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"It's a reaction to one person," says veteran Scott Macartney. "I'm not a big fan of the policy, but I can't do anything about it if I want to ski."
In truth, the rules are largely unenforceable. Phil McNichol, the coach of the men's team, says, "This is the company policy, and I'm here to support the company policy," but he also says he won't do bed checks or stalk bars in search of violators.
Miller follows the rules grudgingly, traveling in his RV but sleeping in "crappy hotel beds," as he calls them. "They think I party in the RV," he says. "I've never had a party in there."
There is a teamwide assumption that the rules are designed to mollify offended big-money donors. "Those are the same people we were drinking with at USA House during the Olympics," says Ligety.
Miller signed the agreement for the same reason that the others did: He loves to race. "Sometimes you have to suck it up," Miller says. There are indications that he has a similar attitude toward his performance this season. Lost in the criticism of his behavior last season was another issue: Miller was in lousy physical condition, and his body did not respond when his mind was ready to race. He has trained fiercely for this season's World Cup campaign.
"Bode is fitter than he has been in a long time, maybe ever," says U.S. combined coach John McBride, who spent three weeks training one-on-one with Miller during the summer and fall. "I pushed him hard, and he was very focused. I think last year gave him a lot of perspective." Miller has also been energized by switching from Atomic skis to Head, his fifth manufacturer in 10 years. But there will always be Bode Moments: In Beaver Creek he was leading both Thursday's super combined and Saturday's giant slalom by wide margins after one run but failed to finish the combined and made a horrific mistake in the GS. He will never expunge Turin from America's collective memory, but he looks nearly certain to surpass Mahre in World Cup victories, sooner rather than later.
Ligety's memories of Turin are all good. His upset gold medal in the combined was just the fourth U.S. men's victory in Olympic skiing history, and he threatened in both slalom and giant slalom. It was part of a year in which Ligety leaped from potentially good to just plain good. This led to a frantic off-season in which he bought a 3,100-square-foot home to share with two friends outside Park City, Utah, signed a lucrative ski contract with Rossignol and started his own company, Shred Optics, among other ventures that will push his income into seven figures, a tenfold increase in three years, according to his agent, Ken Sowles. "It's been crazy," Ligety said in Beaver Creek. "I was used to having my summer to myself, and here I was going everywhere. I'm glad Bode is still around to take the brunt of the attention."
Ligety's breakthrough came a year ago in the technical events of slalom and giant slalom. Now, as Miller did in 2003, Ligety will begin skiing more in the speed events, downhill and Super G. "The goal is to be a four-event skier, and the overall [World Cup title] is a goal, too," Ligety says. He might have started the year even faster if he hadn't broken a bone in the back of his right hand by smacking it against a slalom gate while training in Austria in late October. He whacked it again in his Beaver Creek giant slalom, while wearing a hilarious handlebar mustache, Sharpie'd on to frostbite-preventing athletic tape, on his face.
This is a year in which U.S. skiers might have eagerly ridden their momentum to the Continent rather than dreading the start of a long winter on the road. Uncommonly warm and dry weather across central Europe, however, has disrupted the early schedule. "I've never seen it like this," says G�nter Hujara, the World Cup men's chief race director.
Cancellations and rescheduled races (including this weekend's hastily arranged super combined in Reiteralm, Austria) have burdened the U.S. team with at least $40,000 in extra travel costs, according to McNichol. But for one weekend, all of that was as forgotten as Turin.