Bode Miller Wants His Own MySpace

NEW YORK First Hammer, now Bode.

Ski star Bode Miller is trying on a new role: Web 2.0 entrepreneur. He’s launched SkiSpace, a mini-MySpace for the slopes set, hoping his megawatt celebrity power will draw in skiers and advertisers.

Miller came up with the concept for the site, then hooked up through a mutual friend with Ryan Blair, founder and CEO of social network platform company PathConnect.com, to build the platform. His inspiration for the idea was his experience in skiing and finding the sport, in many ways, “poorly organized.”

“It’s a social sport,” said Miller, who has frequently clashed with the skiing establishment over his training and social habits as well as outspokenness. “It’s much more fun to ski with a group of people who are like minded, who have similar skills. It allows you to find the perfect group of people to maximize the enjoyment of the experience.”

SkiSpace hopes to help users accomplish that through the now familiar social-networking bells and whistles: Users can create profiles, upload photos, join groups and blog. The site follows Miller’s rep as a fun-loving iconclast with the tagline, “Fresh powder. Cool people. Hot places.”

But the site will be much more than that, according to Miller.

“There’s a need for it in this sport that’s unique,” said Miller, who will serve as SkiSpace’s CEO with Blair as chief operating officer. “There’s a lot of technical information that needs to be shared.”

Miller is not the only celebrity to try his hand at Web 2.0. Rapper/preacher MC Hammer has launched a dance-themed user-generated video site called DanceJam. Skateboard legend Tony Hawk has a similar effort, backed by Creative Artists Agency, and devoted to skateboarding and extreme sports. PathConnect.com is working with actress Jessica Biel to start an online community for nonprofit groups.

Thanks in large power to Miller’s fame, SkiSpace launched with a long list of advertisers, including Miller sponsors World Champion Sports Network and Kjus Clothing. Other advertisers include energy drink Go Fast, ski gear maker Head and Ciroc Vodka.

Miller and Blair are hoping to break into the vertical social network space, which has seen dozens of sites take cues from the successes of MySpace and Facebook to create social destinations devoted to everything from cats (Catster) to moms (CafeMom) to people covering from addictions (SoberCircle).

All are banking that ad dollars will flow not just to the giants of social networking. EMarketer forecasts social network advertising will rise from $350 million last year to top $2.5 billion in 2011.

Miller, who has won more than two dozen World Cup races, has built a reputation as the black sheep of skiing. He clashed with national team coaches over his socializing during the season and preference for staying away from the team in his own recreational vehicle. After a disappointing performance at the 2006 Olympics, Miller split from the national team to form his own independent operation, Team America.

SkiSpace is leaning on Miller’s celebrity to launch the site. Miller has crafted a viral video spoof of a documentary about Team America. He’s also recruited fellow well-known skiers to participate in the site.

“When we launch, it’s going to be heavily focused on Bode,” Blair said. “Eventually, it’s going to stand on its own.”

For his part, Miller said he would not be simply a marketing tool for the site and would remain “very involved” in its direction.

“This is what I’ve spent my life doing,” he said. “I have a lot of information to share.”