USST star Bode Miller signs two-year equipment deal with Atomic{mosimage}Bode Miller has signed a contract with Atomic, and will use the Austrian company’s ski equipment for the next two years – a period that includes the 2005 world championships and the 2006 Winter Olympics.

The top-ranked American ski racer, Miller is now partnered with the company whose skis dominate the men’s alpine World Cup standings.

“The contract is huge, but so is Bode,” said Ken Sowles, Miller’s agent, an attorney based in Burlington, Vermont. “He is slated to make over $2 million next year with all of his contracts together.” Sowles stressed, however, that Miller’s decision was driven not by money but by the performance of the equipment.

Miller has skied on K2, Fischer and Rossignol skis in his eight-year career with the U.S. Ski Team. Sowles, who has 20 years of experience in the ski racing industry, has been Miller’s legal advisor through each of those transitions. Miller’s deals have grown progressively larger at each stage, in part due to his abilities and achievements, and in part to his personality: Miller is extremely marketable, both in North America and in Europe.

The decision comes after weeks of intensive ski testing, as Miller entertained bids from four companies: Rossignol, Atomic, Nordica and Salomon. Miller, who had spent the last two years on Rossignol skis and bindings, with Nordica boots, had made it clear that he was looking for a “full package” agreement. He felt that using all the components from one company would simplify things.

It was an unusually difficult decision for Miller. Last Thursday, he sat down with Sowles and looked over the four offers. “He normally knows exactly what he wants,” said Sowles, “but he had to think about this. We had dinner and chatted, and I told him to sleep on it.” On Friday, Miller made his decision, and then Sowles went into three days of intense negotiations. By Monday night, the deal was done.

Rossignol, the French company that Miller signed with two years ago, released a statement on Tuesday pointing out that Miller had won world championship and World Cup titles on Rossignol skis. “It is therefore with regret that Rossignol sees our collaboration with the American champion come to an end. Naturally, we wish him the very best of luck for the future.”

A big question that remains to be answered is who will be tuning Miller’s skis. Log on to www.skiracing.com later this week for news on that front, and for comments from Miller himself.

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