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Warren Miller: Starting to think about winter now

Warren MillerVail, CO, Coloradonewsroom@vaildaily.com

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, has come and gone, and this is the time of the year when backyard barbecues are put away for the winter and sports equipment is put in the garage alongside of the wake boards, water skis, camping equipment, surfboards, golf clubs and windsurfers. It’s time to dust off your skis, boots and poles. But the first thing you better do is check the mildew that has grown in your boots during the offseason. When I returned from a filming trip to Europe one spring, the snow on the last day had been really wet spring snow. I had a lot to do when I got back to the office, so I just threw my ski boots on the shelf in the back of the garage and forgot about them. The following Christmas, when I was leaving for Sun Valley to start a new movie, I found out that I had left wet wool socks in them. The combination of the hot garage and plastic boots, together with leather and wool, had merged into some fantastic colorful form of fungus or mildew that I was afraid to touch. September is a time to make your first appointment at the local gym to start getting in some semblance of shape so that when you finally go skiing, you can get your money’s worth on your lift ticket. Don’t be surprised that room at the gym is all taken up. If it is, wait a month or so to start your exercises because it is still 120 days before the chairlifts start running. It is also the time when you have to wait until the wind-driven rain turns to sleet and the snow level is down below 10,000 feet. Plus, all those hardy souls who started at the gym a month earlier have pulled a muscle by now and the gym in empty!September is when ski shops start having their pre-preseason ski discount sales. Some of them offer as much as 127 percent off of the suggested manufacturer’s retail price. Every newspaper you pick up has a preseason ski and snowboard sale advertised. Pre-preseason ski sales started in 1953 when my good friend, Scott Osborne, who with Olaf Ulland started Osborne and Ulland ski shops in Seattle, decided to have a preseason bargain sale. Ever the innovative marketer, Scott took the word “bargains” and spelled it backwards, calling it Sniagrab. The sale has since been replicated all over the rest of the skiing world. Scott’s Sniagrab sale generated such large crowds that sometimes the lines went all the way around the block. Almost 60 years ago, Scott was simply liquidating all of his leftover merchandise from the year before. But everyone wanted to buy an advertised pair of Head skis for $10, which back then retailed for $85. Scott had bought a few pairs of Head skis at retail and then advertised them to get everybody to come to his Sniagrab sale. Some people got in line 24 hours before the doors opened, and they had their route carefully mapped out from the front door to the ski rack in the back of the store. Once the doors opened, they ran like crazy to grab one of the pairs of Head skis. (I learned later that Howard Head had a handful of spies trying to find out where the skis had come from. Later, for some time, O&U became the largest dealer of Head skis. Howard had forgiven them.)There was another preseason ski ingredient that started in October: My feature-length ski films would come to town to get everyone excited for the next ski season. I have been told, “Showing a Warren Miller feature-length ski film in October is the same as showing a porno film on an aircraft carrier that is still one week away from port. You can watch it, but you can’t do it.”During the first 15 years of my ski film career, I was doing all of the photography, editing, music, writing the scripts and narrating every screening myself. I got to go to about 110 cities all over the world and pass the word on what was happening in the ski world. I was a newsreel reporter telling and showing people in Vancouver, British Columbia, what skiers were doing in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and the people in New England what skiers in Colorado were doing. Unfortunately for the skiers of today, the team that I had put together to help me make my movies has retired. I had the same editor for 25 years, a cameraman for 25 years and another cameraman for 35 years of my 55-year career. Today, I don’t do anything for the feature film. However, with or without my narration, a photo of someone making turns on the big movie screen is still just as exciting as it was when I started showing my movies in 1950, when there were only 15 chairlifts in North America. This is the 60th anniversary of my film business, and I will be around for a long time writing stories about those great years between then and now.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 WarrenMiller.net


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