The Sexiest Skier on Snow
By Roger Toll
f you’re an American, it’s frustrating being the world’s best skier. You get no respect. In Europe, fans jostle for your autograph. Pretty girls would die for a date with you. Sponsors knock each other over to sign you to multimillion-dollar endorsement contracts. Crowds line the course on race day screaming, “BoDE! Bo-DE!” They may put the accent on the wrong syllable, but the passion is there. In ski-smart Europe, you’re adored; in the United States, ignored. For most Americans, it’s Bode Who? Few know a GS race from a super G, which they figure must be a new model
from Chevrolet. Even the most avid skiers in the United States generally don’t watch the U.S. team rack up its surprisingly robust results, televised each weekend throughout the grueling five-month World Cup season, the pinnacle of international ski racing. And if they do want to watch, it’s hard to find the events on the obscure cable channels to which they are mostly relegated. Nevertheless, the United States today can boast the fastest, most daring, most accomplished and, in a word, sexiest skier on snow, and his name is Bode Miller. Like Jack the Giant Killer, he has slain the mighty Austrians, or at least knocked them from their usual top perch on the podium, where they have dominated for years. Last winter, he walked away with the overall World Cup title, meaning that he scored the highest number of total points in ski racing’s four events—slalom, grand slalom (GS), super G and the downhill—a feat not accomplished by an American since Phil Mahre did it during the 1982-83 season. The difference is that Miller is so powerful that he will likely do it again this year. Miller is a prodigy who has honed his natural athleticism into world championship status through hard work and discipline, though listening to him speak you might not believe it. At 28, he is the un-Austrian: laid-back, preternaturally relaxed (even in the starting gate, where others are a basket of tics), self-confident, a little edgy and an iconoclast when it comes to training. Given his rural New Hampshire upbringing as the child of hippies, it is not surprising that he follows his own instincts in everything he does, often frustrating coaches and managers alike. But it has worked well for him. Already a two-time Olympian and 10-year veteran of international racing on the U.S. Ski Team, Miller has been skiing in a uniquely focused, self-motivated way for a long time: Even when he was as young as 3, his mother would drop him off at Franconia , New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain to spend the day skiing on his own. But you won’t see him in the weight room.
Miller is a prodigy who has honed his natural athleticism into world championship status through hard work and discipline.
photo by Gregg Segal/Corbis Outline
Bode Miller is an eccentric, we know that. So’s his training regimen.
training day “There’s a reason why I won the first World Cup race of the season last year and why I was able to be the first person ever to run every World Cup race during the last three years,” Miller says. “It’s because I come into the season in better shape than any other World Cup racer in
to know which training routines make the most difference and how much to do of each exercise to get the right results.” In a sport of specialty athletes, it is a remarkable feat to race both a highly technical event like slalom, with its short, quick turns, and a high-speed event like downhill, in which you stay in an aerodynamic squat, turning as little as possible, while maintaining speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. And it is unheard-of to compete in 114 consecutive World Cup races—every one, in fact, since March 2002.
To achieve this, Miller does a lot of crossover training to improve specific areas, especially his coordi nation and balance. Toward the end of demanding runs, he says, he has plenty of power left, but in previous years his decisionmaking abilities, his judgment of distances and his fine muscle coordination had been coming apart. When a skier is racing hard, blood shoots to the large muscles, but not to the head, Miller explains. The brain, however, has to have blood to be able to make quick decisions, judge distances and respond physically to changes in snow or terrain conditions, all within a split second. “So part of my training includes eccentric squats with about 480 pounds,” he says. “I take about a minute and 20
iller does a lot of crossover training to improve specific areas, especially his coordination and balance. the world. It takes a lot of time to get into that kind of physical condition. You can’t just go in and spend 19 hours a day in a weight room and be able to do the kind of stuff I do on skis.” Unconventional as always, Miller trains using techniques such as singleleg squats on a tightrope, riding a uni cycle uphill, grappling up a 40-foot rock-climbing wall and pushing a 600pound tennis court roller or a wheelbarrow full of rocks down a country road. “I know what training is best for me,” he says. “It takes a lifetime of experience
96 Sky december 2005
seconds to do eight repetitions. You go down really slow, which creates a huge amount of oxygen debt. Then I come out of that and jump over these hurdles, really explosive jumps, and do four sets of those in about 10 seconds a set, one right after the other.” He follows that with fine-balance exercises on stability balls. The eccentric lifting is a better way to trick muscles into getting them to do what you want them to do, he explains, especially if you’re interested in really stable strength. Training is best, he says, when it duplicates real situations. Though he makes his money by carving great turns in the snow, Miller is an accomplished all-around athlete. In high school, he was an all-state soccer and tennis star, and he excels in golf, bowling and fishing, all of which benefit from the overall body fitness ski racing provides, especially where balance, power and coordination come into play. Miller may well be one of the greatest athletes in any sport today, so it’s hard to make a relevant connection between his training regime and that of people with ordinary bodies. Like other top athletes, he’s able to read his mistakes and weaknesses with a scientist’s precision, which is a much more challenging feat for amateurs. (Just ask any high-handicap golfer, for instance.) Nevertheless, Miller thinks everyone should do what he does. “Be really self-aware; it makes all the difference,” he says. “And be realistic about your individual strengths and weaknesses. There is no one better equipped to assess that than you. Then individualize the training program based on where your goals are.” Miller also warns against boredom when training. “I do a lot of different things, and I compress it into a pretty short period of time,” he says. “A lot of guys train more than I do and don’t end up in better shape. By keeping it shorter, I can keep up my motivation better and it makes things fresher. For me, it’s more realistic.” Sky Contributing Editor Roger Toll hits the slopes and not the weight room regularly from his home in Park City, Utah.
photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images
Published on May 1, 2009
Published on May 1, 2009
'The Sexiest Skier on Earth' by Roger Toll for Delta Sky magazine. Bode Miller is eccentric. We know that. But so's his training regimen.