Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller: Never again with ski tours
Vail, CO, Colorado
Last column, I left you in the middle of my short career as a ski tour director all over Europe.
In Bad Gastein, one of my tour members was suffering through the pain of a badly broken leg without any medication while I found a doctor to take care of him.
Our concierge located a doctor for me and the message we got was, “Just bring him in, and I can take care of him.”
The doctor was four blocks from the hotel, and so it was another back-breaking slog through the narrow streets of Bad Gastein with my tour customer on my back.
The tour was scheduled to leave after skiing the next day, so the injured skier caught up with us ten days later in Davos, Switzerland.
When the tour was finally over, I spent the next two weeks just filming whatever I wanted for my next feature film.
While leading the third annual tour, I showed up with my brand new wife and combined a honeymoon with 17 other people.
In St. Anton, I left the tour for a night and caught the night train to Mittendorf for the ski flying tournament. I knew that the ski fliers had already broken the 400-foot mark and wanted some of that kind of exciting footage for my next feature film.
I arrived in Kufstein after sitting up all night on the train. The weather was perfect for the event, where some of the ski fliers were already holding their arms and hands at their sides with their hands controlling their flight like the ailerons of an airplane.
It would be the last time any ski fliers would hold their arms out in front because the new technique was so much better. However, it would be a lot of years before the jumpers held their ski tips apart as they do today.
I was back in St. Anton in the same evening in time to have dessert with the group. I outlined what they had to do the next day in order to enjoy some untracked powder snow in Zurs.
Our charter bus would be on a flat car on a siding in St. Anton waiting to be hauled through the Arlberg tunnel to Langen. Everyone had to be ready to get on the train as a passenger at 8:30 the next morning. In Langen, everyone would transfer to the bus and ride up to Zurs for a day of powder snow skiing. When the lifts closed that day, we would travel by the same bus to Davos for the final five days of the tour.
One of the men on the tour almost missed the bus because he had left his teeth in a glass beside his bed and had to go back and get them.
One of the ladies on the tour had a budding romance with her private ski instructor and barely located the train through sleep-deprived eyes.
In Zurs, those who wanted to, rode up the Zurserzee T bar and climbed the rest of the way to the pass to ski down to Lech and have lunch with Martin Strolz. (Martin, along with Haderer, produced the most popular boots of that era. Strolz still makes a highly respected boot, though not as many as all the more common brands.)
Those who stayed in the lobby of Herbert Joachim’s Hotel Lorunser had a long leisurely lunch and an ample digestion of French 75. For those of you who don’t know what a French 75 drink is, it is five parts of champagne and two of vodka, with some lemon juice and sugar.
Apparently this is a slow-acting drink, so someone can put away half a dozen of them before the first one starts to hit. When they start to hit, make sure you are near a place to sleep.
The skiers all had a good time, as did the drinkers. When the bus stopped in Langen so people could get a snack before the long drive to Davos, one of the French 75’ers started to cross the road and was hit by a 70 mph Volkswagon Bug. A friend almost yanked him out of the way before he was hit. He flew up in the air far enough to land on top of the bus and then fall the eight or 10 feet to the ground.
When he got to the hospital, the doctors could only find a broken thumb and a broken leg. Apparently he was so relaxed with his stomach full of French 75 that his injuries were minimal. In other words, he was almost dead drunk.
When we got him into the ambulance, I slumped into my seat on the bus and quickly made up my mind that this would be the last tour I ever led, and I’ve stuck with that vow.
I finally added up the numbers, and my customers were paying about $900 for everything including air fare from New York to Munich and return, ground transportation and room and board for 21 days. I calculated I was saving $43 a day. A short day would be 12 hours and a long day might be 18 hours.
Thus ended that small part of my overall business plan, as if in fact I ever had a business plan of any kind.
I did learn a valuable lesson from all of this chaos. I never learned from my successes because something would work out as planned, but I really learned from my mistakes when it wasted time or money, or both in most cases.
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 http://warren
miller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warrenmiller.org.