Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller:Oh, what a future
Vail, CO, Colorado
I held the future in my arms when our two young friends, Nic and Jenny, stopped by with their new baby, named Magnolia Leigh.
Magnolia was 6 days old and weighed 6 pounds. As I held her, she was so small that her fingers could not wrap themselves around my one finger.
Holding her, I thought about what lies ahead for her in her lifetime and how much the world will change during that time.
I reflected on the changes I have been witness to in my lifetime and I thought of one of my earliest recollections, a horse-drawn streetcar on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood in the late 1920s. I compared it to an email I received the other day of a 50-passenger bus that has been made for rapid transit in Dubai. It is electrically driven and cruises with 50 passengers at 150 mph. At that speed, I hope it never hits a camel.
I was 10 years old when someone invented the rope tow, and now look at what skiing has to offer today. No more hanging on to a wet and sloppy Manila hemp rope, or even a frozen one of nylon or Dacron. Today you can climb into a detachable quad chairlift and ride 3,000 vertical feet in a few minutes. Or you can ride a six-passenger chairlift at Boyne Mountain in Michigan.
I started skiing just a few years after the metal edge was invented, I believe by Walter Prager’s brother. Walter used to be the coach of the Dartmouth ski team.
He rocketed to fame in Davos, Switzerland, when he won the Parsenn Derby by almost 20 minutes, an almost 12 kilometer downhill with no gates except a start and finish gate. He put brass edges on one side of his skis and steel edges on the other because all of his left turns would be on ice and his right turns would be on corn snow. That shows the progress we’ve made.
I have witnessed the disappearance of the “learn-to-ski week.” There was a time you could buy a round-trip train ride from Chicago to Sun Valley and return, get all of your meals, lift tickets and lessons for $17 less than an all-day lift ticket costs today.
That 6-pound, 6-day-old little girl named Magnolia will see just as many inventions and revolutions in her life time as I have seen in mine, things such as lowering the speed limit in Montana from no speed limit to 85 mph on the interstate.
I watched Dave McCoy invent Mammoth Mountain and stood by while Alex Cushing in 10 short years made Squaw Valley grow from a one chairlift, two-rope tow resort when I taught there in 1949-50 to become the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
I watched the days of untracked powder in the Back Bowls of Vail become tracked up within an hour of when the first skiers arrived at the top.
Magnolia will be able to learn to ski almost instantly because ski equipment has become so user friendly that 4-year-old kids are already running slalom gates and riding rails in a snowboard park.
I think someone should run a contest in which people could write about the most far-fetched ideas of development that concerns all of us, bury it in a time capsule under the front porch of their favorite ski resort and open it in 25 or 50 years and see how accurate their predictions were.
Magnolia has a wonderful opportunity to enjoy her freedom at an early age. Her father and mother both worked at Mt. Baker when they met, and they got married at the end of our dock on a rainy summer afternoon. Jenny wore a bare shoulder wedding dress, and Nic had a friend play the guitar.
Maggie, as we are already calling her, will be raised on an almost-deserted island that is slightly larger than Manhattan in New York. That is where almost 6 million people live, but their island has 4,200 inhabitants, not including Magnolia; 4,201 now.
I have reached my age with the help of a lot of inventions we take for granted. Things such as snow tires, automatic transmissions, snowboards, warmer winter clothes, and instant snow reports from anywhere in the world with only a couple of strokes on the computer instead of having to stop by the local hardware store that also sold skis, toboggans and sleds alongside of the salt and snow shovels.
I really envied Magnolia as I sat there with her in my arms. She was too small for both of my arms. I am on the far end of the good invention cycle of my lifetime, though there are still a lot of things yet to invent.
What about a powder-snow pill that you could throw out in front of you when you are skiing that would change the snow to untracked powder wherever you wanted to ski?
Years ago I filmed the Voorhees Power Ski. It worked so you could just stand on your skis and be hauled up any slope you wanted to ski down. They were a little heavy because they had a chain saw motor and an endless caterpillar belt in each ski. He tried to sell it to the Army but being so noisy, it was hard to sneak up on the enemy with a chainsaw motor under each ski boot.
I am sure that Magnolia, with Jenny and Nic’s guidance, will profit by the inventions in her lifetime, just as I have during my lifetime. Right now, I’m looking forward to my next 50 years of what is around the next bend. I am sure that Jenny, Nic and Magnolia will be leading the parade.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications.
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