The technology of skis is a bit like dentistry — it hasn’t changed dramatically over the years. This observation, along with a parallel commitment to educating skiers, from novices to experts, is what convinced longtime friends Andy Wirth and Bode Miller to venture into the admittedly risky handgoods side of their industry. They launched Peak Ski Company with the intention of elevating the technology of the sport’s main piece of equipment — the skis themselves — and not just for the burgeoning superstars, but for everyone who likes to play in the snow.
It’s important to note that Wirth, former COO of Palisades Tahoe, and Miller, the winningest alpine skier in U.S. history, were friends for more than a decade before they decided to go into business together. Now neighbors in Montana, Wirth and Miller founded Peak Ski with a paradigm-changing vision, and this season, their skis are available direct-to-consumer, and at a surprisingly affordable price point.
Miller describes the transformation he first witnessed when he adjusted someone’s skis by just a centimeter as nothing short of astonishing for the skier — the brand’s keyhole technology, essentially a hole cut out in the top layer of alloy, allows for precise customization. “It allowed him better control and ease of turn initiation while maintaining power,” says Miller, “and he was shocked that such a small adjustment made such a huge difference.”
And this technology works equally well for men and women. Peak doesn’t subscribe to the “pink it and shrink it” dumbing down of women’s skis. Peak skis are designed for ease of use and higher g-forces, regardless of gender. Count as evidence for this claim the addition of professional big mountain skier Michelle Parker to the company’s leadership team as Senior Director of Product Development & Innovation.
And they’ve also dialed in the weight so that the skis are light, but not too light, as skis need a certain amount of mass to ensure “peak” performance. And who would know this better than Bode Miller, a veritable household name for his prowess in the sport?
While Miller hasn’t formally studied engineering, he thinks in terms of design. As I talk with him about this project, he seems to me somewhat like a kinesthetic engineer, someone who has learned design from the inside, by a lifetime of doing.
Wirth’s approach to marketing is also unconventional. Peak is an intentionally small and tight-knit company, a group of professional peers who keep each other on their toes. And because they don’t have to answer to a corporate overlord, they can experiment, put their hearts into the process, and release their best fruits of their labor on their own timeline. He prefers education over heavy-handed sales pitches, storytelling over flashy ads, and poetry over punch lines — Robert Frost and John Steinbeck are quoted on the Peak Ski website.
Darrin Haugen, VP of Innovation, Design and Production, predicts with confidence, “There’s no question this is going to change the way everybody skis.” Miller and Wirth don’t throw around trendy vocab about “disruption” or “thinking outside the box,” preferring instead to define their version of “grit” — essentially perseverance in every aspect of the work — and “innovation,” not as a cliche but as a basic, elemental way of looking at the world. And, of course, making it better for skiers.