Bode Miller cried after Christen Cooper, a former ski racer herself, pressed him about his late brother, Chelone “Chilly” Miller, an acclaimed snowboarder who had been training for the 2014 Sochi Olympics when he passed last April. Chilly had been 29 when he died, and critically acclaimed for his ability to perform in snowboardcross. He’d been suffering from seizures since a 2005 motorcycle accident that had left the talented snowboarder in a coma for 11 days. Bode Miller’s tears were for the brother he lost, as well as for Chilly’s legacy.
Chilly Miller’s Olympic path was nothing like big brother Bode’s. Where Bode had dealt with coaches aimed at perfecting his technique since he started going to camps and showcases as a boy, Chilly had been a trailblazer, hitting untested jumps and sticking them before anyone would have the guts to try them, according to Olympian Nate Holland. It wasn’t until the early part of 2013 that Chilly Miller realized that if he wanted to compete in the Olympics with his big brother, he better move fast; Bode had been saying for some time that the Sochi Olympics was likely to be his last. Bode Miller’s tears on Feb. 16 were likely as much for the pain of not having Chilly alongside him for his final Olympics – a lifelong dream for the younger Miller – as they were for Chilly’s legacy.
Chilly was, for all intents and purposes, about the love of the sport, and those who knew him said that Chilly Miller was passionate about his board. He had covered almost anything he could about snowboarding since the age of 9, when he first fell in love with snowboarding. Indeed, growing up as he and Bode did in a mountainous expanse of New Hampshire, the Miller boys were hard pressed not to fall in love with snow sports in general. Chilly had become known for his unique approach to snowboarding and to life in general. By all accounts, he was best known for his wide grin and drive to succeed that was very similar to that of big brother Bode.
In fact, Bode said, in the days following his little brother’s death, he was always struck by Chilly’s love of life. While Bode Miller had been caught in working with a series of coaches and mentors that helped bring the Olympic champion to greatness, Chilly Miller was intent on carving his own path, wanting to work on his own terms until he was the best in his field. According to those who knew Chilly best, the younger Miller brother could have taken it all.
The statistics bore that estimation out, too. Chilly ended up sixth for the 2012-2013 NorAm tour, which is a tremendous first step towards Olympic contention. That was followed by a fourth-place finish in the US Snowboarding Grand Prix. It was a clear first step towards the potential of the Miller brothers competing together in the Sochi Olympics.
Bode Miller’s tears were likely a reflection of what could have been as well as what his kid brother Chilly’s legacy truly was. The Miller brothers could have been in the unique position of medalling together in Sochi, but Bode Miller is no doubt carrying his brother with him as he prepares for his final two races in Sochi: the men’s slalom and the men’s super slalom.
By Christina St-Jean