<b>Bob Simon</b> Profiles America's Top-Ranked Skier

But John McBride and Mike Morin, also ski team coaches, say it is precisely Miller's independent streak that made him a champion.

"What makes him great is right here," McBride says, pointing at his brain.

What does McBride think is up there? "I wish I could put my own finger on that," he says.

And they say Miller is attacking more than that downhill course. He's attacking the orthodoxy of ski racing.

"Alpine ski racing is steep in tradition. This is the way you ski. This is the way you make a turn. This is the way you go from gate to gate. And then all of a sudden along comes this American phenom," says Morin. "Cowboy who says 'I don't like that box over there. I'm gonna ski over here.' And he starts to do things a totally different way."

Miller is different. He doesn't train in the ski team's high tech gym, but works out in an old barn on his family's property in New Hampshire.

What kind of shape is he in? Bode Miller is characteristically modest.

"There's a lot of guys who are in really good shape, but for ski racing there's no question I'm in better shape than most guys," he says.

Miller designed the main machine he uses to train and his uncle built it. It looks like a contraption that came out of the Spanish inquisition and it probably would make most people talk.

Miller is not lifting weights; his friend jumping up and down is doing that. He is building his thigh and stomach muscles by squatting down with a load of 320 pounds. The machine looks like the product of a mad inventor.

"Like, if you get a good workout, it feels more like a torture device of some sort," says Miller.

To relax, Miller plays a few sets of tennis with his father Woody, who is a pro, but still gets coached by his son.

Miller's family runs a tennis camp in New Hampshire. His parents are divorced, but they both still live on the same 450 acres where Miller grew up. So does the whole family.

His upbringing was as unconventional as his skiing. His parents were thoroughbred hippies who dropped out of the world to create their own world. They built a house on a mountain where they raised four children. They chose to live without electricity, a telephone, or even indoor plumbing.

Bode Miller's mother, Jo Miller, still splits her own wood to heat her house.

Jo Miller doesn't think it was tough living. "No, I think it was fun. I mean, it was a challenge. And I guess that's where Bode sort of picked up the, you know, the idea of needing a challenge always in his life."

Bode Miller showed 60 Minutes how challenging it was just getting up and down that mountain, or at least the getting up part, which was close to a mile hike through the woods.

There were no roads when he was a kid, but there were plenty of raspberries. He spent his days happily roaming these woods on his own.

"It's nice to be able to spend time alone when you're young," he says. "Lets your imagination do all the stuff that imaginations are supposed to do."

And in the winter Miller would run to the outhouse, which is still there, but not to school because young Bode didn't go to school. He was home-schooled until third grade. His classroom was the great outdoors.

Miller's parents said that at one point they were making only $600 a year and that they were living on that.

"That might be optimistic," Miller says. "That's including inflation. That would be $600 a year now."

He didn't have money, but says he didn't miss it. He also didn't miss school. In fact, not being in school when he was little gave him more time to ski. He could barely afford skis but he had talent, and it did not go unnoticed. Right after high school, he got a spot on the U.S. Ski Team. His parents were behind his success, he says, because they pretty much ignored him.

"So many kids who become athletes are the product of parents who are pushing them every minute of the way, who went to every race and didn't give them dinner if they came in second," Simon said.

Miller says, "And usually those are the kids who burn out and end up being totally laid back, super counterculture hippies like when they're in their 30s and 40s, the kids who are totally nuts and pushed. That's sort of the opposite from me."

His career took off. He wasn't much of a stylist, but he was fast. Then in 2001, the skier famous for falling fell one time too many in St. Anton, Austria. He injured his left knee badly and there was talk on the ski circuit that he would never ski again.

But within a year after surgery, he was winning races again. He even won two silver medals at the 2002 Olympics. He kept up the most grueling schedule of any skier, entering every race three years in a row.