When the first skier takes the course on Aspen Mountain for the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals this March, Bode Miller, the most decorated U.S. Olympic ski racer of all time, will not be atop the mountain. Rather, he will be ensconced in the NBC broadcast booth, offering his insights as competitors fight for speed on the steep slopes of Aztec.
Miller, who has won six Olympic medals, 33 World Cup races and a pair of overall World Championships, was named as a member of this season’s U.S. Alpine Ski Team, but he is not racing this season, in part due to legal complications with Head, his former ski sponsor. “He brings clairvoyance,” NBC ski analyst Steve Porino says about Miller’s skills as a race commentator. “He completely understands who is fast and who is slow—and exactly why. Plus, he has the ability to stay out of a linguistic cul-de-sac.” High praise for a guy who is just learning a new craft.
At age 39, most world-class athletes are looking back at their careers and accomplishments. But, as Miller, one of the most iconoclastic and enigmatic American athletes of this century, comes to Aspen as a ski-racing analyst, he is clearly focused on the next chapter in his life.
Notorious for doing things his own way while on the race circuit, Miller is now a family man with myriad business and professional opportunities on his plate. “I’ve probably never been happier. I always wanted to be a ski racer, but being a dad is something I have taken very seriously,” he says. “Figuring out how to be a dad and husband is something I tried to work through in my ski career, which will probably surprise a lot of people. So it’s cool, where I am now.”
Miller is living in Southern California with his wife, Morgan Beck, a beach volleyball star; and his four children. This winter, the couple welcomed daughter Emeline Grier in a home birth. The couple shared pics on Instagram of mom, dad and child au naturel. It was quintessential Miller, and the photos made headlines throughout the world.
Perhaps not as surprising as his dedication to fatherhood is Miller’s transformation from racer to passionate entrepreneur. In addition to working this winter with the NBC broadcast team at the World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and the finals in Aspen, Miller has partnered with both Bomber, a maker of advanced high-end skis, and mountain apparel manufacturer Aztech Mountain. To both endeavors, he brings intense focus, a lifetime of ski knowledge and an obsession to create nothing but best-in-class.
“It has always been my desire to challenge the norm and create new and better equipment,” Miller says about his partnership with Bomber, which is producing racing and recreational skis at its factory in Cossato, Italy. Miller brings expertise as a ski racer and gear geek who always sweated the details. “I’m lucky to work with a team that is quick and agile and willing to do anything to make the best possible skis.” Miller explains. “The price point is higher, so we don’t have to cut corners. Every single one is produced by the same 10 people, handmade in our factory in Italy using absolutely the best materials available in the world.”
Miller brings the same passion to skiwear as an equity partner and chief innovation officer at Aztech, a high-performance technical attire brand born in Aspen. “Now I have another outlet to be creative and to help make the experience of being on snow better for people,” he says. “That’s important to me.”
"IT DOESN'T FEEL DIFFERENT FOR ME NOW TO SKI AT 100 MPH THAN IT DID TO GO 40 MPH WHEN I WAS 8." –BODE MILLER
Of course, this new chapter was made possible because of Miller’s ability to ski with precision and speed. In his 2005 book, Bode: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun ($13, Random House), the skier distilled his goal into a simple phrase: “Ski as fast as the natural universe will allow.” To do so, he committed himself with such intensity that it put other things, including a normal life and relationships, on hold. Many people, including some coaches, team officials and members of the media, had a hard time with the degree of focus that Bode exudes.
“Bode is a guy whose personal expectations were never based on other’s expectations,” notes Miller’s longtime friend and former speed coach, Johno McBride, who currently trains Aspen Valley Ski Club racers. His idea of success was about more than just winning races. “I remember races he won where he was not content with his performance,” McBride says. “And some he did not win, but he came away pleased with how he performed.” Miller’s satisfaction always came from the pursuit of speed and perfection.
“It doesn’t feel different for me now to ski at 100 mph than it did to go 40 mph when I was 8,” Miller says. “And when I was 10 and winning local races, it feels the same as winning a World Cup race. You’re preparing for and competing for the level you are at the time.”
While he still intends to ski fast, Miller is shifting his need for speed to another love: horse racing. “It’s a passion that I see pursuing over the next 30 years,” he says. “I want to revolutionize the sport.” Miller has attended the Kentucky Derby since the late 1990s. He was befriended by trainer Bob Baffert, who was such a fan of Miller that he named his son Bode. Today Miller owns a number of horses and a racing stable.
NBC’s Porino says horse racing is the perfect substitute for Miller. “He looks at this exactly like he looked at ski racing, focusing on splits and times and claiming races,” says Porino. “He believes he can bring a new vision, a new way of training horses, from his experiences on the hill.”
Miller’s obsession is based on the belief that he can marry the skills and knowledge that made him a great Alpine athlete with the equine world, creating a new paradigm. “I want to revolutionize the sport, win the biggest races,” he says. “I take it very seriously and am committed to it.”
For Miller, life has always been about commitment. “It’s about the mindset. Not setting limits for yourself,” he says with emotion. “Everybody thinks they know what they can or can’t do, but you really don’t know until you try something and commit to it. If you try something and aren’t committed to it, then it doesn’t work. Whose fault is that?”
Family. Ski racing. Broadcasting. Branding. Horse racing. Bode Miller is a man in full.
Race photo by Jonathan Selkowitz