Vail Daily column: A lot to write about
Since I got my first job writing a weekly newspaper column for the Vail Daily about 25 years ago … 52 columns a year, for 25 years, 1,300 columns equals a lot of words!
One of those columns appeared soon after it snowed 99 feet at Mount Baker one winter. Another when it started to become a seven or eight hour drive to go the hundred miles back from Vail to Denver on Sunday night, with a car full of sleepy children and a very sleepy driver. A day in the local mountains skiing with the family is bracketed on each end, with rambunctious children or sound asleep children smelling of melted snow mixed with sweaty wool.
Every one of those 25,000 skiers that you had to stand in line behind at Vail have at least 10 or 15 experiences that can become a newspaper column. What about getting there and finding no place to park … other than in a supermarket parking lot a mile and a half away from the chairlift?
How about having to wait in the chairlift line while you watch Steve Stunning the private ski instructor with the family of eight in the preferred line walk right by you? How about fighting the logistics of getting enough food and soda pop or coffee for the whole family without spilling anything?
Someone has to haul food all the way to Two Elk to feed any number between five and 10,000 skiers who all arrive at the same time to eat?
I could write about being lucky enough to live in Vail for over a decade and every night that it snowed when I went to bed, I set my alarm clock for 7 a.m. so I could be one of the first people in the lift line.
I would write about discovering that if I rode on the lower chairlift at Lionshead and skied from there to the bottom of the mountain, I would have those runs almost to myself, because everybody else was racing for the Back Bowls. The line for that Back Bowl chairlift could sometimes go to over 30 minutes long.
Living at the high altitude of Vail gave Laurie and me a distinct advantage when our friends came and stayed with us while they gasped for air because they lived at sea level.
I wrote a column about condominium parking spaces at Gold Peak that sold for as much as $25,000, when you could park two blocks away for $10 a day in a covered garage?
I was lucky enough to ski with amazing people such as former Congressman Jack Kemp, and astronauts Scott Carpenter and Alan Shepard, Bob Galvin, Chuck Percy, Arch McGill, Josephine Abercrombie, Patsy and Bill Smith, Jack and Kathleen Eck, Bill Whiteford, Howard and Marty Head, Frank Wells … oh my goodness, there are hundreds of amazing, priceless friends who were so welcoming to me.
Skiing is great that way: We’re all equal on the side of a mountain. Just like the late 1940s when I first met Josephine Abercrombie and I’d ski with Cary Grant, Ernest Hemingway and all the amazing people who came to Sun Valley when it was truly the best there was in the ski world. It still has the most amazing terrain of any ski area, and Dick Durrance had a lot to do with laying the runs out just perfectly.
During our Vail days, I was no longer running a motion picture camera, but I believe that some of those who skied with me felt that they might appear in a movie. Yes, I know that camera was a real magnet for skiing companions. I also know that my shiny bald head was easy to spot in a chairlift line full of wool hats or brain buckets.
After skiing all day every day in Vail for a few years I knew where there were a lot of small stashes of powder snow hidden behind some trees, though I’d always have to hike out. I had a couple of friends who were retired and enjoyed making turns as much as I did. David Grable was a man I skied with every time he showed up from his busy moving and storage business and a local Realtor, Art Kelton, was another one I would meet on the mountain and we’d have a great time together. Don Hodel and Bob Craig would come over from Keystone and park in front of my house and meet me when I walked out of the garage with my skis on my shoulder to get ready to coast to the Lionshead gondola.
Laurie and I have been living in Montana for the last 15 years with a whole different set of ski runs, friends and experiences, which are even better. Or I’m just getting older! At 90 years old, I truly wonder at the amazing people that skiing brings together. It seems like every day that goes by there’s another happening that could make interesting reading if I needed to write that many columns. Fortunately I only need to write one column a week.
The last four or five years I have also been writing my autobiography. There’s an awful lot to write about after 90 years of doing whatever I did, and I’m looking forward to completing that autobiography sometime just after the new year with the help of my wife Laurie and Andy Bigford, my editor.
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.