NAPA News & Events

Son of Olympians, Chair of the Board

Christian Zimmermann climbs into NAPA’s top leadership role.

BY BILL ROWAN NAPA DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING

Christian Zimmermann wasn’t born into asphalt. Rather remarkably, he was born to not one but two Olympic alpine ski racers. Though he grew up skiing, he readily admits, “I didn’t get the genes.”

Zimmermann, New England Group President for CRH Americas Materials, is NAPA’s 2023 Chair of the Board. How did he go from snow-covered slopes to paving asphalt? Credit his mom’s two loves—Egon and Milo—along with his own love of engineering and adventure.

MEDAL-WINNING BEGINNINGS

Penny Pitou was just 21 years old when, at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, she became the first American to medal in the downhill event, capturing the silver—which she paired with another silver in the giant slalom. Competing for the Austrian men’s team was Penny’s first husband, Egon Zimmermann; while the Austrian team failed to medal at Squaw Valley, Egon himself took second twice at the World Cup’s most demanding event, Kitzbühel’s Hahnenkamm-Rennen, in 1958 and 1960.

Penny and Egon had two sons, Christian and Kim, raising them in Gilford, N.H., and on the slopes of Gunstock Mountain. Though they divorced in 1968, both Penny and Egon held the esteem of the ski racing community for decades. In fact, no American woman eclipsed Penny’s silver in the downhill until Lindsey Vonn captured gold 50 years later at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

PIKE’S PEAK

In 1969, Penny met her second husband, Milo Pike, president of Pike Industries, New Hampshire’s biggest asphalt paving company at that time. At 15 years old, Christian began working summers at Pike, and a career in the industry was born. In 1988, CRH acquired Pike, setting a course for Christian to climb to his current position overseeing the New England region for CRH Americas Materials—namely Pike, P.J. Keating, and Tilcon Connecticut.

A NEW SENSE OF ADVENTURE

After working in all aspects of asphalt with stepfather Milo, Christian studied civil engineering at the University of New Hampshire. While his engineering education gave him a deep appreciation for the science behind road building, engineering as a career wasn’t for him. “Although I majored in civil engineering, I always knew I wanted to be on the other side of the fence—building roads and bridges vs. designing them,” he said.

Though he may not have inherited the ski-racing genes from his parents, Christian did inherit a love of outdoor adventure. For him, it’s rock climbing—which, especially in his younger years, provided an escape from New Hampshire winters. He and wife Deb have been conquering heights around the world in their three decades of marriage. Even their kids, Zane and Zoe, are outdoor adventurers on both snowy slopes and rocky crags. Zoe, in fact, is a member of the U.S. National Alpine Ski Team, continuing the family sporting legacy in the modern skiing era. There’s an unexpected parallel here between ski racing and asphalt paving—one that comes back to engineering and technology. Just as asphalt mixture design and paving techniques have advanced over the decades (think warm mix, recycling rejuvenators, balanced mix design, etc.), so too has ski equipment. “When Mom was competing, they were basically wearing hiking shoes strapped to skis, which didn’t give them much leverage over the ski,” explained Christian. “They looked nothing like the incredibly engineered specialty equipment Zoe uses today!”

PASSING THE TORCH

2022 NAPA Chairman James Mitchell of Superior Paving Corp. has overseen a year of significant impact, including initial implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, and increased national focus on sustainability in the form of Buy Clean legislation and increasing emphasis on environmental impacts vis-à-vis environmental product declarations (EPDs). Not to be overshadowed by these federal and state initiatives is the industry’s own pursuit of net zero carbon emission asphalt pavements, The Road Forward, launched in January 2022.

When Jim passes the torch—er, gavel—to Christian at NAPA’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Fla., as is NAPA’s tradition, most of the incoming Chair’s family will miss the ceremonies. Zoe will be competing on the World Cup circuit, while Penny and Zane will be on tour in Europe—that is, leading a skiing tour. (At 84 years old, Penny has yet to hang up her skis!)

EMBARKING ON A NEW ERA

This won’t prevent Christian from assuming his new role with gusto. Like Jim, he invites members at every level (not just owners) to engage with the Association. In years past, members often asked the incoming Chair, “What’s your platform?” Christian has a clarion call to this question: “Engagement. Participation. Getting involved.”

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One Comment

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