Vail Daily column: Bright, sunny day
It is the first week of December and on our south facing waterfront home on the island, the sun is slanting in low and brilliant, but it’s still freezing cold.
On the north side of the island, we can see Mount Garibaldi in the park north of Vancouver, snow white and shining and to the right, or south of it, is Mount Baker with its many ski lifts ready to haul skier sand snowboarders skyward as soon as the nine o’clock bell clangs.
Since the fall of 1946, I have been lucky enough to be on the ski hill somewhere in the world from the first day of the season until the white disappeared in the spring and I returned to chasing the surf in Southern California.
In the ski resorts across America, the many people who want to take a winter off and make turns all day are arriving in their SUVs full of stuff with just enough cash left for their first and last month’s rent somewhere. They are all looking for that perfect job working when the ski lifts are closed and a job that comes with a season pass. Unfortunately, most of those jobs have already been taken by the same people that had them the past winter.
And occasionally, by a person who has had that ideal job for the past nineteen winters and lives with his wife and children down-valley somewhere within a 45-minute drive of the lift in an area that has houses they can afford to rent.
The sun has moved to the west, as I write this, and now shines so brilliantly in my office window across my keyboard that it is hard to hit the right keys and translate my thoughts to printed paper in a newspaper a thousand miles from my home office.
Subzero weather is forecast for the rest of this week as well as 2 feet of snow in the Colorado Rockies. It looks as though this is going to be the winter skiers and snowboarders everywhere have been waiting for. Now, if they can only get rid of the weekend traffic jams on Colorado’s I- 70 so that all of that pent-up enthusiasm can be used up on the chairlifts and mountain top restaurants everywhere.
A recent article by David Rose in a London newspaper said, “This year there is an extra 553,000 square miles of ice and snow covering the earth.” Maybe an inconvenient truth for Al Gore.
I was lucky to be born in Hollywood, Calif., a short drive of less than 50 miles to Mount Waterman, where the second chairlift in California was built in the late 1930s.
In my early ski days of the ‘40s, wartime gas rationing was on and we were only allowed 4 gallons of gas a week so for a ski trip you had to round up some skiers who also had gas rationing coupons but you also had to coast almost all of the way home after a day on the hill to preserve as much gas as you could.
As the days get progressively shorter until the 21st of December the snow will stay better under the slanting sun. From that day on the days will be getting longer and longer until that wonderful corn snow appears on the south facing slopes. In the meantime, you will have “freedom on your shoulder” whenever you purchase a ski lift ticket. I had that freedom and luck in my pocket for all of those years that I chose to make movies of that freedom and share it with my friends all around the world.
In the early years, I was what was been called a transportation skier. I got to climb in a long traverse, way over to another ridge with all of my camera gear to get the just right angle of that powder snow slope with the sun shining behind the skiers on their way down the hill. That low angle of the winter sun made the white snow and deep blue shadows get people in Buffalo, N.Y., or the hundreds of other cities who got to see that ski action, excited enough to come west instead of spending their entire life skiing on their local rope tow hill.
It was as though I was dispensing an intoxicating white powder drug on a large silver theatrical screen. In the process, I was the luckiest guy in the world because I got to go there first and bring it back to the believers, people who had made turns on skis and the friends they brought to the theaters who had not yet gotten infected with the ski bug.
I have been lucky to see a lot of early morning, brilliant sunrises from a seat on a chairlift before it opened in the morning for the public. I rode up with the ski patrol and the men and women who would be skiing for my cameras and I got to film that untracked powder snow which few people ever even see except in one of my movies.
Those transportation turns of mine were a small price to pay for getting the just right movie shot after I got through traversing way over there, and then looking into the sun without dark glasses so I would know the right exposure for the backlit shot.
When it was raining, I filmed it as it fell because everyone has skied on a rainy day and could appreciate the I.Q. it takes for that five hundred mile drive to ski in the rain.
Sometimes my brain is on fast forward and I pound out a lot of short ideas about a lot of different things that are only glued together by the fact that we all own a pair of skis or a snowboard and enough extra cash to buy all of those lift tickets this winter.
Laurie and I will be packing the trailer in the next few days for our annual journey to Montana and the Yellowstone Club. I will keep you posted on cold weather, powder snow and what is happening in our world of white.
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 onto http://www.Warren Miller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warrenmiller.org.
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