By Warren Miller
It’s that time of the year once again, when we are thinking about skiing, but not really doing it. In fact, when I introduced my new film in Seattle last week, I said, “Showing ski movies in November is like showing a pornographic film on an aircraft carrier when it is still two weeks out of port. You can watch it, but you can’t do it.”
When I first started in the ski film business 64 years ago, I needed to show my movie that time of year because I was completely out of money. Whatever I had saved from my carpenter wages had long been depleted by purchasing the editing equipment to glue together the film that I had shot at Squaw Valley the winter before.
When it came time to start showing the film, I needed to get a copy of my film printed in a lab and buy a projector and screen to show it. The cost for the three items was about $400. I couldn’t find anyone who would loan me the money because I was living in a panel delivery truck, pounding nails for a living, surfing on weekends and using the showers on the beach after work.
Unable to find an angel to loan me $400, I finally found four friends who would each loan me $100. Two weeks later, I had a print of my first feature length ski film, Deep and Light, featuring Emile Allais and the powder snow of Squaw Valley. With the film in hand, all I needed was to find a ski club that would sponsor the movie and split the proceeds with me. I showed my film to seven different ski clubs in Southern California with my new projector and the response was consistent, “The photography is great, but we will only sponsor your film if you get someone else to narrate it.” I didn’t know how to get someone else to narrate it and even if I did, I couldn’t afford to hire them and had no idea how to put their voice onto the film.
I finally got The Ski Club Alpine to book the film in a junior high school in Pasadena and promote it in the ski shops. About 800 people showed up and paid a dollar each to see that first show. I walked away with $320, which was a month’s wages as a carpenter and I knew I was onto something. I just didn’t know that I would be doing the same thing 54 years later.
Back in those days, I was in good physical shape because I was 54 years younger and I worked as a rough carpenter all day and surfed on weekends. Today, getting in shape for ski season is a completely different problem for me. Eight years ago when it came time to start doing my push-ups before ski season, I did the usual 24 the first day. The next day, my left shoulder didn’t work at all. I was so out of shape that I had torn my rotator cuff doing push-ups. I had to have surgery and missed the first month of the ski season.
These days, about the only exercise I do is live vicariously through the skiers on the big screen while I’m doing the simple sit-against-the-wall exercise. You just put your back against the wall and slide down the wall by bending your legs until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your lower legs are parallel to the wall. Hold this position as long as you can the first time and then increase your time in the sitting position by 10 or 15 seconds each day. In no time at all, you will be sitting against the wall for five minutes. When you can do that, you can easily ski a couple of thousand vertical feet without resting.
The ski season is already underway. It snowed two feet at Mammoth over the Halloween weekend and they are already running half a dozen or more of their chairlifts on two feet of new snow. Now is the time to go somewhere and watch one of my ski movies or buy a DVD of one and get your adrenaline pumping.
The snow will fall within an eight-hour drive of where you live before you know it, so time is running out for you to get in shape for that first trip of the year.
There were only 15 chairlifts in America when I showed my first film in Pasadena in November of 1950. Today, there are over 600 ski resorts in America, but all you can ride is one chairlift at a time. It doesn’t matter if you will be riding on a 200-foot-high mountain or a 10,000-vertical-foot, 50-degree slope in Chamonix, you still have a little bit of time left to get in shape because that aircraft carrier is getting close to port.