Vail Daily column: Unanticipated results |

Vail Daily column: Unanticipated results

Once in a while it’s a good idea to pause in your journey through life and realize what might have happened if you turned right instead of left at that fork in the road.

Had I not ridden my bicycle along with a friend for 3 miles to the Polar Palace ice arena in Hollywood, I might never have felt the very cold air against my face as I wobbled around the rink, constantly making left turns. Did that set me on a path of chasing cold winters and powder snow with a camera for the rest of my life? Who knows?

In junior high school I grew almost 10 inches in height and only put on about 3 pounds in weight. As a result I spent a lot of years playing basketball instead of football.

The boundary between two high schools went right down the middle of the street where I lived. Had I lived on the other side of the street, I would’ve gone to a different high school and never met Ted Nicholson, who took me to San Onofre for my first real ride on a surfboard. That was the first time I caught a wave and rode it all the way to the beach while standing up.

Had I not met the president of the Bell & Howell camera company, Chuck Percy, in my ski school class in Sun Valley, I might never have started taking movies and earning a living doing it. When I started making ski movies there were 15 chairlifts in America, today there are over 460 resorts. I hope I had a little bit to do with that growth.

If the weather had not been stormy with lots of powder snow, I might never have gotten to enjoy it as much. Had the weather not been really rotten in Sun Valley between Christmas and New Year’s of 1984, I might never have been drawing cartoons for kids in the warming hut and I might never have met my wife!

Had I not spent four months filming Jean Claude Killy after he won three gold medals, I would not have spent the next three years fighting my way out of bankruptcy because I was the unfortunate low bidder for the job.

Had they not shown that ski film in the break between pro football in the East Coast on Sunday afternoon and the West Coast later in the day, more people might’ve watched it and I might have gotten another job producing television shows.

Had Ward Baker and I not taken our 8-millimeter surfing movies with us those two years we lived in the parking lot in Sun Valley, I might never have gotten in the film business.

Had I not brought my 20-foot camera power boat to the Pacific Northwest to explore this wonderful part of the world with my new best friend who became my wife, I might still be living in Manhattan Beach in a 25-foot-wide lot with a 3-foot setback on each side. That left room for a 19-foot-wide house that could be as long as 90 feet; mine was only 88 feet long.

Had I not bought a 20-foot-long fiberglass Pacific catamaran from Carter Pyle in 1962, I would never have spent so many great years driving sailboats around the buoys, nor would I have had so many enjoyable single-handed trips from Redondo Beach, the 22 miles to Catalina Island.

Had my grandmother never given me a birthday present of roller-skates, the next year a wagon and finally a bicycle on my 11th birthday, almost the entire Los Angeles basin wouldn’t have opened up to me. I rode it as far north along the coast as Point Dume and south to Newport Beach and along the foothills to the San Bernardino to the east. And, of course, many times to the ocean to the west.

The bicycle was state-of-the-art Schwinn balloon tired with heavyweight fenders and I added a taillight and speedometer. I soon removed the heavyweight fenders, added a rack on the back that could carry my newspapers for my route of the 93 Hollywood Citizen News, six afternoons a week. I think the paper was 90 cents a month and we had to collect that money from our customers and I don’t think a month went by without somebody moving out without paying. This, of course, was in the bottom of the Depression when 25 percent of able-bodied men could not find work of any kind.

When Sam Huntington and Mr. Mulholland launched the Pacific Electric Railroad, corridors of development went from downtown Los Angeles to both Long Beach and Santa Monica and also over Cahuenga Pass to San Fernando Valley and to Pasadena. Anyone who was the least bit smart bought vacant property along those streetcar lines. Along the beach, piers were built out into the ocean at Santa Monica, Crystal, Ocean Park, Venice, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa and Redondo Beach.

In the early 1900s, Southern California was trying to make Redondo Beach the port of call for the entire Los Angeles basin. There is a deep-water channel that slams the beach in the winter when waves crash and make docking at the pier impossible. San Pedro and Long Beach took over and eventually became one of the largest ports in the world for handling cargo on an annual basis.

I was very lucky to have been born in Southern California in 1924 because that year there were fewer than 1 million people in the entire Los Angeles basin. Today there are approximately 15 million people depending on where you put up the boundary flag.

Southern California became the heart of the motion picture industry because of the abundant good weather.

The entire time I ran my film business I really only worked one full day for Hollywood/TV. I was hired to get point of view photography from the front seat of a roller coaster. It took half a dozen rides at least just to figure out the inertia of the camera as the cars went through the transitions and over the top of the high points. I furnished the camera gear including camera and tripod and was paid $35 for the day, and that was a lot of money in 1950. It amounted to almost twice as much as I could earn as a journeyman carpenter framing houses. It was a monumental day for me because I had a camera in my hand and was being paid to use it. What’s wrong with that?

The unanticipated consequences of that day spent riding in a roller coaster launched my 50-year career of running a camera. And it’s been a great ride.

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 For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to

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