Warren Miller: Best of life in a ski town
Vail, CO, Colorado
In the winter of 1972 I flew to La Plagne, France, to work on my annual ski film. With me were Jon Reveal, Pat Bauman and Dick Dorworth. Dick had a 3-year-old beard almost to his waist, and Jon and Pat were clean-shaven. It was a toss-up as to who could do the most with a pair of skis on the side of a hill or jumping off of scary cornices. All three were exceptional skiers and could do anything I asked them to do for the camera.
In La Plagne, the architecture and massive size of where we stayed stole the show from the three of them carving up deep French powder snow under a cobalt blue sky.
It seems impossible to imagine a single condominium building that contained 2,000 condominium units, but it does exist and we stayed there because that is where the French government tourist office wanted us to stay. Their publicity said, “This building is so long and large that we had to take into consideration the curvature of the earth when we were building it.”
This hulk of a building was humongous. It had an entire commercial city within its walls — a theater, supermarket, ski and sports shops, drug store, half a dozen restaurants, delicatessen and all other types of retail outlets found in a small city. The most impressive thing to me, however, was how we got to the top of the mountain from our condo.
We walked down a wide hallway beyond the supermarket and stepped onto an escalator that took us up to the next floor. There, we entered a gondola and rode down to another building. In that building we got onto another escalator and emerged in another gondola waiting room. When the gondola arrived, we walked in and rode up warm and comfortable in an insulated telecabine, 3,000 vertical feet to the summit.
We stepped out into another waiting room where a short inside walk took us to a restaurant where the radiant heated floor-covering resembled artificial turf.
After a leisurely breakfast of a large omelet, fried potatoes, warm light croissants with a choice of tasty jams and hot chocolate, we tightened up our boots, walked 10 feet and stepped into our skis that had had their edges tuned and been waxed for us while we ate breakfast.
We then walked about one and a half ski lengths toward another door. When our ski tips were two feet from the door an electric, magic eye opened it and there was a snow covered ramp. As we slid down it, we were outside for the first time since we had gone to our condo the afternoon before.
Will this type of luxury skiing ever be made available in America? Other than bragging rights there is no real need for it. But there is a big need for more ski resorts.
Regardless of how much of a Sierra Club-letter-writing greenie you are, there are untold millions of acres of land in America that would make great ski resorts. More development will never happen in my lifetime or yours because of the fear that people might be able to take advantage of the millions of outdoor acres and skiing in particular.
Yet, the miniscule percentage of acreage enjoyed by millions of skiers and snowboarders, and the amount of money the Forest Service receives from ski resort rent, far exceeds the amount of money they receive from the lumber industry, and the Forest Service also has to pay for the logging roads.
Who knows, maybe some of those people that are in the traffic jam in front of you as you inch toward your job every morning might just move to one of those new ski resorts and your traffic jam would be reduced?
Most of the people who live in opposition to ski resort development are the ones who spend evenings writing letters to their congressmen about how terrible it would be if another resort was built. Yet these same people drive a car back and forth to work 250 days a year and heat their house with coal-burning generated electricity from a plant 1,000 miles or so away.
Most of my friends who live and work in ski resorts are much better stewards of the land than someone who lives in the city and drives 200 miles or so each way to go for a day hike in what they call the nearby mountains.
When we live in a ski resort, we recognize the fact that where we used to live the streets are straight, the office and our home are square, and our bodies are all different round sizes and shapes. It is not right to keep us jammed into those square places.
I have met thousands of people in the many years I have spent in ski resorts and I know they are happier than the people they left behind in their former life in the city. Many of the ski resorts today offer job opportunities that are identical to the job you have in a city.
I have been saying for years, “Any job you have in a city, you can do the same thing in a ski resort. So why don’t you rent a U-haul trailer, quit your job, pack up your stuff and move to the ski resort of your choice?”
I have friends who have followed my advice and have been able to ski or snowboard two days a week all winter and take powder snow days off too. During the summer months they fish, hike, and ride mountain bikes every day after work and on weekends.
Wouldn’t you like to become one of those people? Well then, why don’t you?
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.