When you watch the 33-year-old Utah native behind the starting gate at the Pyeongchang Olympics in the coming days, look beyond his scruffy good looks and check out his jazzy helmet and goggles once he starts careening down the icy course at speeds up to 80 mph. It is not just vital gear to protect the veteran skier — the first and thus far only U.S. alpine ski racer with two Olympic gold medals on his résumé. Notice the spiky-lettered bright red logo for Shred. That's the other side of Ligety's success story.
Shred Optics is the private company he co-founded in 2006 that makes high-tech helmets and goggles and other protective gear for winter athletes and outdoors enthusiasts. That was not long after Ligety, then 21 and making his Olympic debut at the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, shocked the ski world by winning gold in the combined event, comprising downhill and slalom runs. He would mine his record-setting second gold in the giant slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia, an accolade to go along with the five World Cup GS championships he's won during 15 seasons on the circuit.
Ligety had met Shred co-founder Carlo Salmini, an Italian materials engineer with an MBA from MIT, in 2003. "He was doing a little racing then and had made these carbon-fiber shin guards [worn by alpine ski racers] that I thought were awesome," Ligety told CNBC a few weeks before joining Team USA in South Korea. "Carlo prototyped some for myself and a couple of teammates, and we developed a friendship."