Warren Miller: Eighty-ﬁve years on paper
Vail, CO, Colorado
It started out as a casual conversation about five years ago when a friend said, “When are you going to write the story of your life? I know it is a long and complicated process, and I’ll provide some seed money so you can hire some help.”
I shrugged it off as casual dinner party conversation, but he has been persistent for the past five years.
Every time we would get together, it was the same thing, “When are you going to start writing that biography?”
About three months ago I started looking around, and almost all of my old friends who really invented the ski industry and the ski resorts in America have died without recording what they did with their lives.
It’s a shame that the the movers and the shakers’ stories weren’t told.
So Laurie said, “You play a lot of golf, you still ski a lot, go fishing, and do a lot of other things. Just cut down on a few of those things and get started.”
So I did.
I looked into computer programs, and there is a wonderful one called Dragon Speak 10. You simply dictate into a microphone, and it is automatically spelled out in your computer. Next thing I knew, I was writing my biography.
Before I started, however, I sorted out my lifetime collection of photos and the scrapbooks of newspaper and magazine clippings that my secretaries over the years put together in their spare time.
I interviewed several writers to help me in the project, and settled on Morten Lund. He was the first winter sports editor of Sports Illustrated in 1962 and has written 12 books since then. He has co-authored several biographies that have all sold thousands of copies.
We have spent the past 15 days together starting the project. Had I known at the start what a gigantic job it is to try and remember the nuances and events of the last 85 years and put them down on paper, I might not have started the project. However, here we are 15 days later.
I had also spent two or three weeks trying to reconstruct a time line of my life: What school I went to. How the Depression years were. My first job earning 10 cents for an eight hour day. Buying my first camera for 39 cents. Living with my grandparents during the worst part of the Depression. I also wrote about the good things that happened: Seeing Switzerland for the fist time in 1953. Mt. Waterman near Los Angeles on skis for the first time in 1937. Building my first surfboard in junior high school wood shop during that same year. Then being sunk in a hurricane in World War II near Guadalcanal. Every one of these events changed my life forever in a positive way.
How long it is going to take to finish this biography I cannot say. I do know that in two weeks I dictated and transcribed over 460 single-spaced pages of stuff about my life.
Morten Lund and I joked about the book winding up as a two-volume epic if I put in all of the unusual stuff. I guess at best, my life has been unusual!
Flying off of Mt. Cook in New Zealand in a three-seat helicopter in the dark with five of us and all of our camera and ski equipment. And that was with Jean Claude Killy, who had just won three gold medals in the Olympics.
The 460 pages of dictation only got me through 1960. There are 49 more years to document.
And who is going to publish this book? I don’t know at this time, but I am sure it will happen.
In the meantime, I will continue to put out the crab pots in front of my house here on the island so we can feed our many guests cracked crab that is less than one hour from the ocean to the table, play golf on the nine-hole course here, and work on my boat when there is spare time. (Not too much right now.)
The problems with the Yellowstone Club are now behind us, and I look forward to another winter of making turns. The good thing about writing this biography is that I am really excited. I have a pad of paper and a flashlight by my bed and a pen so I can write in the middle of the night when I wake up and remember yet another weird, funny or exciting thing that happened while I was involved in making the roughly 500 movies during my career.
I’m just not too thrilled to learn how it ends!
Morten has flown back to Maine, where he will do a preliminary edit of my dictation. I will then fill in a lot of additionally remembered events, such as the first time I walked out on the stage to show my first movie in 1950; my first view of Sun Valley, Idaho, when Ward Baker and I drove in there to spend the next two winters living in the parking lot; and taking advantage of the fact that gravity is the great equalizer in our constant search for freedom on the side of a snow-covered hill.
It has been a downhill slide since I was 13 years old, skiing for the first time and a journey worth writing about. I will keep you posted on the progress.
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 on to Warren Miller.net.
Support Local Journalism
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User