Published DateBy Tom Eastman
FRANCONIA — It's been a difficult week for the family of U.S. Olympic and World Cup skiing great Bode Miller.
The day after Cannon Mountain hosted Bode Miller's annual BodeFest fund-raiser for his Turtle Ridge Foundation, news spread that his younger brother, Chelone “Chilly” Miller, 29, of Easton, had been found dead Sunday in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., after suffering a seizure in his van.
The death may be related to a 2005 motorcycle crash that left him in a coma for 11 days, according to a statement by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
An autopsy is to be performed.
“Chilly” specialized in snowboardcross, which became an Olympic event in 2006.
Chilly had made “great progress” this past season, said Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. He finished fourth in the 2013 Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix in Canyons, Utah, and won the Banzai Tour at the Sugar Bowl resort in the Sierra on March 12.
Like his older brother, Chilly had hoped to qualify for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
In an interview with The Ski Channel on Monday, Bode Miller said his brother “loved life so much.”
“It made him easy to love and easy to be around,” Miller told The Ski Channel. “I'm going to miss him a lot.”
Both Miller brothers starred in The Ski Channel's film, “The Story.” In it, Chilly said as soon as he and his brother learned how to walk, they were put on skis. Around age 9, he said he picked up snowboarding and “immediately fell in love with it.” He also said that the motorcycle accident and subsequent coma had given him a special appreciation for life, and that the scare had brought he and Bode closer together.
“I'm stoked to be alive,” said Chilly in the now haunting clip. “I more or less am snowboarding better than I ever have. Things are all coming together which is pretty sweet after the battle I went through in the last five years. I'm definitely lucky. I appreciate every second of every day because of all these experiences. So. life is good.”
Out of respect for the Miller family, no effort was made to contact them this week following the tragedy. But it is clear that instead of having the chance to compete in the Olympics together on the U.S. Ski Team, now Bode will have to carry on the brothers' Olympic dreams alone for the two of them.
We join all Granite Staters in extending condolences to the Miller family and wish Bode and all his family well.
Before that tragedy, the following brief interview took place at Cannon Mountain April 6, in between Bode's signing of autographs for young skiers as part of BodeFest.
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First, a bit of background information. Samuel Bode Miller holds the American men's record for World Cup victories at 33, and is a two-time overall World Cup champion, having won that title in 2005 and 2008. He is one of five men in history to win World Cup victories in every discipline.
He has won five medals in the Winter Olympics, the most of any U.S. skier — two silvers (giant slalom and combined) in Salt Lake City 2002, and a gold (super combined), a silver (Super G) and a bronze (downhill) in Vancouver 2010. Miller is one of five skiers who have won Olympic medals in four different disciplines.
Bode hadn't missed a World Cup season since his debut in 1997. He also owns the record for consecutive race starts at 136 between March 2002 and January 2006.
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Q: Being married and being a dad now, how has that changed your approach to ski racing?
BODE: It hasn't been as a much of a change for me as that kind of thing is for most people just because I always have my priorities and my family has always been a priority, you know, with my sisters' kids. I'm used to that kind of thing.
[Having a child], with my daughter, obviously, your priorities shift a little bit. But that's it. When I'm racing, I'm racing. I've had my daughter over to Europe a few times, and now being married, it's just a different pace to things. I still do the same stuff and I don't think I've changed much.
Q: How has it been to have had to take the year off from racing due to your knee surgery?
BODE: Sitting out a season is both a challenge in not being out there, but also in being really patient with my knee and not doing stuff, because you can risk a lot by doing something small. But it was great to have some time off. I haven't had a year when I didn't ski since I was 3 years old — I still skied, I just didn't ski a lot of volume.
But yeah, it was great — I had lots to keep myself busy. And I think it was important in terms of getting my knee healthy not to take any risks, because even some times a small risk you can do one thing wrong and that could have sort of have been the end of my career. So, I'm really happy with the result.
Q: At 35, you're still a young man, but is that getting old for a ski racer? You will be 36 for the 2014 Winter Olympics when they're held in Sochi, Russia, next February. You've achieved so much already as a ski racer — why is it important for you to want to come back one more time?
BODE: When I got hurt, when I blew out my knee, that was in St. Anton in 2001, before I ever won a World Cup. That was the original injury. So I have raced my entire World Cup career basically with a pretty significantly damaged knee.
It changed the way I skied, it changed the way I trained. But you know, that was fine. I had a great World Cup career.
But now I'm looking forward to a year where I don't have an injured knee. This was the first time I had the block of time and everything made sense to take a year off.
It's too hard to do that in the middle of your season if you think you can get away NOT doing it — it's easy to just say 'OK, I'll do it later, I'll do it later.' Then, this time, when I hurt it last year in Sochi, there was no chance in continuing, um, so the timing and everything made sense.
So, I'm psyched to ski without an injured knee. That's just a different thing for me. I have a lot of experience and different knowledge than I had before, so I think I'm a much better skier and to have a healthy body is really important.
Q: So, with the Olympics coming up, the timing all works?
BODE: Yeah, it's a perfect fit.
Q: And as for the keeping on racing?
BODE: If I'm happy, I'll keep going; if not, I'm done.
Q: Thanks, Bode. Good to see you again.
BODE: No problem.