Warren Miller: Sking past Easter, and other musings
Vail, CO, Colorado
It is spring and we live on the north slopes of the Yellowstone Club, halfway up a detachable quad chairlift. All my wife and I have to do is go outside, walk about a hundred feet and put our skis on and head down to the bottom of the chairlift.
Across the valley, ugly brown spots are already starting to show up in the melting snow. We have not had a substantial snowfall in the last three weeks as I write, though 27 inches (and gusts up to 70 miles an hour) is predicted for this week. The brown spots have been appearing in the middle of the snowfields, and they are spreading like some incurable cancer that is mentally robbing people of just one more week of skiing “please.”
This is of little concern for me because the north facing slopes where we live still have an abundance of snow. The club also has the advantage of snow guns in the high traffic areas where during December their snow machines laid down a foot or so of man-made snow, making sure that there would be no brown spots on our ski runs.
Is the lack of snow in Montana this winter the fault of the man effect proscribed by the environmental movement? That’s something that no one can conclusively prove or disprove.
But for narrating a film about it, Al Gore did get a Nobel Peace Prize, a lot of money and an Academy Award. In spite of that, half of the world’s scientists believe the warming we’re experiencing is a result of sun spots and events for which we have no control.
There are other things contributing to the temperature fluctuation, too. For example, the floating plastic bottles in the North Eastern Pacific Ocean (definitely man induced). This is a pile of floating bottles that is twice the size of Texas, and something that big has to reflect the sun and thus lower the temperature of the water in that part of the world. How does that affect the weather in the West? Is it the same as the weather in the Gulf of Mexico, controlling the weather in western Europe which has been a known fact since the 1930s?
Why do people complain this time of year that the skiing is not good past Easter? Do they know how the date for Easter is even decided? The last 10 people I queried on this question did not know. Do you?
Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox. If the full moon is on March 22, and if the 22nd is on a Saturday, then Easter can be on Sunday, March 23. If the full moon is on Sunday the 22nd, then Easter will fall 27 days later. (If you understand all of this, will you kindly drop me a note and explain it to me in greater detail?)
This fluctuation in dates can add almost a month to a ski season when people show up until Easter. Whether it occurs earlier or later, the skiers hang up their skis and head for the beach, where they can surf or swim in freezing cold water under a foggy sky. Even though the ski shops have been having 50 percent-off equipment sales since before Christmas, they still cling to the hope that newspaper ads will bring at least a six pack of customers to their shops and help deplete the inventory that they were unable to sell in the middle of a January snow storm.
I have skied and filmed in an inch of perfect corn snow on top of a 7-foot base where the ski resort crowd was less than 10 percent of normal because Easter had come and gone. That corn snow and sunshine is to die for. I also have sat in a base lodge in foggy November when there was 2 inches of snow on top or 4- or 5-inch rocks. Yet then, there was standing room only and long lift lines of people waiting to ruin their new discount skis on the rocks and gravel.
What I have tried to do for many years is to get more and more skiers and snowboarders to adjust their winter sports calendars by advancing them a month or two and forgetting about early “I-have-to-be- the-first-person-to-make-a-run-on-old- Hickory-Hollow-gully-this-winter” thoughts.
Instead, why don’t you kick back and save the wear and tear on your body and wallet and wait until January to get going? That’s when the powder snow really starts falling in abundance, and the crowds are afraid to hit the slopes because their grandfather who took them skiing for their first time convinced them that it was too cold in January. Too cold in January was before they had invented insulated fabric, down parkas, layering pieces and heaters in ski and snowboard boots.
I will say this: If too many people follow my advice it will get too crowded during the time of the year I like best – under a warm spring sun, skiing on corn snow.
But it seems that no matter what I suggest you should do, I am revealing one of the many secrets I have discovered in over 70 years of putting skid chains on a car that I should have traded in three or five years earlier, but is still comfort zone for me.
In the meantime, the snow melts on the south slopes here in Montana and the skiing is still the best this time of the year.
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