Bode Miller first attempted fashion design as a child, when he tried to modify a bulky ski jacket into a something more aerodynamic. “We had big puffy jackets back in the day,” he said.
His mother had taught him how to sew, so young Mr. Miller trimmed the excess fabric with a pair of scissors. The result was less flappy, yet it wasn’t exactly runway ready. “But it didn’t matter,” he said, “because I was up in New Hampshire and 8 years old.”
Three decades later, things have come full circle for the former professional skier.
Last year, after the birth of his second daughter and with retirement looming (he made it official in October), Mr. Miller became an equity partner and the chief innovation officer at Aztech Mountain, an upstart company based in New York and Aspen, Colo., that makes functional and ruggedly stylish ski wear. In doing so, he has joined the ranks of Laird Hamilton, Kelly Slater, David Beckham and other athletes who have all segued into apparel after retiring.
Mr. Miller said he initially came in contact with Aztech Mountain in the Andes, while working on a commercial photo shoot for Bomber, a ski and pole company of which he is also part owner. He was 10,000 feet high in the Chilean mountains and freezing when he grabbed an Aztech Mountain jacket from a clothing rack procured by a stylist. He was so impressed that he asked his agent to keep tabs on the label.
Later, by coincidence, Mr. Miller met the brand’s founders, David Roth and Anthony Rutgers, at a party in New York City. Started in 2013, the label was still very much in start-up mode, which appealed to Mr. Miller, who was looking for a role beyond the traditional celebrity spokesmodel.
“I realized that they were small, that they were just starting up, which is great for me,” Mr. Miller said. “My name and my knowledge of the industry and my connections with distribution and stuff like that. I felt that I had a lot to bring to the table.”
That would be an understatement. After all, Mr. Miller has six Olympic medals, including a gold for the men’s super combined at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as four gold medals from the Alpine World Skiing Championships. Despite his earlier party-boy reputation, he is generally regarded as one of the best male alpine ski racers in the history of the sport.
So on a warm morning in late September, Mr. Miller, who just turned 40, did his best Zoolander impression for the brand’s winter look book and campaign at a photography studio in Long Island City, Queens. Wearing a slate gray ensemble that included a sleek jacket, ski pants and half-zip sweater, Mr. Miller made for a good mannequin, in no small part thanks to the intensity of his icy blue eyes and his handsome-dad good looks.
“They got me very cheap,” he said with a laugh, as a stylist yanked at him and a photographer circled.
Mr. Miller has a laid-back bro energy and a self-confidence that borders on cocky, all of which adds up to a sort of swaggering charisma. He is an Olympian, but you can easily imagine cracking a beer with him and watching a football game. In fact, his love of a good time not only has been noted, but is also a source of contention in his prickly relationship with the news media.
But Mr. Miller is more than just a pretty face. He has given his input on details like materials for pockets, where venting should be placed and how to finish a jacket cuff or pants hem so they work seamlessly with a glove or boot. These are details for which his decades on the slopes have given him unique insight.
“I love having input on the things that would slip by most people,” he said, transitioning into spokesmodel role. “It makes a difference for the guy who’s pretty technically aware and wants something that works right. We want it to look better than anyone else and be a dynamic thing you can wear around the city and wear on the hill.”
So far, the market seems to be responding: luxury stores including Barneys New York, Harrods in London and Mr Porter carry Aztech Mountain, as do resort shops including Cole Sport in Utah’s Deer Valley resort and SkiService Corvatsch in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Sales, according to the brand, are in the seven-figure range, with prices ranging from $550 for non-insulated outerwear to $1,895 for the signature Nuke Suit jacket in wool.
In addition to his roles at Aztech and Bomber, Mr. Miller will be a commentator for NBC Sports during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. And he founded the Turtle Ridge Foundation in 2005, a nonprofit that supports youth sports programs.
During a ski career that lasted longer than most, he planted the seeds for the post-retirement phase of his life. Officially retiring means that Mr. Miller can dedicate himself more fully to philanthropy, commentating and entrepreneurship, not to mention spending time with his wife and children in California, where he lives.
So is the bad boy of skiing finally mellowing out? “I feel like when you start getting old enough, you’ve earned it,” he said.
By: Max Berlinger
Published: New York Times, December 6, 2017