The Liberation of Bode Miller
Credit: Giovanni Auletta / AP

"What if I quit right now?" Bode wants to know. "What if I get injured this next week and don't race again? Because if I get injured this next season, I'll probably stop. Why not? I've got a lot else to do."

We're in the living room of his farmhouse on Streeter Pond Road, and the interview has gotten heated. There are clothes strewn around, two sets of golf clubs, a compound hunting bow, and a high-powered BB gun with a laser scope, good for pinging deer at long range. The surroundings call his bluff for him: This is not the home of a man close to settling down to raise organic beets.

With Vancouver and 2010 fast approaching, he knows he's going to have to face the media circus all over again. Or not; hence his regularly scheduled threats to quit. "I'd have to just not race next year," he says. "Because if I start to race, then try to stop, or skip the Olympics, that'll be a fucking gong show. It'll be like, 'Oh, are you trying to hide from it, hide from failure? What are you trying to do?' "

The public, he says, "either wants to see you win a medal or not, so they can decide whether to call you a shithead or not.

"If you're only trying to win a medal," he goes on, "then yeah, doping makes a lot of sense, trying to cheat makes a lot of sense. Why not do a Tonya Harding kind of thing and try to take somebody else out?"

While it may not play well with Bob Costas, the medals and the crystal globes continue to matter far less to him than the pursuit of them and the quality of that pursuit. He cites former teammate Daron Rahlves – a champion downhiller who also came up short in his quest for an Olympic medal – as an example of an athlete who let external goals eclipse his pursuit.

"If you're Daron, and you just want that gold medal, go and fuckin' buy a gold medal," he says. "He's already proven he can win. He's already proven he's the best in the world. He's let that pursuit of the gold medal make him be a disciplined person, a role model for kids, all these different things – that's the pursuit. But people like Daron don't always know what they're doing. . . . "

Miller likes to think that he does know what he's doing, so much so that this year he's flying with just two fairly inexperienced coaches, Forest Carey and Craig Daniels; in print, Miller has referred to them as "coordinators," not coaches. (McBride and Kenney both begged off, not wanting to leave their families for another eight months on the circuit.)

After a strong first couple of races, Miller hit a rocky patch, with mediocre finishes in Lake Louise, Canada, in late November, followed by a nasty crash at the Birds of Prey downhill at Beaver Creek. One had to wonder if Miller could have used some strong coaching just about then.

"He's kind of a know-it-all," says McBride, who worked with Miller on dry-land conditioning this summer. "He needs the right person to help him, calling bullshit on things or kicking him in the ass to go work out. And making hard decisions about what we're gonna do."

As to the big decision Miller will have to make in the 12 months until Vancouver, only he can make the call. But it's also clear that quitting is the last thing he'd want to do. From the age of three, when the icy slopes of Cannon Mountain became his day care center and six-hour-a-day PE class, skiing has been his love, the path by which he seeks perfection. "As a skier, when you race, you are never gonna have a perfect run," he says. "You don't even have a perfect section, or a perfect turn. But what's every athlete out there doing, still, over and over? They're pursuing it; they're trying, anyway. That's what I've been doing for 25 years."

To think he'd throw away all that work and not take the chance to show his most perfect run to the world – and, more important, to prove his detractors wrong – just doesn't make sense. "What I tell him," says Kenney, "is that if you even take one year off, you will not believe how much you'll miss it."

Which brings up one last question. When I ask whether he still "skis for fun," Bode looks at me incredulously. "This is fun," he says. "It's why I do it."