We Hit The Slopes With A Legendary Skier
Mr Bode Miller, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming, 12 January. Photograph by Mr Chris Figenshau, courtesy of Caldera House
MR PORTER head to Jackson Hole to test-drive Aztech Mountain skiwear.
To say that I skied with Mr Bode Miller is not entirely correct. One does not really ski with, or even alongside, one of the greatest alpine racers in history, especially when you haven’t been on the slopes in more than 30 years. Add to that the fact that the slopes on which I met Mr Miller were the notoriously steep chutes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and maybe it is better to say that, on a particularly clear and powdery weekend in January, I was on the same mountain as Mr Miller – better still, we après-ed together. We sat in front of glorious roaring fires at the Caldera House hotel and did what you do after a day’s skiing – drank, dunked bread in melted cheese, watched a little football and talked shop. And Mr Miller is an incredible talker.
During the course of one of his ebullient rambles, you might hear Mr Miller talk about his Captain Fantastic-ish home-schooled childhood in New Hampshire, where he was a competitive ice hockey player (“That was my best sport”). Or about how, at 13, he skied into an avalanche he had created and only just survived. Or about, much later, diving into – and out of – a 6ft-deep snow bank doing 50mph for a photoshoot. Or of filming a video along a treacherous mountain peak near Whistler in British Columbia, when the producer suggested he jump out of a moving helicopter, land on virgin snow and ski across a catwalk about 1ft wide with a sheer, rocky drop of 2,000ft on each side. The colourful language he used to say “no” cannot be reproduced here, but was something of a Mr Miller signature during his competitive days when he cultivated a kind of bad-boy persona. This was a more buttoned-up era of winter sports, it should be mentioned.
In person, Mr Miller is practically cuddly and even compliments this born-again rookie on some runs. I’m test driving the Capitol Peak shell jacket and Team Aztech ski trousers from Aztech Mountain, the company Mr Miller discovered while doing a photoshoot in the Andes, fell in love with and invested in. He is now the face of the brand, so maybe he’s being nice. His enthusiasm is contagious. Mr Miller runs hot while he’s skiing, he says, and helpfully shows me the convertible zips on the Capitol Peak jacket that open to allow more ventilation on warmer days and the handy pectoral pocket where I can keep my pass so I can glide onto lifts without flubbing around. He even gives me some positive affirmation that I swear to god make me ski better. Then again, I just watched a video of Mr Miller’s six-year-old son competing in a downhill slalom and he would smoke me, so who knows?
One of the nice symmetries of the weekend in Jackson is that Mr Miller and Aztech Mountain chose to host this little test-drive session at the Caldera House, a modernist American chalet positioned right beside the iconic Jackson Hole resort tram. In the same way Aztech Mountain pieces reveal their discrete little goodies (the pockets, the vents) seemingly at just the moment you need them, the clean, organic Caldera House similarly reveals its thoughtful appointment (state-of-the-art room controls, wine fridges, media rooms) just when you think to look for them.
Caldera, a project by four friends – one of whom, Mr Wesley Edens, owns the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team – was designed by California-based Commune Design and local Jackson firm Carney Logan Burke. It was built to accommodate group and family travel. Half the house comprises four four-bedroom, 5,000sq ft suites, complete with kitchens, private hot tubs and great rooms (the entrepreneur and philanthropist Mr Sean Parker and his family stayed in one over Christmas). The other rooms are a mere 1,500sq ft, two-bedroom versions of the same. Then there is the Old Yellowstone Garage, a reincarnation of a beloved old Jackson Hole restaurant, and the Members Lounge, the perfect après-ski spot, which is available to guests and the growing list of local members of the Caldera House club (membership also affords them access to the hot tub, the gym, the high-tech ski locker rooms and parking).
Not a tough place to settle in, in other words. And once I had my legs under me, with some help from Mr Miller, Aztech Mountain co-founder and owner Mr Heifara Rutgers and not a few of Jackson Mountain’s local ski experts, I did manage to push myself higher and higher up the daunting mountain. But like everything else that goes up, I was only too happy to come down – to the fire and fondue.