How the One Percent Ski: On Diamonds with Olympian Bode Miller
What's it like to ski in the Rockies with an Olympian on limited-edition, diamond-encrusted, luxury skis? Exactly what you'd expect. Jane Larkworthy slips her ski boots into the real of the .00001 percent.
TELLURIDE, Colorado — It's 8 a.m. on an early December morning in Mountain Village at Telluride Ski Resort. The sun hasn't yet made its way to the mid-mountain's Chair 4 lift, which is quietly warming up, empty chair after empty chair clicking its ways through the pulley system as the lift operators pack snow down at the point of onloading. The lift won't open to skiers for another hour, but as our entourage skates over, the red ski pants are recognized almost immediately.
"It's Bode," I hear one operator say to the other. And with that, the ski lift version of a velvet rope is unclasped, and up we go.
Yes, that Bode. The most successful male American Alpine ski racer of all time is playing host to a small group of journalists gathered on this storied mountain to experience a new collection of skis for Bomber, a company of which he is now part owner.
Miller joined Bomber not long after learning about their philosophy — to make excellent recreational skis for every level of skier — from principal owner Robert Siegel. That was in 2015, and Miller has been involved in crafting every ski model since. That includes the back-country Ascent Touring Ski, the P-51 Powder Ski, and the Gunpowder, which I am skiing on this early morning. Siegel bought the three-year-old brand in 2013, and two years later purchased the factory where they're made outside Cossato, Italy. But it's the newest creation, the limited edition partnership, Bomber for Bentley skis, that are the real stars of this trip.
At the risk of repetition, yes, that Bentley.
If you're familiar with Bomber, you'll probably know that they enjoy their partnerships as much as they do the design process. Their Artist Series includes boards adorned with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings; their retro-looking Woodie Classic and racer-red Red Baron skis seem to say, "Yeah, I'm rich, and I love to play hard."
Which brings us to Bentley. To help commemorate the esteemed automobile company's 100th anniversary, the brands teamed up to create the Bomber for Bentley Black Diamond Edition ($2750, only 200 pairs were made) and Centenary Edition ($3750, only 100 exist), both of which took more than 18 months to fine-tune, and 32 hours to handcraft. Elements from the car are incorporated into them, too, including the familiar diamond accents and the signature winged logo that graces the skis' tips.
I know. This is how the other half lives. If you're fortunate enough to drive a Bentley SUV, you're already a one-percent of the one-percenters. And, if you, Mr. or Mrs. Point Zero Zero Zero One Percent, are also an avid skier, a pair of Bomber for Bentleys probably are already secured in your Bentley Bentayga ski rack. It's pretty crazy how rich people live, but luxury is all about experiences these days, and skiing with Miller is a luxury I could get used to. So was flying directly to Telluride instead of hopping aboard a transport van at Montrose Airport and driving 90 minutes to the ski resort like the hoi polloi (read: me) usually do.
Telluride is located in a box canyon, and its airport, Telluride Regional, is perched on a rock outcropping with a short landing strip, so only small propeller aircraft can land there. Fortunately, we were in one of those aircraft, and it was a complete thrill to be skimming the snow-filled mountains as we made our descent.
As soon as we grabbed our luggage, we were escorted to a fleet of Bentley SUVs and buckled in for the short drive to our accommodations, Lumière with Inspirato, the condo-hotel that lacks a restaurant or room service, but has a well-stocked bar and a welcoming fireplace. I loved not being in a bustling hotel. Despite being steps from the slopes, Lumiere had an intimate private lodge atmosphere, and I was quite content in my cozy penthouse bedroom with views of the mountain I was about to ski on.
Bomber Skis are pricier than most standard skis, but not by tons. More like double, maybe a little more, but when you factor in the handcrafting, the investment doesn't sound all that crazy if you're a skier who wants high performance. I felt taken care of on my Gunpowder Blue Birds. As co-owner Robert Siegel explained over cocktails, "All of our skis are for, say, the fiftysomething-year-old man who's a little out of shape, might have had a glass of wine at lunch, and wants to get down the hill without making much of an effort."
Except for the gender and wine part, that's me, and the skis did help get me down the hill without much effort. Not unlike how the Bentley Bentayga that I got to drive the next day deftly helped me accelerate to pass a slow pick-up truck (40 mph? Really?) — all I had to do was steer and add gentle pressure to the gas pedal.
"People have twenty watches worth $20,000 to $500,000 but only one pair of skis," reasons Siegel. "Why not ski on a Basquiat for one day, then a black pair to go with their black outfit, then try the Powder, or the Race ski. Skiers like to try everything."
And this skier confesses she enjoyed leaving her Bombers on the rack the following day so she could spend quality time behind the wheel of another Bentley — the sexier, two-door Continental GT, a few of which had also come to Telluride. We drove a circuitous 62 miles southeast to Red Mountain Alpine Lodge, tucked within the arguably treacherous Red Mountain Pass. (I drove the first, less treacherous leg of the 90-minute trip, while my co-pilot, a more experienced driver, handled the curves.) This back country skier’s and snowshoer’s nirvana is surrounded by virgin snow as far as the eye can see, and the lodge itself is nearly as beautiful, a stretch of dining table dominating the main floor, where we feasted on sumptuous short ribs. We didn’t get to drive the Bentleys back, because were instead transported back to Telluride Reginal via an even smaller aircraft, a six-seat helicopter. Oh yes we were.
I did my best to play it cool with Bode. Seated next to him on the quad chairlift, I tossed out a few jokes, but not too many. Later that night, as the gondola transported us down into the town of Telluride for dinner at The National, I asked how it felt to have so many dogs named after him.
"Sure, name your dog after me, but not your kid," he laughed. I gave a subtle nod of understanding then looked out at the town's blanket of glittering lights, trying to conjure a clever comeback that never did turn up. Famous people make me nervous.
My favorite leg of this trip was when our convoy drove the 90 miles from Telluride to Montrose, each in our own Bentley, and no Bode in the passenger seat to make me tongue-tied. When our caravan of ten Bentleys passed a police car on the side of the road, curiosity got the best of him, and he shadowed us until we reached the airport. It was a good thing he hadn't spotted us when we were not respecting the speed limits.
So what's it like to ski with an Olympian on super-swanky gear? For starters, the thrill of a high-perfomance machine (okay, of a ski) pushed my adrenaline levels. And when Bode Miller is your guide, you throw caution to the wind and channel your inner 16-year-old who knows no fear. When he and his posse turned onto a field of moguls, I followed. I'd be damned if I was going to be the slow poke everyone had to wait for down at the chairlift. So, for the few brief minutes I flew amid the bumps, I was euphoric. This quickly turned to a mild panic. Forget the strong possibility that you could tear your ACL right now. You could have a heart attack.
I slowed down and maneuvered the remaining moguls with the consideration and grace of a fiftysomething woman who is, shall we say, not in the same shape as a former Olympian. Having come of age when skis were taller than I was and weighed almost as much, allowing my skis to do the work for me took a little getting used to. But what a satisfying surrender.
Is it necessary to invest in Bomber for Bentley skis? Of course not. But necessary is relative. If you're the type of skier who also owns three Panerais and is constantly on Crown & Caliber's website in search of that Rolex Daytona Big Red, you might want a pair.
Back to me: Do I need a pair of Bomber Gunpowders or Pro Terrains now that I've skied on them? Let's put it this way: I may or may not have been giving the side eye to both my Dynastars and our Audi Allroad ever since I returned home.
Ready to Ski with Bode?
If you're among that cohort who want to ski this way, you can join the two posh brands on a five-day Bomber X Bentley Ski + Drive Experience this March 4-9 with Miller. The trip begins at Telluride's Lumière with Inspirato, after which guests are transported by private plane to Deer Valley, to stay at the luxe Montage (which I sadly did not get to do). Guests will ski and dine with Miller and bop around in a Bentley Bentayga or Continental GT. Excursions to Greenland and Antarctica are also planned for April and December, respectively. Prices vary per experience, but they generally start around $18,000 ($29k per couple).