Toby Miller: On Returning From Injury & My Hopes For The Final Olympic Halfpipe Qualifier

by Toby Miller

Toby Miller celebrates after a run in the men's snowboard halfpipe finals at the 2018 U.S. Grand Prix on Dec. 8, 2018 in Copper Mountain, Colo.


The biggest moment on my radar leading up to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 is the final U.S. Grand Prix here at Mammoth Mountain this weekend. I missed out on the two qualifying events in Aspen last season due to injury, and that has definitely put a lot of pressure on me going into this season. Having Mammoth be the final stop, this is a big one for me. I'm really looking forward to it. I put in the time and am excited to go do what I've been working towards.
I’ve had an interesting journey to get to this point — from the low of injuries to the high of winning events and standing on the podium and watching my friends succeed, too. Here’s more about what I have learned on this journey, who has influenced my career, and what I will call success this weekend.

I injured my right ankle last January in the lead-up to the X Games. I had a high ankle sprain and bruised the talus bone. The doctors told me that I could ride, but I was at risk of potentially breaking the talus. With the sprain and bruise, I was looking at a six-week recovery time. But if I were to break the talus, which was a very probable situation, I was looking at probably six to eight months of recovery time. That would have definitely set me back way more coming into to the Olympic qualifying year. So we definitely made the right decision.
The Copper Grand Prix in December 2021 was my first time competing since my ankle injury. Actually, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was my first time competing since 2020. Anytime you get an injury, it's definitely heartbreaking and frustrating — so many different emotions go through your head. But I always make it my goal to come out of an injury as a better athlete mentally and physically than I went into it. So that's exactly what I did. I put in the time at the gym. I did my physical therapy and got as strong as I possibly could in that time period. The next time I was on snow, it was the strongest I've ever been on a snowboard. It definitely made a huge difference in my snowboarding.
At the Copper Grand Prix, it felt great to be back in a bib. I landed the run I wanted in qualification. But I was one point shy of making finals, which is definitely really tough. Then at Dew Tour the following week, I wasn't able to put down the run that I wanted to do in qualification, which unfortunately, made me miss out on the final. But looking at those building blocks coming into this weekend, I’m going to fix everything that went wrong at those two events and put it all together here hopefully.

Toby Miller trains prior to the men's snowboard halfpipe qualifying round of the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix Copper Mountain on Dec. 9, 2021 in Copper Mountain, Colo.


The snowboarding community is such an incredible group of humans. I’ve made so many friends who will be my friends for life. In this community, the biggest people who have inspired me, looked after me, and helped me get where I am today are JJ Thomas, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist, and Shaun White, three-time Olympic gold medalist.
I first met Shaun in 2012 back when he was working with Bud Keene, the U.S. snowboard team coach at the time. They were training at Northstar, which is my home mountain in California. Bud invited me to ride the halfpipe with Shaun. As the years went by, we rode together more and more and became friends. Then in 2016, Shaun started working with JJ Thomas, who’s a close friend of mine. He’s basically family. They invited me to travel and train with them. So the three of us built this little team, traveling to camps and all the events together. To get insight from them has helped me so much. Shaun and I now have this incredible relationship, and I consider him one of my best friends.



Louis Vito, who’s also an Olympian, is another person who’s been influential in my snowboarding career. He’s been like an older brother to me since I was probably seven or eight years old. Shaun, JJ, and Louis have guided me and taught me so much about what it takes to be a champion and how to be a better snowboarder. They have helped me get where I am today.

Four years ago, I tried to qualify for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team. Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify and missed out. I was 17 at the time, and Shaun approached me and said, “I’m not sure if you’re interested, but I don’t really want to break up the team. I was really hoping we’d be out there competing together, but you have plenty more Olympics coming up. Would you be interested in coming to Korea anyway?”
“Of course!” I told him. 
Seeing the Olympics first hand and experiencing it was surreal. And watching Shaun win the gold medal was incredible. It was actually my birthday (February 14). It motivated me more than ever to make the next Olympic team to represent my country. It lit a new fire inside of me that was even bigger than the one that I already had.
Being in PyeongChang in 2018 also gave me perspective about the Olympics. It’s put on such a pedestal. It’s this massive event that you hear about growing up and get to watch on TV. But seeing it firsthand really made it seem attainable. 
In all these qualifying events leading into the 2022 Beijing Olympics, I keep reminding myself that I’ve put in the work, I’ve put in the time. It’s time to make it happen. I’m extremely motivated and excited about the upcoming Olympic qualifier.



Halfpipe snowboarding is at an all-time high right now. The level of riding is at a point that people once deemed impossible. The tricks that are being performed and the runs being done are absolutely surreal. Watching your fellow competitors and friends learn these new tricks, it's really inspiring. It motivates all of us to go learn new tricks and to go try new stuff and to make our runs just that much better.

What's really incredible about it is even though we're all competing against each other and we're all trying to win, we're all really good friends. We just want to see each other perform the best we possibly can. When I'm competing, as much as it's my number one goal to win, I want to see my friends put down their best runs. I want to see them happy with their performances, because when your friends are doing well, when your friends are having fun, you're going feed off of that energy and ride better and ride harder and have fun with them.

But that said, my goal this weekend is to qualify for my first U.S. Olympic team. To get there, I look at every event as tiered. The first success, the first tier, will be to make the final. The second success will be to put down a run that gets me on the podium, and then to put down a run that I think has the best chance of getting a gold medal. Ending up on the podium at Mammoth would be a massive success. That would be a huge win.

Toby Miller is a pro snowboarder and Olympic hopeful in men’s halfpipe. He is the 2018 world junior halfpipe champion and a Winter X Games medalist who turned pro at age 13. Now 21, Miller is returning from injury and aims to make his first U.S. Olympic Team. He calls Los Angeles, California, home.