The Edge

Bode Miller Announces Comeback—and Sues Head Skis

The alpine ski racer filed a lawsuit against the gear company on Monday

Bode Miller Announces Comeback—and Sues Head Skis

Bode Miller has filed a lawsuit against Head Skis, his former sponsor, over the details of his termination contract. Photo: Giovanni Auletta/Associated Press

On Monday, Bode Miller, 38, announced his comeback to professional ski racing in a lawsuit he filed against Head USA in federal court in Los Angeles. In the lawsuit, Miller wrote that he wants to compete in this season's World Cup races, which begin in October in Soelden, Austria—and he doesn't want to do it on Head skis. 

This is his "last real opportunity to competitively compete in the World cup racing circuit and attract lucrative endorsements needed to provide for his family," the court documents read. 

For skiers, this is the equivalent of Lance Armstrong's bombshell 2009 announcement that he would return to the Tour de France. (Armstrong placed third that year.) Miller, one of ski racing's wildest, loudest personalities, retired from the professional circuit in 2015 after a rough season in which he sliced his leg open in the super-G at Beaver Creek, Colorado. Since then, he's been training horses and spending time with his family at his home in southern California.  

Miller's return would make him one of the oldest racers on the circuit—he turns 39 next month. He became the oldest Olympic alpine skiing medalist when he won bronze in the super-G at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. He did intimate last year that he was considering a return to professional ski racing

Miller's lawsuit asks the court to abolish a restriction in Miller's termination agreement with Head that precludes him from racing competitively on another company's equipment in order to allow him to compete on skis made by Bomber, a boutique Italy-based ski company.

Miller entered into a two-year agreement with Head in 2006, according to the court documents. The contract stipulated that he would ski exclusively on the company's product during the length of the agreement. He signed an updated sponsorship deal with the brand in 2007, and another in 2012. In May 2015, he signed a termination agreement with the Dutch company, invalidating all the previous contracts and ending the business relationship. That agreement contained a restrictive covenant, according to the court documents, stipulating that Miller would not compete in a World Cup or World Championship ski race for two years from the date of signing.

Now, Miller wants the court to overturn that covenant, arguing that it violates a section in the California Business and Professions Code that prohibits agreements which would restrain anyone "from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind." In essence, Miller's legal team is arguing that Head is preventing the ski racer from doing his job by restricting what equipment he can use.  

Racing on Bomber skis would be an odd decision for the former World and Olympic champion. Head makes some of the world's top alpine race skis at its factory in Austria. Bomber, meanwhile, is a tiny company that produces high-end, handmade skis in New York City. Miller became an ambassador for the brand (filming this trailer) after his 2015 injury, and has since assisted with product development, according to the lawsuit. (Neither Miller nor Head was immediately available for comment for this story.)

If Miller hopes to compete, he'll have to hope that the case is resolved quickly: the first World Cup race is scheduled for October 23.

Filed To: Skiing, Gear, Athletes

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