Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller: Worse things on this wide world than living for skiing
Vail, CO, Colorado
The Earth spins through space at a rate of slightly faster than 24 hours per revolution. We are all stuck to its surface by gravity, unable to free ourselves from its surface except by artificial means of propulsion.
No one knows where we came from or where we will go until we may someday suffer from oxygen deprivation, or any other of possible catastrophes.
The thinking is that at one time we emerged from some sort of proto-plasmatic ooze when the temperature, wind and tide were exactly right and one cell became two and so on until here we are today, all riding on this spaceship called Earth.
Fortunately some of us live far enough north or south of the equator, where the warmer rain can get cold enough to become solid and fall in the form of ice or snow. Then those who afford themselves the cost of skis, boots and lift tickets can defy gravity from time to time as they fly off of bumps in the snow, a small or large cliff or wherever their adrenalin lets them go that day.
By carefully sculpturing a hill so the speed and trajectory of a body in motion can continue in the same direction as the hill falls away beneath them they have defied gravity for as far as 729 feet without artificial aids of any kind except a pair of skis. That distance is the same distance as the length of two football fields, plus an end zone.
Anyone who has skied and been airborne for even a half a second knows the butterfly feeling of being weightless. However, we are almost weightless as we glide over snowflakes on our skis and compress the air out of them until the noise of our skis sliding over them becomes louder. Then we sit and wait for the next snowfall to arrive and we can once again glide almost silently through the frozen world.
The only boundary to skiing is the lack of snowfall leading to our enjoyment of that gravity, ski lifts and snow can bring.
Fortunately, the Earth is tilted 14 degrees on its axis as it spins and revolves around the sun in its annual trip. As it presents more and more of the snow to the sun’s higher daily path in the sky, gradually that snow disappears down the side of the hill where it fell.
As the white snow is replaced by bare brown earth under the warm sun, we are forced to replace our skis with some other form of bodily movement. That’s because we are a restless breed of homosapiens who can never just sit still for very long.
Take a moment and look into the dark recesses of your garage or your storage unit and you will probably find a variety of what I call freedom vehicles: roller blades, a skateboard, maybe a water ski or two, a surfboard, a windsurfer, a bent and broken bicycle that you were someday going to fix for your kids, but you bought them new ones instead.
These freedom vehicles were all designed to get you farther away from anywhere in a shorter amount of time, but require the mastery of certain skills of balance to trade the shorter elapsed time for the longer distance traveled.
In 1919 after World War I, Hannes Schneider, who had taught the Austrian army how to sneak up on the enemy across a snow-covered mountain, wisely said, “If everyone skied there would be no wars.”
Just imagine for a moment: What if we had been shipping chairlifts and snow cats to Afghanistan’s mountains instead of bombs and bullets? How long would the chairlift lines be by now?
As the sun climbs higher in the sky with each passing day, our thoughts finally drift off to all of the other freedom sports until a few days in a row actually pass by without thinking of that blue sky, freezing cold day with 9 inches of feather powder snow covering your favorite run and you were able to get in line early enough to be the first on the chairlift.
Are you in a financial position to travel south of the equator and enjoy those powder snow days in July, August and September? Unfortunately, unless you were born with a silver spoon, this is the time when you put in overtime at work to buy all of those ski lift tickets in the winter at Old Hickory Hollow.
As I meet people from all over the world at the Yellowstone Club in Montana, I ask them where they live. They tell me, and I always ask them why they live there?
For some, it is several thousand miles from the closest ski resort. So I tell them, “Most of the jobs that you can do in the city are now necessary in a ski resort, particularly in the larger ones such as Vail or Mammoth. The range of jobs is from trash creation to trash collection and everything in between. You might not get rich during your annual trip around the sun, but you only go around once in your life cycle.”
If you had to put a price on that perfect powder snow day what would that price be?
The father of our mountain manager here in Montana was on the Aspen Ski Patrol for 40 years. He raised a fine family that all skied all winter, fished all summer and went hunting in the fall.
I would like you to think about that ski resort lifestyle as you climb into the elevator for your ride to your eleventeenth floor office and spend the day working for the Amalgamated Flood Insurance Co. while looking at a poster of someone in waist-deep powder snow on your wall.
The Earth would be spinning out of control without gravity, and your life is spinning with it, but your life should be under your control.
How many revolutions will the Earth make around the sun before you one day say, “Enough!” and move to a ski resort somewhere?
So do you really have to own that second car, do the suburban commute, private school for your kids and think about those responsibilities instead of living and doing the same work in Aspen or Killington, with them on the junior ski racing team?
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 http://www.warrenmiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warrenmiller.org.