Ski Fever

Ski fever has been blamed for divorces, sunburned faces, broken legs, and near bankruptcy

By Warren Miller

Recent discussions regarding addictions made me think about them and realize that there are good ones and bad ones.

Regarding the more positive ones, in the 1950s ski fever spread across North America and Central Europe relentlessly. It was easily spread and in many cases incurable.

The “ski fever” did not spread across Central Europe as rapidly as in North America because the European mountain towns did not have enough money to build chairlifts as we did here in America because of the ravages of World War II. Nevertheless, here in North America, many young people left their parents home or dropped out of college to try to find the cure for ski fever.

I consider myself very lucky to have become infected with ski fever in 1939 when I traversed across a small hill on a pair of two-dollar pine skis, with leather toe-strap bindings and no metal edges.

Ski fever has been blamed for divorces, sunburned faces, broken legs, and near bankruptcy for many people. Fortunes have been made by some people in land speculation by simply building one or more chairlifts or a gondola, a parking lot and charging people hard-earned money to ride the lift.

Terminal ski fever is one that a person who enjoyed that day of untracked powder went home, studied his current financial statement, and decided to sell his apartment furnishings and start a business catering to other people with ski fever.

I met my future wife, Laurie, at the top of Baldy in Sun Valley in 1984. She also had a case of terminal ski fever because she employed 105 ski instructors at Snoqualmie Pass and operated a ski shop in downtown Seattle with dozens of employees. Two years later we moved into our own ski-in, ski-out home in Vail, Colorado. It was definitely designed for people with a case of terminal ski fever.

For the last 14 years we have suffered through our ski fever while living at a ski resort in Montana with 15 chairlifts, one of which goes right by our front door. We simply put our skis on and ski down to the bottom and are the first people on the lift in the morning.

I was lucky to have been born in Hollywood, California, that most people don’t realize is less than 35 airline miles from Mount Waterman, where the second chairlift in California was built in 1940. Like me, the worst sufferers of ski fever are people who live a long way away from a mountain with a chairlift and reliable snow to get their daily ski fever antidote by making right and left turns down the hill.

Everett Kircher was a Studebaker dealer in Detroit, Michigan, when he got so infected with ski fever he went to Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1948 and paid $4,800 for the original Dollar Mountain chairlift that was being replaced. That chairlift was invented in Omaha, Nebraska during July 1936 by Union Pacific Railroad employees of Averill Harriman, who created Sun Valley. Harriman and his public relations man, Steve Hannagan, are probably the two men most responsible for spreading the disease of ski fever across America. I’m proud of sharing a little bit of the blame for also spreading the disease.

My suggestion to people with ski fever is that they should do everything they can to keep the fever alive and move to a mountain with longer ski runs and deeper snow. You really can’t cure ski fever, so just learn to live with it.

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