Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller: Epic powder for start of the new year
Vail, CO, Colorado
It is New Year’s Day as I write, and the hangover owners are asleep in the almost noon day heat of their condos.
Outside it is 5 below zero and so clear you can see from the top of Pioneer Peak next to Big Sky, Mont., all the way to the Grand, which rises above Jackson Hole Wyo., a four-hour drive away.
Because of the cold, they have postponed the opening of the chairlift until 10 because of so many frost bitten cheeks yesterday.
I set here reminiscing about all of the fantastic New Year’s Days I have had the privilege of making turns on almost deserted mountains.
Forty-five years ago at Sun Valley, Idaho, was a day exactly like this one. It had been snowing for three days and early in the morning, the storm moved on and left a star studded sky and almost 2 feet of new snow on Jan. 1. I woke up my son, Scott, who was only 12 at the time, and we met Bob Casey, a friend who was working the sports desk at the Challenger Inn. We rode to Baldy in his milk truck through the completely deserted streets of Ketchum.
The River Run parking lot was completely empty when we got there. I stepped into my skis and eased into the single chair for the ride over the Big Wood River. I knew it was below zero because the river was really steaming. These few moments when I was suspended from a cable in a comfortable chair, hanging from a strong steel cable headed for yet another day of filming and excitement was always a strong adrenaline rush for me.
By the time I had ridden all three chairs to the top of Baldy and saw almost no tracks whatsoever, I knew this would be a wonderful day for my camera, and Bob Casey could turn his skis both ways in the deep powder.
My son at age 12 was doing kick turns with me as I navigated the sides of the runs so all of my photography would be done in untracked powder.
It was after lunch time before very many people were on the hill, and as always they skied where we had already left our tracks. This is in the days when skis where long and stiff with no side camber and very few people made powder snow turns.
We decided not to stop for lunch and I kept on filming and changing 100 foot rolls of film as the day progressed. Finally at about 1:30, Casey just plain ran out of gas and had to take a break for some food and water.
While he and Scott where eating, I ran into Irving Goodman, a friend of many years, and he started making turns for me on the south slopes down into the bottom of the Lookout Bowls.
Before I knew it, they were beginning to shut down the lifts and I had almost run out of film at about that same time. I usually took along 20 100-foot rolls of Kodachrome in my rucksack, and each roll was worth two and a quarter minutes of screen time.
This was the first time in the first 14 years of filming that I had ever shot that much film in one day. I was really jazzed on adrenaline and what I was going to be able to share with my audiences next fall and winter.
By the end of the day, Scott was making good powder snow turns and well launched on his own skiing career.
Fortunately for me, when I got back to the lodge, there was a Rose Bowl football game on every TV set in the building and so I kept my mouth shut on what an epic day it was.
Most guests were on their second football game of the day and gearing up for another long television day on Jan. 2, after they caught up on the sleep they lost on New Year’s Eve.
One of the weird things I believe in is to enjoy the snow to the fullest because the following week when you are sitting in front a of a computer at Old Amalgamated Stock Brokers, you will regret that you slept in and missed that epic day of powder snow.
Remember, the best day of skiing that you have ever had and try and put a price tag on it. Is it worth a million dollars or 10 billion dollars? It is not for sale for any price. The only way that you can own one of these special days is to be the first one in the chair lift line on a powder snow morning after having had a good night’s sleep.
Memories are priceless. So keep on doing spectacular things so that you can keep depositing new things in your memory bank every day.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff log onto Warren Miller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warrenmiller.org.