Since donning his first pair of skis at age 2 — “a little wooden pair [with] red paint on the tips” — Bode Miller has spent a good chunk of his life atop snow-covered mountains. So when the Olympic gold medalist recently offered some tips on how to go about selecting the right gear — from boots to goggles to poles — we listened.
1. Boots before all else: Just how vital is a suitable pair of ski boots? “If you took a World Cup racer and you put him in the worst possible boot for him, the guy would have no chance of even being remotely safe skiing down a run,” Miller says. “It’s just that big of a difference.”
Aside from the obvious requirements — that they keep your feet dry, warm and comfortable — Miller suggests a boot that provides a forward-leaning angle. Otherwise, he says, “you end up going on the back of your skis, and that puts a ton of strain on your knees, a ton of strain on your back, and it’s asking for trouble.”
2. When it comes to ski width, Bode says buck the trend: While wider skis tend to be en vogue at the moment, Miller cautions against them. In addition to putting stress on the bindings, he says, skis that are too wide can also negatively affect performance. “Ninety-five, ninety-eight percent of the skiing should be done on a ski that’s 70(mm) underfoot. It’s the way the physics and the energy transfer from the body to snow tends to work the best.”
3. Up your goggle game, bro: It’s obvious, but true: In a sport as dangerous as skiing, visibility is vital. “I would recommend people, when they buy goggles, they buy several different lenses for each goggle, and they get proficient at switching lenses and they actually pay attention to it,” he says.
4. Know what you need out of your skis: Do you spend most of your time in glades, plowing through loose snow? Or on groomed slopes? Do you only go out after a big storm? It’s important to know, Miller says. Those who go out 20-25 days a year should own three or four different pairs of skis, Miller says — and should know which ones perform best in different conditions. “There’s a huge difference in the enjoyment level if you’re on the correct equipment for the conditions that day,” he says.
5. Don’t make poles an afterthought: Oftentimes, Miller says, people simply take what they can get when it comes to poles. But ensuring that they’re both light-weight and the correct length can keep you from wasting energy while greatly enhancing your experience. “It affects your technique,” he says, “but it also affects your comfort level and your fatigue and your safety.”
Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org