Warren Miller: The big winter choice | VailDaily.com

Warren Miller: The big winter choice

The wind is howling and the heavy rain is slanting down against the windows of my office. The TV news last night announced, “The snow level will be down to 2,000 feet within 12 hours.” I live in the Pacific Northwest, where citizens are not only deeply divided over politics but over what they do in the winter.

The people who head south for the winter — snowbirds — have had their golf clubs, Bermuda shorts, sun screen and credit card at the ready for their annual pre-winter migration south to Palm Springs or Arizona. There they will play golf and dine out with the same people they played golf with and dined out with all summer long.

There is no need to go into what is status on the desert during the winter. Address, address and address. One of my neighbors chooses to rent for the winter, and this winter he has rented a house in an Arizona senior citizen development.

It is called Lake Linger Longer, where the lake is about an acre and a half and the golf course is free, as well as the crocheting and knitting classes for his wife. In every rental garage are two three-wheeled bicycles and one golf cart because big Detroit Iron is not allowed to drive on a lot of the streets of the gated subdivision. The golf carts are street legal and have more red lights than an 18-wheel truck and semitrailer. That is just in case they somehow get caught away from home after dusk.

Since he and his wife are renting this winter, he will also have to rent a trailer to a haul all of his toys and luggage south with him, so his wife’s two poodles can have the entire back of the SUV for their travel comfort.

On the other side of the street of political-athletic winter persuasion are the people who have been doing their exercises to get in shape for skiing. This other group of people is made up of skiers or snowboarders. They have been ferreting away the float on their credit card all summer, as they have labored over whether or not to buy a season pass at old Hickory Hollow or ski a lot of different places this coming winter.

Laurie and I are very lucky because we built a home in the mountains of Montana to go to for the winter of skiing. Actually, it is a home on the side of a hill alongside of a great ski run at the Yellowstone Club. Since the end of the last century I have not made a turn in a bump. And at my age, I really enjoy the privilege of making a turn wherever I want to rather than around a bump built up by the passage of 10,000 people who got there before me.

It is hard to live down my reputation of living in ski resort parking lots for two winters. But hey, that was fun and games, and freedom at its unbridled best.

While I have to admit that about the middle of February I would like to be able to get my golf score under 137 for 18 holes during four or five days at some Arizona spot or Borrego Springs or wherever and just soak up some hot sun.

I really like to keep an open mind and appreciate these two extremes of retired indulgence. I do get a little tired, however, when people asking me, “Do you still ski?”

Why wouldn’t I still go skiing? Other than last year when I broke my back, I have been doing it all winter, every winter, since 1946 and have never had a bad day.

I have learned to do other things when it rains or the snow is too bad, such as drawing cartoons or writing to support my habit of making turns all winter. I was very lucky in being able to make a living when I was high up on a glacier in Switzerland or on a small hill in Wisconsin.

I earned my living simply by winding up my camera one more time and pushing the button to take movies of what I was seeing.

It is estimated that over $1.5 billion was spent on the last election. How many minds where changed by spending that much money? I think I changed a few minds for the $1 price of a movie ticket at one of my early feature films.

When I started, I had blinders on and I thought anyone who played golf was an old person. Now I play golf and that has to tell me something about my age. However, there is no way I can convince my friend and neighbor Elmo to try skiing because he is already packed for his trip to the sunshine and 137 days of perfect blue sky weather.

Fortunately, the nation is divided between winter sports enthusiasts and those who hate the bad weather. If it wasn’t, the ski lift lines would be way too long.

Like politics the weather is what it is and there is nothing any one person by himself can do about it. I suggest, since the snow level is down to 2,000 feet get out your winter toys and immediately go to somewhere above 2,000 feet and get started once again to enjoye the freedom that your skis or snowboard can give 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.

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