Snowboarder Toby Miller Sets His Sights High
Half pipe dreams.
Written bySteven Stiefel
Photographed byMike Dawson and Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Imagine as a child getting to train with one of your biggest sports idols. And then he takes you under his wing and helps you prepare to become a professional athlete, which you accomplish when you’re 13. That’s the start of Toby Miller’s story.
“I met (pro snowboarder) Louie Vito when I was 8,” 22-year-old Toby says. “We’d ride together, and he gave me his phone number. It was surreal being able to text one of your heroes.”
Toby grew up in Big Bear Lake. After a brief stint on skis, he began snowboarding at age 6 at Snow Summit Ski Resort. His parents would take him to the mountain each day after school. “I’d change into my snowboarding gear in the car on the way to the slopes, so I didn’t waste a second of time.”
It was at that young age—as unusual as it sounds— that Toby mapped out his life plan, based on his burgeoning skills and pure love of the sport.
When Toby was 7, he began making the podium in regional snowboard competitions. In 2007, at the Big Bear USA Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) competition, he qualified for the USASA Nationals in Lake Tahoe. “It was my introduction to riding with the best kids in snowboarding from all around the country.” He didn’t win the event, but for the first time he realized the opportunities that snowboarding could offer.
Toby’s parents were supportive of his snowboarding from the start. “I was never under any pressure from my family to become a pro or reach any level,” Toby says. “They just recognized how much I loved snowboarding and that I had a lot of ability.” In 2009, the family, which includes two siblings, started spending winters at Lake Tahoe to allow Toby access to more mountains with world-class terrain parks and top-notch coaching.
In 2009, while attending a summer snowboarding camp in Oregon, Toby met pro snowboard coach Chris Hargrave. “I owe a lot of my success to Chris—he’s the one who really taught me how to ride a half-pipe.” When Toby turned pro in 2013, he started getting sponsored by large companies and being invited to compete in bigger events.
His breakout year was 2018. “The Copper Mountain Grand Prix was the first professional event where I landed on the podium, finishing in second place.” Shortly after, he placed third at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge.
By that time, he’d also become friends with five-time Olympian Shaun White, the most decorated snowboarder in the sport’s history. “I met Shaun when I was 13. He was always a hero of mine growing up, but after meeting him and snowboarding with him he became a mentor and close friend.”
Despite those early successes, there were challenges to come.
Toby’s brisk start in the competitive world has slowed down over the past four years due to injuries. “I scored high enough to get third place with my second run at the 2019 Dew Tour in Breckenridge. Then I broke my ankle in a fall on my third run.”
Toby rehabbed seven days a week and was able to finish fourth at the Park City World Championship in February 2019. Then later that month, he shattered his wrist at the World Cup in Calgary and had to undergo two surgeries.
Things started looking up in December of that year when Toby placed fourth at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix. “It was my first competition after breaking my wrist. Coming off back-to-back injuries, I was really proud of that. Then in January 2020, I got third place at the X Games SuperPipe Session in Aspen, which was surreal.” It had been one of Toby’s childhood dreams to win an X Games medal. “But then COVID hit.”
PEAKS AND VALLEYS
In October 2021, Toby bought a condo and moved to Woodland Hills. “I found myself spending more and more time in LA, utilizing the world-class gyms and trainers during the snowboard off-season.”
Another aspect of the appeal of living in the Valley is the accessibility to mountains and roads without a lot of traffic. “Unfortunately, you can’t snowboard year-round—if I could, I would,” Toby says. “But having access to world-class road biking has been a game changer.”
He has a rigorous year-round regimen, training during the off-season three days a week in the gym and road biking from the Valley to Malibu three days a week. In road riding, his goal is to get in 10,000 feet of climbing each week. “I don’t care how many miles I ride or how long it takes. The goal is to get in the vertical climb.”
Proximity to Mammoth Mountain is another benefit of Valley living. “We spend the majority of our spring training in Mammoth,” he says. Many people may think that a pro snowboarder living in LA is a bad idea. “But we’re traveling the world for more than half the year, following the snow. Anywhere we call home doesn’t have snow the majority of the time.” Toby says it would surprise people to learn how many pro snowboarders live in places where it never snows.
Toby’s year-round training has paid dividends. Today, he’s sponsored by numerous companies including Toyota, Backcountry and U.S. Snowboarding.
His goals for this coming season are simple and strategic. “Step one is to make the finals (top 12) with the run I need. Step two is to show what I can do with more difficult tricks when I make the finals.”
Toby realizes that the career of a pro snowboarder can be short. “Some pros peak early and some peak when they’re 28.” Clearly, he hopes to be in the latter camp. “Regardless,” he says, “When the day comes to stop competing professionally, I’ll continue to snowboard for the rest of my life. Because I love it.”
Tacos from the heart.