Big News a Day Late..............
| April 1, 2012 at 12:01 am | No comments
By Frank Konia
EASTON, New Hampshire – American ski racer Bode Miller plans to compete on the World Cup next season on a vintage pair of K2 Fours, the same funky skis whose radical shape helped catapult him onto the United States Ski Team in 1996.The 34-year-old Miller, who has won nearly every significant ski racing title during his record-setting career, says he is inspired by the challenge of hitting the world's most treacherous downhills on a pair of undersized recreational skis that have been gathering dust in a New Hampshire barn for 16 years."I want to bring things full circle," Miller said in a telephone interview as contract negotiations wrapped up. "People once said these boards weren't built for racing. I proved them wrong once, and I'll do it again."Miller added that he looked forward to racing the World Cup tour on skis that grossly violate the equipment regulations that the International Ski Federation, or FIS, has imposed in recent years. Miller is one of many racers who has been critical of those regulations."If they want to disqualify me after I win Soelden and Val d'Isere on these things, they can go ahead," Miller said. "I don't race for results anyway. I think I've mentioned that before. Live free or die."Miller, who was spotted on the red-white-and-blue K2 Fours early this March at Cannon Mountain, confirmed that they were the same pair he used as an unknown 18-year-old at the 1996 national championships, finishing third in the slalom and securing an automatic berth on the U.S. Ski Team."Looking back, that was a transformational moment, not just for Miller but for the whole sport," said Nathaniel Vinton, a journalist who is working on a book about Alpine ski racing slated for publication in 2014. "The skis helped Miller bring his totally unconventional technique and tactics to the highest levels of ski racing. Miller forced a lot of people to adapt their thinking about the sport."Miller said he found his old skis in February, after a knee injury forced him to end his World Cup season early. Upon his return to the United States, he stopped at his childhood home in Easton, New Hampshire, where his mother asked him to take some clutter out of the barn and haul it to the town dump."The skis were kind of hidden away behind a bunch of junk – trophies and crap," Miller said. "The edges were rusty, but a few swipes of the file took that right off. I tested them out at Cannon and they felt great."It's unclear if the skis' piezoelectric lights are still functional. The lights, which were built into the K2 Fours just above the place where the binding's toe-piece would sit, were meant to flash on and off as the ski bent, a feature some skiers derided as gimmicky.Executives at K2 were initially startled when Miller's agent approached them in mid-March to discuss a contract. The company, which is based in Washington State, hasn't produced World Cup skis in about a decade. Since 2006, Miller has raced on equipment from Head Skis, and by all accounts has been satisfied with the Austrian company. K2 hasn't been a leader on the circuit since the early-1980s, the heyday of Phil and Steve Mahre.American ski racing fans fondly recall how Miller turned the sport upside down in 1996 when he used the K2 Fours to win three of four races at the Eastern Region Junior Olympics in Sugarloaf, Maine. Two weeks later, on the same slope, he finished third in the national championship slalom, automatically qualifying him for the U.S. team.At the time, so-called "parabolic" skis – marked by their hourglass shape – had been around for decades
, but were not commonly used in ski racing. But Miller's success led his peers and rivals into similar experiments, and within a few years the entire World Cup tour was skiing on skis with greater sidecut. By the time the FIS cracked down on the trend, Miller was winning slaloms and giant slalom races on the men's World Cup circuit – something that hadn't happened since the Mahre era.Miller has since won a total of 33 World Cup races, two overall titles, numerous discipline titles and 10 medals from the world championships and Olympic Winter Games.A source close to Miller said the company offered to build hundreds of new race skis for him and supply a full-time ski technician to travel the World Cup and tune Miller's skis, but that Miller, true to his reputation for stubbornness, said that he preferred to use the originals. The official announcement about of the partnership is scheduled for later today, April Fools' Day
, the source said.Nate Vinton contributed reporting to this article.