Back to Earth

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As he prepares for his fifth and likely final Olympic Games, U.S. skier Bode Miller wonders whether anyone will ever understand him. BEAVER CREEK, Colo. -- With more than two hours before another race in possibly his final World Cup season, Bode Miller sits at a table in a Beaver Creek lodge and waits. He's already blown through his inspection on the Birds of Prey course. Now there is one job left before he throws himself down the mountain when it actually counts: relax.

At 10,200 feet, the view through the oversized windows at the Spruce Saddle Lodge is straight out of a winter postcard. Endless rows of massive, snow-covered pines. Pristine, untouched powder as far as the eye can see. The cafeteria here serves more than burgers and pizza. There's sushi, pho and lobster tacos. Somewhere in the fog down below, reality exists. You just can't see it from up here.

At some point soon, the other 76 competitors in the field will finish their inspections and trickle in to begin their own game of hurry up and wait. Seventy-five of them will be younger than Miller, who is 36. But for now, he is alone. He can sit anywhere he wants. So of course he picks a chair with his back to the majestic view.

In his 16-year World Cup career, Miller has accomplished more on the side of a mountain than any other American ever. Five Olympic medals. Thirty-three World Cup wins. Two overall World Cup titles. He's done this in his own stubborn, hard-headed, outspoken way. But now, as he prepares for what likely will be his final Olympic run, Bode Miller seems different...

by Wayne Drehs OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

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Featured image: Miller nabbed a top-five finish in January's World Cup downhill in Switzerland. Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone/AP Images