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WARREN MILLER: Pick a number

August 13, 2012

This is the time of the summer Olympics where numbers are flying back and forth by the 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? 

Since I’m supposed to be writing about today’s “ski scene” (even though it’s summer), I have to include a little bit on this new GPS wristwatch I saw. This wristwatch can tell you how fast you skied on the last run, how many miles you skied, how much time you spent on the catwalks, how many rides you took on the lift, and even your total vertical feet of skiing for the day. It can’t record that ermine running below the ski lift that you didn’t see or that pretty sunset from the lodge front porch. But what you can do is transfer all of the data to your computer and send it to all of the people who didn’t come skiing.
 
I would also have to write about the new wide angle GoPro helmet camera that a lot of people are using to record what is in front of them on every run. A lot of friends like showing me their helmet cam footage, but if I have to look at one more shaky, point-of-view shot on a wide screen TV after dinner again, I will likely fake stomach trouble half way through the casserole dinner and go home early.
 
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. We started comparing stories of the old days when he said, ìYou write a lot of scripts for your movies, why don’t you write a weekly column for my newspaper?” 
 
It has been enjoyable from day one and keeps my brain from atrophying from non-use. The many columns of practice have also allowed me to write my biography as though I know what I’m doing. 
 
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 Idylwild, located above Hemet, California. 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 started my picture-taking career using a Bakelite (early plastic), Univex camera that I had bought in a Sontag drug store for thirty-nine cents. It only had one shutter speed that was one fiftieth of a second and no F stop adjustment.
 
We started driving home after a two-hour walk down from the patch of snow we had finally found. I quickly fell asleep and woke up when the driver took a left hand corner too fast and flipped the car. I broke my left arm and dislocated my wrist. I would not have another accident for 73 years when in 2009, I came out of my binding and fell and broke my back going three miles per hour.
 
I have been lucky to be able to write about some of the heads of state I have skied with and some almost heads of countries—President Jerry Ford at Vail; the governor of the Haute Savoie Province, France; Netan Yahoo, the Prime Minister of Israel; Vice President Dan Quayle; vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp—all because of a 16mm movie camera that I made several hundred ski movies with. 
 
I also filmed and have written about ski pioneers such as Dave McCoy (who borrowed $86 dollars on a motorcycle to build his first rope tow and created Mammoth Mountain) and Everett Kircher (who bought a used chairlift from Sun Valley, Idaho, for $4,800 dollars and moved it to 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 less than fifteen chairlifts in America.
 
During the summer, I sign up 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 was teaching him to ski, ìDon’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 twenty years of reading my writing with or without any score or numbers of any kind.  
 
Warren Miller is an American ski and snowboarding filmmaker. He is the founder of Warren Miller Entertainment and produced, directed and narrated his films until 1988. His annual films on skiing and other outdoor sports are renowned for their stunning photography, witty narrative humor, and the impressive talents of athletes. He has received wide acclaim for his promotion of the sport of modern skiing through his films spanning over 50 years and is an iconic figure in ski movie filmmaking. 
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