"Fifty" years of skiing joy
Ah, to recapture one’s youth – if only for an evening. Wonder Wife and I had that pleasant experience recently when we saw Warren Miller’s latest ski film entitled: “Fifty.” The film celebrates fifty years of skiing and snowboarding caught beautifully on film by Warren Miller and, of course, fifty years of Warren Miller’s droll-humor narratives.
As we sat in the darkened theater, my mind raced back to the first time I saw a Warren Miller ski film and thought about how it changed our lives. You see, prior to that magic evening in Newport, Rhode Island, the only skiing I had done was some cross-country skiing with the Norwegian Ski Brigade. Interesting, but not fun.
That film, enriched by Warren’s amusing narration, made a ski-nut convert out of me. The next day, I signed up for a week of Christmas Holiday ski lessons at Killington, Vermont. Since then, downhill skiing has been my principle avocation. In fact, Wonder Wife and I spent our honeymoon above Innsbruck, Austria, skiing at Axamer-Lizum.
During a three-year tour of duty in Germany, we spent whatever leave time we could get skiing in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Our memory banks overflow with warm thoughts of cozy ski pensions, great food, even better wine, and dazzling days in the Alps.
When we returned to the good old U.S. of A., we discovered the wonders of Colorado skiing. In fact, to get there, we belonged to both the Lincoln and Omaha Ski Clubs.
At quitting time on some winter Friday afternoons, we climbed on a sleeper ski bus in downtown Lincoln and rumbled inexorably along I-70 into the night toward Colorado. Inevitably, someone brought along a guitar and we sang our way across the fruited plains until about midnight when it was time to reconfigure the bus for sleeping. Except for the sound of beverage cans rolling around on the floor, our sleep was undisturbed until we reached a truck stop in west Denver sometime before dawn. After refueling, we began the climb up toward Winter Park or Vail or anyplace with world-class snow.
By about 8:00 a.m., the buses stopped in front of our lodgings just long enough for us to drop off our luggage. By 9:00 a.m., we had our lift tickets and we were headed upslope for a day of non-stop skiing. When the lifts stopped running, we partook of some liquid refreshment followed by a change into bathing attire and a bone-warming, hot-tub soak. That was the prelude to the traditonal wine and cheese party.
When the lifts started running the next day, we were first in line and we skied as hard as our flatlander-legs would allow until the lifts stopped running. Then, we threw our luggage on the buses and headed back toward Nebraska, stopping only for an evening meal somewhere along the route. Early on, the sound of music was replaced by the sound of snoring.
Most of us kept a set of business attire in our offices, so when the bus dropped us off in downtown Lincoln, we headed for work, changed clothes and were ready for Monday’s business. Well, almost. But, given enough coffee, we made it through the day.
So, after 17 years of ski-club trips plus many Colorado trips we made on our own, that was enough. When the opportunity came, we moved to the Winter Park/Mary Jane area full-time. Now, we only ski on what we call: “Warren Miller Days,” – the days when the sun is so bright, the sky is so blue and the snow is so powdery that you want to cry for joy.
Watching “Fifty,” Wonder Wife and I held hands like newly-weds and recalled our Austrian ski honeymoon of long ago. Sometimes, Warren Miller tells his ski-nut friends: “I hope I didn’t mess up your life too much.” No, Warren, you made all our lives richer and fuller than you could ever know.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.