Ski Racing Media wants to know why Andy Wirth and Bode Miller, two well-informed industry professionals, would even consider starting the PEAK SKI company. After all, if you are trying to maximize your return on capital, this is probably one of the most challenging industries to choose.
Andy Wirth is a lifelong horseman and a successful ski industry executive who starred in an Undercover Boss episode. Bode Miller is, well, Bode – renowned alpine ski racer. Both men have no illusions about the challenges of their venture. So why would two friends agree to travel the difficult new ski company road? We decided to reach out to the two partners and find out. What we heard was both interesting and exciting. It brought forward more questions than answers, but we will keep asking for information and based on our first discussion, we believe they will continue to answer.
Wirth has been an innovator in the ski industry. He knew that Miller had always been a prolific innovator in ski racing. Indeed, there isn’t a ski racer today who isn’t benefiting from Miller’s contributions. So it was natural that the two of them would get together as friends and business partners upon their retiring.
Undoubtedly, during Miller’s long career, he contributed to improving every piece of equipment we use today. However, his contributions are too many to count, even if only considering the details of building skis. Consequently, he has a long history of endlessly challenging ski equipment engineers and manufacturers. From flex points to torsions, rockers, sidecuts, lengths and widths, Miller has influenced every aspect. And because of his focus on performance, he is well known for constantly questioning the status quo. During his racing career, Miller collaborated with K2 (and is credited with inventing the K2 Four shaped ski), Fischer, Rossignol, Atomic, Head and Bomber. He influenced all his brands significantly but was limited by their tolerance for change. Now with PEAK, he has complete control of the ski design.
Taking the bridle off
Wirth is acutely aware of his friend’s talents and looks forward to what is possible if Bode can design skis unfettered and without compromise. Wirth says, “One of the many things I’ve learned from working with horses is that they are their best when they are at freedom – taking off the halter or bridle and letting them run. In many ways, that is the core of what we are doing at Peak. We have a world-class team. However, at the center of our ethos is innovation. “
The PEAK SKI partners appreciate the innovation and resources the ski industry has applied to advance the sport. However, they also believe the existing ski industry models have limitations. The two partners use extensive industry knowledge and a year’s worth of research, analytics and business modeling. However, a significant part of the story is they both know when they are using an exceptional pair of skis. They started PEAK with a blank canvas and never stopped asking what could be better. Miller comments, “The challenge for many is to truly see that nothing like this has been done in such a holistic manner.”
Creating channels of communication with consumers
When it comes to product development, the Peak team wants to be able to react quickly. Based out of Bozeman, Montana, they have built a high-speed team with access to cutting-edge systems and machinery. PEAK can swiftly make improvements to their products on very short notice. Their headquarters sits atop the “The Peak Development Group & Innovation Center.” Nicknamed DEVGRU, it has everything needed to build prototypes and quickly get them on snow for testing nearby in Big Sky.
But it’s not just the added product design flexibility that excites them. PEAK believes the best way to create a meaningful relationship with the end user is through direct-to-consumer sales. PEAK sees that the more layers between you and the consumer, the less likely you are to access their input.
Miller has strong opinions on the benefits of direct-to-consumer. He shares, “There are no hidden agendas. We are very transparent with our customers.” Wirth adds, “PEAK SKI desires an open dialogue with customers and immediate access to their feedback. Through direct communication with our customers, we are developing a community, a tribe of sorts.” Miller says, “We share our information with our customers and want them to share theirs. We call it our educational component and want it to be a part of every aspect of the PEAK SKI experience.”
Direct to the consumer makes PEAK economically viable
Additionally, after considering the economics, both partners see direct to consumers as a critical strategy to being financially viable. Removing layers between them and the end user creates opportunities for communication and innovation and allows them to do so more economically and efficiently.
Miller states, “The entire process for Andy and me has been one of discovery. The foundational pieces of our partnership were that we like to work together and wanted to do something. Once we did our due diligence, we found an economic model that would work. We are confident our business model can lead to a very successful business.”
Miller adds, “It has been exciting from the beginning, but we have moments when we get really fired up. We haven’t lost motivation or gone flat at any point, so that is always a good time.”
Origin of the PEAK logo
The unique PEAK logo informs people there is a story. Keep in mind both men are certainly contrarians. Wirth initiates a conversation on the topic, “First, remember a logo isn’t a brand it is a mark. The logo originated from our long discussions at our houses, on the hill and even hunting. Our discovery process may have been unique, but the meaning is not very well cloaked. It is a lightly veiled reference to people like Bode.” In the winter, mountain thunder and lightning storms are very uncommon. Wirth then references Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. Specifically, he quotes, “Two roads diverged in the wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” He goes on to quote John Muir “Society speaks and all men listen, mountains speak and wise men listen.”
Ski Racing Media learned PEAK SKI exist because two contrarian friends who are industry experts believe they can make their beloved sport better. PEAK SKI highly values a close connection to its customers. They believe the customer relationship will provide a rewarding experience for all involved. Wirth and Miller only do what they have always done; the partners take the road less traveled.