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Utah Ski-Equipment Inventor Dies

post #1 of 6
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Utah Ski-Equipment Inventor Dies
Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Earl A. Miller, legendary ski enthusiast, died Friday in Owensville, Mo., at 77. (Tribune file photo)

Pioneering Utah ski-equipment inventor Earl A. Miller died Friday in Owensville, Mo. He was 77.
Miller devised release bindings, wide powder skis and ski brakes long before they became industry standards. His inventions earned him a spot in the National Ski Hall of Fame.
"He made safe," said his daughter, Jill Tarbet, of Weston, Idaho. "Before him, it wasn't safe. It wasn't something you should encourage your children to do."
Miller grew up in Sanpete County during the Depression, skiing on wooden planks at primitive ski areas on the Wasatch Plateau. During World War II, he flew P-51 Mustangs.
From a shop in Orem, Miller invented the first step-in, multiple-release ski binding, the first wide powder ski, the strapless pole handle and ski brakes.
"He has worked to make skiing safe and more fun, and has more inventions beneficial to skiers than all other ski inventors in the world combined," the U.S. Ski Association said in Miller's 1994 induction announcement. Two years later, Miller won the Quinney Award, which honors contributions to the Utah ski industry.
Miller also invented a releasable snowboard binding, which has yet to be embraced by the snowboarding community.
"Selling a board with 'beartrap' bindings is like selling a car without brakes," Miller told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2000.
A few years ago, he renamed his firm Miller Snowboard Corp., left one of his four children, attorney Matthew Miller, in charge and moved to a gated community in Owensville, Mo., where he continued to tinker with such inventions as silverware with oversized grip handles for arthritis sufferers. His list of patents numbered at least 70.
Miller spread his beliefs about the benefits of skiing with "missionary zeal," said his daughter. "Mormons get training in that," Tarbet said. "He transferred it to skiing."
Her father allowed her to skip elementary school a couple of days a week to go skiing, which angered her teachers, Tarbet recalled. "It was more important to him that I learn to ski than to get good grades."
post #2 of 6
Heard this earlier today on the radio, very sad. He was a great pioneer for our sport.
post #3 of 6
Yeah, I read it this morning too. He was definitely ahead of the pack. Last time I saw him he was hawking his book about the Burton conspiracy concerning release snowboard bindings. Although some of his findings verged on paranoia....he may yet be vindicated. Wish I still had a pair of softs!
post #4 of 6
Earl Miller and Howard Head changed skiing forever by proving that technical innovation could make skiing safer and more fun. We owe a lot to these guys and to the 10th mountain division and a few others like Alf Engen and Warren Miller.
post #5 of 6
Miller was featured in a video call Utah's Skiing Story. He did so much for ski safty yet made vary littel money on his inventions.Rather then pay him a royalty Ski binding companies waited more then 20 years untill his patens ran out before they put brakes on bindings. If you ever have a chance to view The Video there is a lot of great history about Utah's place in American skiing.
post #6 of 6
I recall Miller soft skis as the first specialist powder skis I'd heard of. There was a craze for them amongst UK skiers (in the late Sixties/early Seventies?).
A very clever idea, in an era when planks generally remained pretty inflexible.
Can anyone direct me to a photo of Miller's bindings and ski brakes, or a patent reference?
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