It debuts with a limited line of snowboards and outerwear, and White, in an attempt to be as calculating in the market as he was on the mountain, is in no rush to put his business competing with some of the behemoths of these industries.

“I have this visual in my head, looking at a chairlift and seeing my name” at the bottom of a snowboard, White said in a phone interview with The Associated Press from Saas-Fee, Switzerland. “And it’s knowing that my product is appreciated by someone.”

An iconoclast who went against snowboarding traditions by making it cool to ride for money and medals, White says he wants his brand to stand out on the mountain the same way he does. One way to do that, he says, is to develop a personal touch to what he sells.

“The other day, several pallets of boards arrived at my mother’s house,” White said. ” We are doing it. But we’re not taking a huge swing. To start, we make like three jackets, two pants, three snowboards. When you think of the range, we do the essentials. I say to myself: ‘If I went on a trip, what would I take?’ »

The eight months since White’s emotional exit from the halfpipe in the mountains outside Beijing have been a whirlwind. He followed the advice of his girlfriend, actress Nina Dobrev, and made a list of things he had always wanted to do but hadn’t done. It all started with a trip to the Super Bowl and, as his Instagram feed documented, included a visit to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, trips to Cannes and Monaco, and a chance to meet a Formula 1 driver. Lewis Hamiltona game-changing superstar in his sport who is around the same age as White.

Still, when asked what was the most memorable moment of his still-nascent retirement, White spoke of a trip to Avignon, France, to visit Dobrev’s family.

“We hung out with his mother. Cycling around the city,” White said. “The food was excellent. We are suspended at the edge of the river. Go to the exchange meeting. Go to the fruit market. Just everyday stuff. It took time to go see someone else’s family and just hang out. He uses this currency, which is time, and spends it on things that I had put away for so long.

Regret quitting smoking? White hasn’t felt much of it so far. From time to time, he thinks of his last race at the Olympics and his last day on the mountain. He was trying to run the same race that had won him his third gold medal four years earlier in South Korea. But he fell and finished fourth. Ultimately, even if he had clinched this race, he probably wouldn’t have won gold, given the leaps his sport had made between 2018 and 2022.

At the end of this memorable contest, White soaked things up, hanging around for about an hour after the last race to say a heartfelt, tear-tinged goodbye to his life as a competitive snowboarder.

“It is too premature to say that everything is fine,” he said. “I have times where it’s like, ‘Ohhhh.’ How could you not, after so many years of doing one thing and formulating a plan to try to be the best?

In many ways, however, he views new business, and his line of snowboards and apparel, as just another way to compete.

“It’s, how can I push not only myself, but the brand to rise to this occasion? Not only visually, but also performing. What will work? said White. “There are so many different ways to keep enjoying strategy and creativity and figuring out the next thing to do.”

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