I have met a lot of very interesting people on the side of ski hills all over the world. One day I was resting for a moment while figuring out my next shot when someone skied up to me and said,
“You’re Warren Miller, aren’t you?”
“I just had to tell you that my father hates you.”
Being politically correct is not one of my better qualities, but this seemed a strange way to start a conversation.
This guy had all of the right moves. He slouched on his ski poles with his arm pits resting on the handles. He had the right amount of duct tape on his tattered gloves and the elbows of his parka were frayed. He was between 25 and 30 years old.
I suggested we ride up on the lift together and he could tell me why. Once we got onto the lift he told me his story.
“When I was a little kid my dad used to take our whole family to your film presentations at the Ford Auditorium in Detroit. The first two or three years that I saw your films I was so small I sat on my father’s lap and screamed and shouted when everyone else did.
“I remember the first year you showed Vail and the deep powder snow in the back bowls with no one else there except you and your skiers.
“You said, ‘Get out here and discover it before everyone else does.’ My dad made Christmas reservations for our family the next morning and dragged our entire family out there.
“Me, my two brothers and my mom complained all the way from Detroit to Colorado, but dad drove almost nonstop in our ‘62 station wagon. We had to stay clear down in Glenwood Springs and drive back and forth every day. We quickly discovered everything that you had said about it was true.
“From then on it was an annual family trip for the Christmas holidays and after two years we added an extra week of skiing during Easter vacation. But it was really tough for my dad to budget the money and the time for the long drive back and forth.
“We couldn’t afford to fly because dad was putting all of his profits back into the factory that he owned that made automobile radiators. One Easter week he didn’t even get to go with the family because he was having some labor problems and had to stay home and solve them. By that time the family was really hooked on skiing and Vail in particular. My mom did all of the driving that year.
“That Easter I got to be a pal with one of the ski patrolmen and when I got home I was able to get my first aid certificate. I started hanging around the ski patrol building during the next Christmas vacation and by the time we left I knew everyone on the patrol. By that time I was going to college, but I began to spend more time skiing in Vail.
“I managed to study enough engineering between ski trips to barely get by. I got my degree and settled down to work full time for my dad. He had always told me that he would turn the radiator business over to me when he thought I was ready. Every day at work he would tell me how he could hardly wait for me to take over the business.
“Then it happened.
“I had a perfect two weeks of great snow in Vail at Christmas. I came back a few days later and wandered around amidst the noise, smoke, fumes and organized chaos and thought, ‘Is this where I want to spend the rest of my life trying to make enough money so I can really do want I want to do with my life?’
“Two days later, I took my dad to lunch and said, ‘Dad, I just can’t do it. I am going to move out to Colorado. I have a job on the ski patrol. I can work on construction during the summer while I look around for some business I really like. I just can’t spend my life making radiators. I am really sorry.
“My dad knew that arguing was useless and with a tear in his eye he said, ‘If only I hadn’t taken you to so many Warren Miller films I could be moving out to Colorado instead of you. I really hate that Warren Miller! I wonder how many other people’s lives have been messed up with those ski movies of his.’”
Our lift ride was almost over at about the same time as his story. He looked off to the east to the Gore Range and asked, “D’ya mind if I ski down with you?
“And, oh yeah, Warren, I want to thank you for messing up my life.”
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