Pick a Number

By Beacon Staff

This is the time of the Summer Olympics where numbers are flying back and forth by a thousandth of a second. The difference between a gold and a fourth in the Olympics is only 18/100ths of a second. How much is that in inches?

Given all of the focus on record numbers, I thought I would add a few numbers to my own record book. August 2012 is the 20th anniversary of when I started writing my weekly newspaper column for the Vail Daily. That is over 1,000 columns. That’s over 1 million words that average six letters each or six million key strokes. That does not count the space bar between the words. My fingers haven’t been in this good a shape since I stopped hitchhiking everywhere I went, soon after I got out of the Navy.

My marathon of writing originally began on a ski slope in the middle of August at Vail. I was recovering from rotator cuff surgery and was hiking with Art Kelton when the owner/publisher of the Vail Daily came by on his mountain bike and we started comparing stories of the old days and he said, “You write a lot of scripts for your movies, why don’t you write a weekly column for my newspaper?” We negotiated a weekly price starting out at $10 because in those days I was having so much fun writing scripts that I would have written columns for nothing. A few newspapers later I raised the weekly price to $25.

This is the start of the fourth year of working on my bio and I only have about eight or nine years left to write about. Along the way I have rounded up several thousand photographs and one of them is the first ski picture I ever took. It was taken in 1937 at Idyllwild, located above Hemet, Calif. We had left Hollywood at 4:30 in the morning for the long drive on a two-lane road most of the way. This was in February and a thin snow year in Southern California.

I also filmed and have written about ski pioneers such as Dave McCoy who borrowed $86 to build his first rope tow and created Mammoth Mountain with 65 years of hard work; Everett Kircher, who bought a used chairlift from Sun Valley, Idaho, for $4,800 dollars, moved it to 400-foot-high Boyne Mountain, Michigan. Today the Kircher family owns or operates more ski lifts in America than any other company and they are run by Everett’s children.

When I started the film business and wrote the scripts for the movies there were fewer than 15 chairlifts in America and while I have not skied all of them with my camera I have skied and filmed a lot of them.

I have written about tipping over in boats of all sizes and shapes, and sailing my catamaran to Catalina by myself for a weekend of sleeping on the beach and cooking dried food. I am lucky because as I write these words I am as excited now as I was the first time I wrote a column for the Vail Daily 20 years ago.

Many times I have been asked, “Why don’t you slow down a little?” I never have felt that I am charging along at an overly rapid rate. I do know, however, that as I cash the occasional check from a newspaper, I spend the money for some golf lessons at our local Orcas Island, nine-hole golf course. I treat golf as what it is. It’s a game and I don’t need to keep score. As Tom Weiskopf once told me when I was teaching him to ski, “Don’t keep score because the golf course will win every time.”

I treat everything I do as enjoyment. Why not? I consider myself one lucky dude and I hope I am able to keep you readers coming back for another 20 years of reading my writing with or without any score or numbers of any kind.

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