Ward Baker and the Trailer Days

By Warren Miller

Warren Miller

How could any one person have been so dumb as to spend two winters living in the Sun Valley parking lot, in an eight-foot long teardrop trailer without heat? Simply because there was another guy just as dumb as I was. Ward Baker is his name and we slept in that trailer in temperatures as low as thirty-eight below zero one of the winter nights.

Was that dumb or what?
We each had two down sleeping bags with one inside of the other. At seven dollars for each bag it was money well spent.

Quite often I am asked what got me interested in making ski movies. It was Ward Baker. When we made our first ski trip together to Yosemite in December of 1945 he had an 8mm camera with him and when I first saw the shaky, poorly exposed photos I had taken of him and the steady shots he had taken of me I was hooked. I bought my first 8mm camera the day I got mustered out of the Navy six months later in 1946. Since then I have spent more money on unexposed Kodachrome film in my life than I would ever want to have to admit to.

I talked with Ward recently and he is living in Maui, Hawaii and doing a lot of spear fishing. He is in his late eighties and he has a big complaint about his life in the islands. He said that most of the fish that live above sixty feet deep have been killed by too many spear fishermen and women. He still does not use any Scuba gear but instead just free dives with a face mask, swim fins and a spear. He said he used to be able to stay down below eighty five feet for a couple of minutes but now is having a hard time staying below sixty five feet for that same length of time. The last time he swam towards shore trailing a couple of fish he had speared he got very mad because a shark had bitten them in half. Fortunately for Ward the dead fish were on a six foot long line trailing out behind him as he swam towards shore.

Already it is October and while I am starting to line up someone to sharpen the edges on my skis this winter Ward is sharpening up his spear gun so he can keep fresh fish on the table. I just want to make slow turns down the hill. It has always seemed strange to me that after our two years of living in the Sun Valley parking lot together he never went skiing again or is it that I am dumber than a box of rocks?

However after going skin diving with him at Palos Verdes in the summer of 1948 I never went skin diving again. You should continue to do whatever turns you on. As long as I continue to enjoy turning right and left down the side of a snow covered hill and I can get my body in shape to do it I will keep on doing it. But no more trying to keep up with my wife Laurie.

About getting bodies in shape, I have to report the one-month result of the diet I wrote about in September. I have dropped from 215 pounds to 191 and have a lot more energy. I do know though that Ward Baker has never had a weight problem because of his skin diving exploits. I, on the other hand, have been dining on ski resort cuisine for the last sixty years and it is hard to say no to these pastry trays when the waiter walks by with them and you know that your name is on at least a half dozen of them before you go to your room for your afternoon nap.

Yes, it is getting to be that time of the year when the wind comes roaring out of the east and as I ride on the ferry, off in the distance Mt. Baker has snow clear down almost to the valley below.

None of the winter scenes would have been filmed by me over a 55 year career if Ward and I had never lived in that parking lot in Sun Valley. Keep in mind that we filmed each other for two winters on our individual 8mm movie cameras and there were fewer than 16 chairlifts in America when we were filming untracked powder snow in the bowls of Sun Valley learning how to do it the right way. We learned about composition and back lighting and storytelling as we looked at them, shared them and later learned how to edit them.

Ward was always after fish for he and his wife Jackie to share with friends at dinner when he went into the ocean and for some reason I cannot explain, I was always taking a movie of what I was seeing and sharing it with my friends. I probably should have learned a skill that would feed me!