Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller: A bright side of Sandy
November 4, 2012
What a waste to have it snow three or more feet in Virginia.
It is not exactly the heartland of skiing in America. But if that three or more feet of snow had fallen in the Western ski resorts, they wouldn’t have been ready to sell lift tickets before Halloween.
I know that the frosting is on the pumpkin already, but if it snowed two feet at your local resort in Montana or Colorado or California this early in the year, the chances are that they, too, would not have anyone to load you on their partially repaired ski lifts.
Certainly there are the exceptions to the rule, but it takes a really stoked skier with many years under their skis or snowboard to be ready to go at the fall of a snowflake.
My grandson, Ryan, who lives in Boulder, has already skied two Sundays in a row at Arapahoe Basin, where the bottom of the mountain is above 10,000 feet above sea level.
A couple of years ago, together with The Ski Journal Magazine (a great publication, by the way), we held a contest for people to write about their first experience on a pair of skis.
One man wrote about when he and his mother drove to the rope tow in Afghanistan and had to park almost two miles away because they had forgotten to build a parking lot.
Another wrote about doing kick turns in his back yard on newly mowed lawn. The skis that he had bought at a ski swap were 7 feet long and still had on a soft spring wax that the newly mowed grass stuck to it. When the grass was an inch or so thick, he finally gave up and went to a ski shop to have the bases cleaned and re-waxed.
The winner of the contest was a young man who had found a pair of skis in a trash barrel. They had no bindings, and he didn’t know what you needed for bindings. When it snowed an inch or so in his subdivision in Philadelphia, he went out into the street in front of his house and tried to ski down the street. He had on a pair of Nike running shoes and for some reason he could not get them to make the skis turn. By the third time it snowed, he had screwed his running shoes to the free skis and was able to at least stay on them.
That was 11 years ago, and today he works on the ski patrol at a popular Western ski resort that he wanted to remain anonymous.
I know that everyone that reads this can remember his or her first day on skis. You can remember the car you rode to the ski resort in, who you rode there with, the clothes that you wore and what the weather was like. I know that you can remember the first time you stood at the top of a hill regardless of its size, small, medium or large.
My first day on skis was way back in 1937, and that is a long time ago in another century and an aging memory bank.
But what about your next day on skis? Are you going to return to your comfort zone where you know where to park your car and the person who will put you on the chairlift so you can ski down a run that you have skied down time and time again?
Why don’t you try a new place with new ski runs and with new people for a change? I always liked to go to as many new places and take pictures of something I had never seen before.
I never visited a bad ski resort, nor did my cameramen. Sure we had some bad snow days and an occasional bad day getting from one resort to the next, as was the case when Brian went to North Africa and it rained the entire time. I told him to get a lot of pictures of skiing in the rain and I would handle the problem with the narration. And it worked in the film.
When we rode part way up and climbed the rest of the way to the top of an ancient volcano in Hawaii, those who could still breathe skied down and climbed back up and had a great time trying to find enough oxygen to breath as they earned bragging rights for the next weekend at the Outrigger Canoe Club bar on the beach at Waikiki.
I always try to get some kind of message into what I write, and the message here is to broaden your horizons. Try other places to ski. There is nothing holding you back from heading in another direction with your skis on the roof of your car.
Why not try some skiing in Virginia if the warm weather doesn’t get there before it melts.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log onto warrenmiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to