by Justin Phipps,
I met Rome Snowboards team manager Grady Skelton back at the SIA On Snow in February up at Copper Mountain. I wanted to catch up with him and get a little more info on Rome’s current projects, the responsibilities of being a TM, and other fun stuff too.. like the Rome van. Here’s how that conversation went!
JP: Tell me how you got into snowboarding how you learned and where you started.
GS: I started when I was 12 years old and my Aunt knew a friend that ran a ski and snowboard bus that left every Saturday and Sunday from a local high school. She told my mom that I should probably get into it, that it would be good for me. I had no idea what it was and so I borrowed some gear from a neighbor and went up and tried it and from that point on I’ve been hooked ever since.
JP: Wow.. that actually sounds kinda cool.
GS: It was rad.
JP: Yeah, alright, so in your transition into the snowboarding industry, when did you know that it was gonna be the thing you wanted to try and make a career out of?
GS: I think it was my senior year in high school. I was on a snowboard team in high school and I was trying to decide what I wanted to do and at the time I was running a clothing company, it was like an action sports clothing company, we sold a lot of apparel gear toward snowboarders and skateboarders. And, I grew up snowboarding and skateboarding and surfing and it felt natural to wanna stay in it. So when I went to college I focused all my efforts at the university to figure out how I wanted to be a part of the industry.
JP: Cool, that sounds neat.
GS: Yeah it was cool.
JP: So during your time with Rome what might be one of the more rewarding events you’ve had being the team manager?
GS: I think the most rewarding thing is when I see all the work our team has put in the season come out in their video part, or seeing the videos that Theo and I help create with Rome. At the end of it, seeing it all come together into one piece from projects that we’ve worked all year or what the riders have worked all year on like Will in Déjà vu, or Jonah with his parts in Nation last year or VG this year. Seeing that come out is probably the most rewarding thing to being a TM.
JP: Cool. Ok, so maybe you can share a difficult time too? Like have you ever let go of a team rider or anything?
GS: I’d say probably the most difficult thing is (pause) probably making decisions on what projects we’re gonna help support, where we spend our time and effort . That can be pretty difficult because I wanna support all the projects, but you have to choose the right ones that Rome should be involved with. Having a healthy snowboard industry helps allow us to do that. So we wanna make the right choices so snowboarding stays alive and that Rome stays relevant.
JP: Yeah, alright so as a rider what does ‘making it’ in snowboarding mean from the perspective of a team manager? Cause it seems like there are a lot of levels.
GS: There are a lot of levels. I’d say its pretty standard that there is the AM/regional levels through the reps, that’s like the start. Then there’s the AM level. I’d say you’re making it when you have solidified some type of travel budget and you have a contract solidifying your finances for the year as an AM. Really after that it’s, are you ready to turn pro? Unlike skateboarding, turning pro in snowboarding is kinda ambiguous. So I think it’s when you have full support and are able to live off your income from travelling all year snowboarding. That’s when you make it.
JP: As the team manager what type of expectations do you have for riders moving from one level to the next?
GS: I think availability is one of them. Two, is marketability. So I expect them to understand that what Rome is doing is our goal is to help them succeed. When you have a rider that doesn’t understand that it makes it difficult for us because we want to see them succeed. When our riders are getting attention in the media we’re getting attention. We expect them to be involved and want to create their own content, so like a drive (of their own). We like to see riders have a drive. When they don’t it’s pretty detrimental to their own success.
JP: Just in general, have you ever seen riders get jaded n stuff and maybe start to feel like snowboarding owes them something? What’s some of the worst stuff you’ve seen go down?
GS: Um, yeah I think riders do get jaded because of, well cause a lot of riders will spend a lot of time in the industry and may not move forward or they stay stagnant and they get jaded because they feel like they’ve been putting in a lot of effort, but, they might not be putting the effort into the right places to succeed. And so they’ll get frustrated and move to something else and I’ve seen that a lot. That’s probably the biggest thing. If a rider can understand that the TM, or that the company that they’re riding for, is there to help them succeed then it will benefit them in the long run.
JP: Yeah.. I get that. Let’s talk about Kazakhstan real quick you and the guys were there a few months ago, who all was there and what all happened?
GS: Oh man… so the riders that we took to Kazakstan were Ian Boll, LNP, and Ozzy Henning. It was probably the most foreign place that we’ve ever been to. As in, all of us, as individuals, and for the company. Snowboarding is very young in Kazakhstan so everyone was extremely interested in what the riders were doing, and, they were excited. I think all of us left Kazakhstan really truly seeing something unique and that is snowboarding in its complete infancy. Seeing snowboarding and its potential in that country. It was, it gave us a true excitement to go there. We hit handrails while we were there, we went to the resort, we visited the local skate shop, we drove around to extremely third world poverty stricken areas and found handrails and interacted with the people there. We also went to very high end high class areas of the country. You know, we went out to dinner with people who are very successful and treated us and took us out. We saw all sorts of stuff in Kazakhstan and it definitely had potential for snowboarding, and there are a lot, a lot of handrails there.
JP: Nice. Being in a foreign country did you maybe have to plan ahead for injuries or busts or stuff?
GS: Oh, after the first handrail we hit, Ozzy ended up breaking his wrist and injured himself, so we had no idea what to do. We had to scramble to figure out how to get to the hospital, to get an x-ray and get a cast. You know, that was a shock, and it was something as a TM I had to deal with and the riders really came together and as a team we were able to figure it out. But, it also put a lot of pressure on the other riders feeling like they really had to perform. But Ozzy’s a trooper, he came back. You know, talk about a rider who has a lot of drive and he finished the whole trip and got a lot of shots with the cast on one arm with a broken wrist.
JP: Huh? That’s kinda cool.
GS: Yeah it was awesome.
JP: Alright final question, what’s up with Rome van and what’s its most significant contribution to the industry?
GS: Haha yeah… The Rome van is THE most travelled van in snowboarding by far. Probably it’s been across the country with AM riders, pro riders, and filmers more than any other van. It’s probably been across the country 20+ times back and forth and Canada back and forth. It was something we allowed the riders have control over and if they needed it at any time for filming it was available. And really, van life is a part of Rome Snowboards, it’s something we cherish because it really brings the team together and you have a good time together and get to know each other. There’s nothing like getting to know each other spending two weeks travelling together hitting handrails, or going to a resort. It’s a lot of memories were made in the Rome van.
JP: Okay. So is there anything else maybe that you wanted to talk that I might have missed?
GS: Oh. Well I think maybe just the new Find Snowboarding project that’s coming out with TransWorld this upcoming August and September and October. The (last year) 12 Months project was revolutionary for the snowboard industry and putting out a video every month that has to do with snowboarding. At Rome, we are focusing on the things that are important to snowboarding and Find Snowboarding is exactly that where people can relate to and you know bringing that excitement back to like the time when I was 12 years old and started snowboarding or any other person that just started snowboarding. The reasons why you got in it.
JP: Cool. Well that’s about it.
GS: Right on dude, thanks for the interview.
JP: Yeah, you’re welcome!