Daredevil American skier is finally besting the Alpine set
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That sensitivity and ability to recover have helped Miller become one of the best skiers in the world. With a month of racing to go, Miller has the most cumulative World Cup points of any skier on the season-long circuit.Skip to next paragraph
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Even without an overall World Cup to his name, Miller is still the most decorated US skier in history, with four world championship gold medals and two Olympic silver medals.
But that success and all its trappings - a free Audi every year, a $500,000 endorsement deal with Italian pastamaker Barilla, and more - doesn't seem to have made Miller forget who he is or why he's skiing.
He's never lost his pure enjoyment of the sport, says longtime friend Cameron Shaw-Doran, adding that that's made it easier for Miller to weather others' criticisms and expectations.
In the off-season, Miller returns to his grandmother's former house in Easton, N.H. - which he now owns and shares gratis with Mr. Shaw-Doran and a cousin - and works at his family's tennis camp.
It was here in the shadow of the White Mountains that Miller's parents fostered a culture of independence and freedom for Bode and his three siblings.
"In general, we'd let them do as much as they wanted to do, as long as they wouldn't cut their fingers off," says Miller's father, Woody, holding up a favorite picture of his toddler son sawing away at a pile of lumber with a sharp-toothed bow saw.
One big thing Miller wanted to do - from age 5 - was follow in the footsteps of his ski-racing grandmother, a US Ski Team member in the 1940s. While other kids may have been dreaming of becoming firemen, "For Bode, the most logical thing for him to be was an Olympic ski racer," says his mother, Jo.
Miller's dad admits he wasn't keen on the idea of his wiry kid taking on such a demanding, dangerous sport. "It's hard for me to imagine they enjoy going 96 m.p.h. down an icy mountain," says Woody, sitting cross-legged in untied tennis shoes, a cup of tea warming his weathered palm.
But after being pressured by his father to enter medical school, an idea that he abhorred, the senior Mr. Miller had no specific plans for his kids' futures. Both he and Jo, though long divorced, still share that principle: Let your kids do what they love.
In this childhood environment, Bode acquired a certain stubbornness and tendency to speak his mind - often in colorful language - which has irked more than a few along the way. After butting heads over training ideas with his junior high coach, Miller asked him point-blank if he was "[bleepin'] stupid," promptly getting himself kicked off the team.
CVA Headmaster John Ritzo rejects the popular impression that Miller was a wild, out-of-control kid, however.
"I wouldn't say he was a saint, but ... if you've got people who are willing to hurl themselves down [the infamous Austrian downhill run] Hahnenkamm, you're not going to intimidate them," Mr. Ritzo says.
In Miller's case, you're probably not apt to imitate him, either - even if you're Austrian.