FILE PHOTO: Bode Miller of the U.S. participates in the final training session for the men’s downhill event at the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup in the Austrian alpine skiing resort of Kitzbuehel January 22, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
December 8, 2021
By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) – The United States has a well of untapped talent that could boost its Olympic performances in alpine skiing, retired gold medallist Bode Miller told Reuters as he expands his footprint in the business of ski innovation.
The U.S. saw its medal count in the sport dwindle from an all-time high of eight at the 2010 Games – where Miller picked up three of his six Olympic medals – to three in 2018.
Two months shy of the Beijing Games, Miller said the U.S. has the potential to improve its record in years to come.
“We have the opportunity to be super dominant as we are in some other sports because we have an amazing pool of athletes … we have opportunities to tap into our population centers, which typically aren’t right at ski resorts,” said Miller, who stopped competing in 2017.
Enter Alpine-X, a year-round snowsports resort company developing a $250 million indoor ski facility in Fairfax County, Virginia, featuring a 400,000 square foot snow dome it plans to open in 2025.
Miller, whose M BAR W Enterprises, LLC entered into an equity partnership with the firm, said the concept has the potential to make the sport less expensive and more accessible to people who live far from resorts or lack the ability to travel to a slope.
“The depth of our sort of sports programmes is so much more broad than, say, a country like Austria where skiing is their number one,” said Miller, who is also in the process planning a multi-location, high-level academy separate from Alpine-X, with scholarship opportunities.
“The number of people who are introduced to the sport – if you start there – it becomes a function of that narrowing process.”
It’s a big swing for Miller, the most decorated American man in alpine skiing with 33 World Cup race wins but who had at times a complicated relationship with the sport, enjoying fame in ski-hungry European countries but relative anonymity at home.
“Back in the old days, people were like ‘Oh, don’t you want skiing to be super popular in the U.S. and, you know, that’s kind of your role,’” said Miller.
“It’s not so much making racing really big or viewership – I think that has to happen naturally – it has to be a product of success and more introduction of the sport but I have always wanted more people to have the opportunity to ski.”
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)