Vail Daily column: Secret to a long life |

Vail Daily column: Secret to a long life

Warren Miller
Valley Voices

Let’s face it. By the time you finish reading this article you will be older than when you started. I know because I am getting older with each passing month or year as I read and write a lot of stuff and all that writing takes a lot of time! But I did give up years ago reading the obituaries because they contain too many of my old friends’ names.

I have a simple reason why they are already in an obituary. That is because when we were all growing up many of my friends went to a party every Friday and Saturday night and also smoked lots of cigarettes between the ages of 15 and 30. They lost a lot of their health processing all of that garbage each time they inhaled or ingested it. The few friends I have still left alive did the same thing I did during those years. They rode surfboards and skied and never smoked a cigarette or had a drink of alcohol, or even coffee, for that matter.

A few of them are still enjoying life at nearly and above 90 years of age:

Old, Fit and Proud

Ted Nicholson took me to San Onofre for my first surfboard ride in the late 1930s. Since then he has never smoked or had a drink of alcohol and lives in Santa Cruz, he can still ride a surfboard in his wet suit whenever the surf is big enough to enjoy. This past winter, he skied for four days with us here at the Yellowstone Club in Montana.

Ward Baker is another almost 90-year-old, non-smoker or drinker. We lived together in a small trailer for two winters in the Sun Valley parking lot in the late ’40s, after the war. He too has never smoked or had anything to drink. Today, Ward is retired and lives on Maui. He spends a lot of his time skin diving but never uses scuba gear and instead just uses a face mask, a spear and swim fins. When I talked with him the other day, he was complaining that he used to be able to stay below 85 feet with his spear for three and a half minutes. Today, he is having a hard time staying below sixty-five feet for more than two and a half minutes. I have trouble touching the bottom in a 9-foot deep swimming pool so I think he’s amazing.

I believe that during all of those years that we did not smoke and drink, our bodies did not have to process all of that garbage and now we are living on that 15-year cushion of good health and no hangovers. I was exceptionally lucky because for some reason I never even had an aspirin until I was almost 15 years old.

Moral of the Story

There are exceptions, of course, but is there a message here? Maybe if you have young kids and can get them to find their freedom outside on a bicycle, roller skates, a surfboard, and a pair of skis instead of in a bottle of beer or any other form of narcotic or drugs of any kind, they will live much longer and healthier lives.

As an adult, wouldn’t you like to know that you have that extra 15 years tacked onto your retirement years instead of wasting them as a teenaged party animal?

I have no clinical proof about my longevity hypothesis and have never read it anywhere. However, the few remaining contemporary friends that I grew up with and are still alive and active outside all skipped wasting those 15 or more years partying.

Really Live To Your Fullest

Talk to young people about this as well as older people. You worked hard your entire life and are on the downhill slide spending all of that money you earned and you have more money today than time left to spend it unless like some of my friends you missed those alcoholic years.

Dave McCoy is another good example of longevity. He will be 100 years old this year. He and his wife each have high velocity Swiss electric motorcycles and ride them in the desert around their ranch on an almost daily basis. He has hired a technician to design and build a solar powered source so they can ride farther out into the desert with only the sound of the tires in the sand. Since Dave retired from owning and running Mammoth Mountain for so many years, he has become a really good still photographer of wildlife. Check out his web site, All of those great photos were taken after he reached the age of 90. He too has gotten there without smoking or drinking as a teenager or young adult. He and his wife were able to earn retirement money, and now they are spending it. I hope you live long enough to spend all of yours!

Another person who is still going strong for the same reason is Klaus Obermeyer at 94 years old. He still skis on Ajax at Aspen almost every day during his lunch hour. He arrived in America with a $10 bill, two pair of leather pants and an idea. He started selling $1.75 imported Bavarian Koogie ties. (They were made by Flush, the plumber’s wife, in their log cabin in Sun Valley) and with hard work and no time out for partying or alcohol or smoking, Klaus has grown that necktie business into the largest ski clothing business in America. Both of his sons can pilot Klaus in and out of Aspen in his own private airplane. I think that is a mark for any young person to shoot at.

Imagine skiing every day since you grew up in the Bavarian Alps 94 years ago. That is what freedom is all about, and that kind of freedom is yours if you want it bad enough.

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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