RACER TURNED NORDICA USA PREZ
From ski racing at Burke Mountain
Academy and the University of Vermont,
to working his way up from marketing and
product management to become president
of Nordica USA, he has seen the snow-
sports industry from the inside out. 32
Degrees Special Projects Editor Peter Kray
sat down with him recently to talk about
what he has learned through all those
seasons, and where he thinks the sport is
huge Rory Bushfield fan. You will not
find a skier, or person for that matter,
with a more infectious positive attitude.
In other sports I’m all about John Elway!
easier, better, and more enjoyable I think
we can get the message across.
Willy Booker has spent his life on snow. The Colorado native first skied at Berthoud Pass at the age of two,
the same year his mother started working in a ski shop.
32 Degrees: You grew up in the ski
industry—what was that like, and how does
it affect how you look at the industry now?
Willy Booker: My mother started working in a ski shop when I was about two
so that we could get season passes at
Loveland ski area. (She still manages the
Loveland Sport and Rental Shop today).
I think all the hours hanging around
that shop when I was a kid gave me an
appreciation of how hard it is to run a
successful ski shop. It’s also given me a
perspective on how much people love
the ski industry and the sport. The same
people come back year after year because
they love skiing.
32 Degrees: The new 45-degree instep
technology in your ski boots is making news.
How important is new technology to the sport?
WB: I think it is very important. The
45-degree instep is just a part of it
though. The most important thing is that
we never stop trying to move the sport
forward. Skis are a lot different today than
they were 10 years ago. They are fatter,
the sidecut is dramatically different, they
are substantially shorter, and now we have
rocker technology in most skis. The result
is that the way that we ski and the needs of
our boots have changed significantly. Yet
the technology in boots has been largely
static for decades; you might even say that
there has been regression in some ways.
The new Fire Arrow boots are specifically
designed to work with modern skis and
modern skiing. Fatter skis and more
sidecut leads to more lateral forces, so we
built the boots with that in mind.
32 Degrees: When it comes to on-mountain professionals, do you have equipment you
feel is designed particularly for their use?
WB: Absolutely. We build a number of
products that are specifically designed for
the on-hill pro and products that would
otherwise be relatively unneeded in the in-line retail world. There are just not many
skiers outside of the pro ranks who need a
Dobermann Pro 130 for example.
We also work closely with our Pro
Team on products. [PSIA Alpine Team
Captain] Michael Rogan has been
an integral part of the Nordica
product development process for many
years, as have a few pros from Italy,
Switzerland, Austria, and a couple of
other countries. We work with these
guys on top-level product all the way
down to product designed for beginners.
32 Degrees: Who are your role models?
WB: As a ski racer I grew up idolizing
Ingemar Stenmark and the Mahre
brothers—there are certainly a lot of
great things that you can take from those
guys today. I was born the same year as
Bode Miller and we both raced in the
East in high school. After he toasted
me (and everyone else) I’ve followed his
career closely. People run hot and cold
on Bode but I love how clear he is on
his motivation in the sport. He’s always
challenging himself and, I believe, is
in it for the best reasons. Today I’m a
32 Degrees: How well do you think the
snowsports market—from pros to enthusiasts—understands rocker right now?
WB: There’s a big range of understanding
out there at the moment at every level.
I would characterize the understanding
as “fair.” A big part of the issue is in
the messaging from the manufacturers.
Companies have different philosophies
and right now it’s hard for a consumer to
understand what it all means. Pros can
play a very important part in clearing
up consumer confusion on the issue. If
we keep it simple and ask ourselves what
rocker will or will not do to make skiing
32 Degrees: Where do you think the sport
goes from here?
WB: Up! I’m a certifiable optimist. I think
skiing is ready to break out at the moment.
There are many positive signs right now—
more people visited ski areas than ever
before last season regardless of the fact that
they were being told by news stations that
the sky was falling on a 24/7 basis. People
are more passionate about skiing because
there is no substitute—nothing will replace
the feeling that you get from a great day on
the hill. Who knows where we’ll go from
here. But I know that at Nordica we’ll be
pushing, trying, testing, failing, and starting
over again and again each day so that we
can succeed in making skis and boots
that perform better, fit more comfortably,
and ultimately make skiing more fun.