You refer to “The Bomber Difference” as the attribute that sets Bomber Ski apart. When you first clicked onto a pair of Bomber skis, you felt it. Today, you, your real estate partner and Bode Miller own the company. Tell us a little about how that happened.
In the 1970s I trained seriously for ski racing at the Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont where we were required to ski six days a week, the seventh was optional. (We skied the seventh day.) I found myself in the company of athletes who were incredibly passionate about ski racing and willing to push themselves to perform at 120 percent of their ability every day in order to fulfill their dreams. This is rare in any high school. The school was so demanding that you only attended if you were driven by a deep passion to become a ski racer, in which case your driving force was rooted in your own desire. Being surrounded by peers who chose to attend a school which demanded perfection in one’s own aspirations was incredibly inspirational. It truly embodied my ethos: if you undertake any endeavor, pursue it with everything you have.
Tell us about some of your most memorable ski moments.
As a result of my years at Green Mountain Valley School, I knew my skis. Spring ahead almost 40 years to the first time I mounted a pair of Bomber skis I knew immediately they were at a level far beyond any other ski. They provide a dampness and stability that creates a sense of confidence that enables skiers at every level to ski better. They literally spring you out of each turn onto the next.
At the outset I had no interest in investing in the company because most ski manufacturers had commoditized the public’s perception of skis, which I felt was fatal to the industry. The industry had trained the very people who do not think twice about owning multiple watches costing over $25,000 each, or spending $3,000 on a ski jacket or $100,000 on a ski trip to Gstaad, Zermatt or Courchevel to bargain to save $50 to $100 on a pair of skis. Skis are one of the least expensive parts of a ski trip, and yet they are the most important part of the ski experience: superior skis can raise your level of skiing and your skiing confidence to new heights. Two years after I first skied Bombers, the opportunity to purchase the entire company arose but I initially dismissed it. However, I was converted while reading Steve Jobs’ biography. I realized Steve Jobs created the iPhone at the time when cell phones were inexpensive, unattractive utilitarian products. He believed the consumer would value a new cell phone which was sleek, attractive and performed tasks the consumer did not even know they desired. Similarly, skis had become unattractive products, manufactured inexpensively, to perform the task of taking skiers from the top to the bottom of the mountain; they were not designed to make the trip as exhilarating as possible. I would compare this to the difference between driving a cheap car cross-country -- or a Ferrari: they will both get you to your destination but the Ferrari experience will be unforgettable. With the realization that most manufacturers were not even trying to produce great skis -- but rather, inexpensive skis -- my business partner, KT Stallings Bren, and I purchased the company with the goal of working towards creating the best skis possible.
My background for the past 35 plus years has been in luxury retail real estate. Brands such as Hermès, Chanel, Gucci, Moncler and Loro Piana succeed as a result of offering consistently exquisite and superior products. Their success is not because their products are inexpensive. As we realized that Bomber had a far superior product to most other ski brands, we sought to combine this superior quality with the beautiful designs that the leading luxury brands we worked with would be proud of. This we achieved by incorporating the artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in our Artist Series line. With this strategy in mind, like a Birkin bag, a Bentley or a Ferrari, we would not compete on price but on quality, precision and passion.
You specialize in luxury. After your ski racing career you made luxury your business and took to real estate development in a rather big way. How did the two interests eventually merge?
Given the prominence of the real estate locations we purchase, when we develop a building we do not sacrifice quality for cost: the location of our real estate developments justify creating a product that generates passion and desire, such as the LVMH Headquarters on 57th Street in Manhattan, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, as well as Luxury Row in Waikiki, Hawaii, tenanted by Chanel, Gucci, Moncler, Bottega Veneta and other esteemed luxury brands. Similarly, at Bomber Skis we employ leaders in the field of ski design and construction, using only the finest materials to make the best possible skis. For decades, the ski industry has been producing skis at low cost while at Bomber Skis, we concern ourselves solely with one goal: creating the best skis. Our company directive is to have every Bomber team member performing at his or her highest skill level: this makes coming to work exhilarating for us all. We firmly believe that when you love your job you never work, your work becomes your passion.
What’s behind the technology that goes into these skis? Is there a difference?
At Bomber, we produce between 3,000-5,000 pairs of skis a year, and we don’t envision ever exceeding 10,000. Some ski companies make over 1,000,000 pairs a year, making quality control virtually impossible. As we want only the best cutting-edge materials, suppliers are excited to work with us. We use materials and methods of production where nothing is spared and no corners are cut. Our factory in Italy is owned by us, and builds skis only for Bomber. We firmly believe that creating volume sacrifices quality. We will grow our business through the offer of other products, including helmets, goggles, bindings and gloves, all created at the highest level of quality.
Bode Miller is one of the most successful and famous ski racers on the planet – and he is a major investor, designer and brand ambassador for Bomber. Tell us more about his involvement.
Bode and I met over a round of golf at Pebble Beach, with two friends from the Green Mountain Valley School, one of whom competed as a ski racer in two Olympics, Connor O’Brian. As we got to know each other and Bode learned of our goals for Bomber, we decided to work together. Together, we share a goal of performing to the best of our abilities and the desire to create skis that would enable skiers at every level to ski better. This enables the recreational skier enjoy their entire ski experience more, on skis of a quality normally reserved only for leading Olympic athletes. We also share the interest of creating ski experiences which enable skiers to maximize their passion for shared life experiences, immersed in nature and among company of family and great friends. We have named these “Bomber Experiences” and have held them in Courchevel, the Dolomites, the Yellowstone Club, Vail, Squaw Valley and other leading ski resorts. Bode’s ultimate decision to become an investor in Bomber was, as he said, the result of his belief that: “For the first time I had found a ski company that enabled skiers of every level to experience the quality that is normally reserved only for the best Olympians. On Bomber Skis, one can actually feel the passion of the craftsmen who build them, an experience that no machine-made ski can reproduce.” Miller added, “We are uncompromising in our mission to create the world’s best skis.”
Bode plays an integral role in the design of every Bomber ski. As a man who has pushed ski equipment beyond the limits of any other, he understands the physics and engineering of skis like no one else. Bode engineers our skis to work for the recreational skier, with a shared goal of creating skis that allow the recreational skier to ski at a higher level and with more self-confidence. That’s the Bomber difference: skis that enable the recreational skier to ski better, more safely and with better performance than ever. With Bode, my business partner KT and I share -- if not in skiing, then in principle -- a mentality. We strive for perfection in every endeavor. Our business and life mentality is the same and that is a big part of the Bomber difference.
To know the Bomber difference, mount a pair of Bomber Skis. No words can express the euphoria ski lovers feel on their Bombers.
--Spoken to Leslie Woit