Bode: From ’99 to ’15 | VailDaily.com

Bode: From ’99 to ’15

Bode Miller leans into his turn as he flies down the Brink during the Birds of Prey downhill race in 2011 at Beaver Creek. That year, Miller won the race for the third time in his career.
Dominique Taylor | Daily file photo |

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in 2015 magazine. Vail/Beaver Creek is hosting the Alpine World Ski Championships Feb. 2-15. Bode Miller said last week he is still not sure if he will compete at Beaver Creek as he works his way back from back surgery.

As he prepares for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, Bode Miller also holds the impressive distinction of having raced at Vail/Beaver Creek in the ’99 World Alpine Ski Championships.

The American ski racing legend was no rookie at the time, either, having already raced at the Olympics the year before.

He was mainly a tech skier back then, taking eighth in the slalom at the ’99 World Championships. His fondest memory, however, came from the combined, where he says he had his first-ever run down the Birds of Prey downhill.

“I was skiing way out of my pay grade in the downhill portion … skiing at the top, top of what I could do,” Miller said. “That course, Birds of Prey, can test your ability above what most people are ready for, and that was the first taste of that type of pleasure. It was like a kid getting to drive a Porsche on a windy road or a race track or whatever — it was just an absolute pleasure.”

Miller says he had not had a chance to run much World Cup downhill at the time, as he was still at the beginning of his World Cup career.

“They were afraid I was going to hurt myself because I was so aggressive and skied so crazy,” he said.

And on Birds of Prey, he recalls, he was skiing as crazy as anyone has ever seen him in a race. Toward the bottom of the course, things fell apart.

“I crashed off the last jump and flew into the fence,” he said. “I broke my ski and ended up tumbling a little bit on one ski … then I stood up and went across the finish line.”

First ‘Bode Moment’

He says it was the first “Bode moment” for the media, which ensured the incident was widely publicized.

“I didn’t do it on purpose, I was just trying to finish,” he said.

“I got reprimanded pretty hard for it, because everybody was saying it looked like I had done something great and I had crashed — it was like, ‘Why are you celebrating?’ and I was like, ‘I’m celebrating because I didn’t blow out my knee and I crashed off the last jump at Beaver Creek,’” he said with a laugh.

“It was one of those things that for me was a fond memory because I enjoyed the experience so much the result didn’t seem to matter so much,” he said. “The fact that I had blown it and hadn’t had the success didn’t seem to matter so much. It didn’t change the fact that it was an amazing run. I had so much fun doing it, and I survived the crash.”