Vail Daily column: A life reclaimed
In the mid-1950s, there was a Sun Valley ski patrolman featured in my annual ski film. I had movies of him rocketing straight down the Christmas Bowl Ridge towing a toboggan. After the audience got used to his high speed, I casually mentioned that he only had one leg.
I was very surprised the next morning when the telephone rang in my Utah hotel room and it was a man named Ed Siegel who wanted to take me to lunch. I have a reputation for never passing up a free meal and at lunch at explained two things: One, he had lost his leg just below the knee when had broken his leg skiing and, two, as a chronic alcoholic, it led to him not taking care of his broken leg and as a result it had to be amputated below the knee.
I located the Sun Valley ski patrolman and hooked him up with Siegel and they became great friends.
Within two weeks of Siegel seeing my movie, he rented some ski equipment and went up to Alta and took a get-acquainted lesson with Alf Engen.
Siegel joined Alcoholics Anonymous soon thereafter, and the next thing I knew he was the general manager of Dodge Ridge in central California. From there he moved on to become general manager of Sugar Bowl in California, where the first chairlift was built in the state.
While he was managing Sugar Bowl, I hired his sales manager away from him and Art Lawson became my No. 1 salesman. Lawson was so good at selling, I had to hire a cameraman. Don Brolin came to work for me when he didn’t even know how to thread up a 16-millimeter camera, but he was so good at everything he tried that we worked together for 35 years.
While Brolin and I were traveling all over the world taking the pictures that a lot of people seemed to like, Siegel was moving along with his life at Waterville Valley having settled down and married with kids.
Then he went to work for the Head ski company as a factory representative. The next thing I knew, Siegel had moved to Sun Valley, Idaho.
There, he has become an alcoholic and drug rehab counselor and still skis on his gimpy leg, plays golf and rides his bicycle all summer. Siegel and I still stay in contact with each other by telephone two or three times a year.
As we all know ski resorts have their share of drug and alcohol problems, and unfortunately there are never enough alcoholic counselors like Siegel to help them get their lives back in order.
For some reason, it has always been a mystery to me why a person who can climb on a chairlift ride to the top of the mountain and have total freedom in their life would need additional help from drugs or alcohol. Thank goodness for the Ed Siegels of the world who are there to give them a hand.
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 WarrenMiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warrenmiller.org.