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Why Bode Miller Chose Big Sky, MT

Bode rips some turns as only he can. Bomber Ski photo.

Bode Miller is the most successful American alpine racer of all time, with six Olympic medals and six World Cup titles to his name. He retired from competition in October 2017, and has been focusing his attention on building a family with his wife Morgan Beck. The family has been living in Southern California for years, but the Millers are now embarking on a new adventure in Montana. We caught up with Bode to hear about why he chose Big Sky over America's many other ski towns:

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TGR: So you’ve been living in Southern California full time?

Bode: Yeah, I’ve lived in Southern California since about ‘05. We were in San Diego, and then Orange County.

TGR: Why did you choose Montana? It seems like a pretty dramatic departure from SoCal.

Bode: We’re trying to find a balance with the good and bad parts of Southern California. There are lots of great things about SoCal, but it’s definitely a bit of a bubble down here in every regard, from weather, to the social scene, economically, and all that, so we always knew that we wanted to balance it out, and there just aren’t that many places that fit the bill. I like some places in Colorado and some places in Utah, but they’re just not quite the same feel. I grew up in a rugged, outdoorsy, deeply connected, humble area of upstate New Hampshire, and most of Colorado and Utah, and even the snowy areas of California are super commercialized and tourist-based. The culture that does exist in those places is in some cases pretty cool, but it’s just different than what we were looking for.

We’ve spent a bunch of time up in Montana as a family, my sister went to school at MSU, and I’ve also done quite a few events in the area. Once we became aware of how much the area was growing and what the culture and philosophy was, and the feel of the community, we became much more serious about spending more time there. It has things that other areas don’t: a rugged, outdoorsy, small town feel, without too much tourism. The kids love it, and it’s just in that really cool growth phase where you get to be a part of a growing community.

TGR: You’ve done a bunch of skiing up there?

Bode: A bunch is a subjective term. I’ve been up there quite a few times over the last five to ten years, but it’s not a lot of skiing for me considering that I’m used to skiing quite a bit.

TGR: You’re known for skiing fast on sheer ice. Can we look forward to seeing you do some more pow skiing when in Big Sky?

Bode: I’ve always done all types of skiing. There’s never been any limitation there, it’s just a matter of what each day brings to the table. If it’s hard and icy, or I’m skiing back East, that’s what you’ll ski but if, for example, a race gets canceled due to weather, we’d just go out and ski powder. How much pow skiing I’ll do largely depends on the season, but when I’ve been in the area over the last few years we’ve had some great storms. In particular, Spanish Peaks has some really cool areas that are a little more low-key, with almost no people. It’s not crowded skiing over there, so that’s a great spot to go on a powder day, because you don’t have to fight for first tracks. You can casually cruise down and ski fresh powder all day. Also, Moonlight Basin is wrapped around the other side. It’s the north-facing side of the mountain, and is super protected, so the biggest snowfalls tend to happen in that bowl over there. That stuff is deep, and is where the really extreme side of the mountain is: the biggest cliff bands, all of the gnarliest stuff off the very top. The reality is that the mountain is massive and has options for any level of skier. You have everything that you would ever want in any snow conditions. It’s great if there are powder days, and it’s great if it hasn’t snowed in two weeks—you can still find awesome stuff to do.

TGR: You must be excited to get you kids skiing up there.

Bode: One thing that I think is important about skiing, and that I want to share with them, is the feeling of a home mountain— where you’re totally comfortable, in your element, where you’ve explored it all and never feel lost, feel totally dialed in, and where you know all of the little jumps. I think that’s going to be really fun to do, and to watch them grow. Spanish Peaks funnels back to our house, which is ski-in, ski-out, so we can give them that freedom to discover that stuff. I think that’s going to be fun for me to watch because I grew up that way, and it’s been something that I’ve thought about for them, and now have the opportunity to really provide them with. You generally can’t, these days, just turn your kids loose on a ski resort. Times have changed—you’d worry about somebody snatching ‘em up, or the size of things...It’s just not generally accepted, whereas when I was little, that was fine. Parents just dropped their kids off at the mountain and picked them up six hours later. Up there in Montana, with the way the community is and the philosophy of the mountain, and the layout, I can actually do that, which is pretty exciting.

TGR: Sounds like your kids are about to have the time of their lives. What about you? Any things you’re excited about from a more personal angle?

Bode: Lots of resorts are one-dimensional in that they don’t have the real culture that would allow you to feel like it’s truly home. It might be a great place to take a vacation where you’re skiing 90% of the time, but the community around Spanish Peaks, Moonlight Basin, and Big Sky feels more like a home in that there are all kinds of things to do other than skiing. Depending on the season, we’ll do everything from fishing to hiking, mountain biking, tons of golf, swimming, and rafting. We do these crazy sledding, trekking trips on snowshoes when there’s grass down below but there’s still ten feet of snow up in the mountains. But as I said, the community is pretty open up there, everyone is quite friendly, and I think there’s a really unique element to that that makes you feel especially good about doing those things. Sometimes you might go to a place and not actually engage on a trail with random people, but up there it’s just feels right, so a lot of people do it. If you’re out by yourself it might stink, but when everyone goes and has a good attitude, it’s awesome.

I have five boys now, plus my oldest daughter, and I’ve always wanted to share the impact that the outdoors and small town culture had on me. I think that it’s great that we have the ability to pull off making that shift, because we knew that it was something that we wanted to do, but it’s not always easy to pull it off. We’re super psyched to be able to give our kids the opportunity to enjoy that.

About The Author

stash member Zack Skovron

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, now living in Jackson, WY. I’m an avid skier, biker, hiker, climber, and fisherman. Outside of sports, my major interests focus on public policy surrounding land use and energy systems.

Bode, welcome to Big Sky. Don’t put too much stock in that 400” a year annual snowfall number though.

Good interview. We love you, Bode!
All the team of removals Telford