By Warren Miller
Everyone has a packing list for a ski trip. Skis, boots, poles, ski clothes, extra parka, goggles, hat, sox, long underwear, dark glasses, and some sunscreen, just in case. Add to all of that, the non-ski attire for a vacation of similar length and you are already two hundred pounds and three or four suitcases over the limit of free luggage handling on an airplane. You should always have a carry-on overnight bag full of clean underwear and necessary toothpaste and stuff, because your luggage and skis will arrive about the same time your seven days in paradise are over. You will have been using a poorly fitting pair of rental boots and skis that haven’t had their edges sharpened since the bindings were mounted three seasons ago.
In 1946, I took a ski vacation that lasted for five months so packing was a little more complex. The most important thing we needed was a cheap place to stay so I bought a trailer that was eight feet long and four feet wide. The kitchen was outside so we needed a few more things than outlined above. In order to sleep in a trailer without heat, I needed two Army Surplus down sleeping bags. They cost $7.50 each and I inserted one inside of the other and was able to look at a thermometer in the bedroom that registered as low as 36 degrees below zero and yet they let me sleep quite comfortably.
On the roof rack, on the trailer were three different pairs of skis that I had bought from a variety of army surplus stores for a total of $22.50. In the middle of the surplus skis was a pair of almost-top-of-the-line, Northland, ridge-top, laminated hickory skis that only had one knot in one of the skis. I got to buy them for $19.95 instead of the suggested retail price of $29.95. Our pants, parkas, underwear, and boots were also surplus. If you tallied up all of my ski gear for that vacation it was close to $90.00.
We also had a .22 caliber single shot rifle and a combination over and under .22 rifle and .410 shotgun. The over and under worked the best, because if you missed the running rabbit with the shotgun shell, you could whistle real loud and the rabbit, who was almost as dumb as we were to be doing this, would stop so you could fire the .22 bullet and usually nail dinner.
While hunting, we wore Army Air Corp sheepskin-lined, flight boots that really worked. I assume that pilots in those days didnât have heated cockpits, which is why the boots were so warm.
I also brought along my drawing materials so the water based poster paint I used froze and broke the glass jars that it comes in. But it wasnât until I got the jars of paint inside, out of the cold, that they would change from colored ice to usable paint so there was no collateral damage to anything in the trailer because of the broken jars.
For whatever reason, my friend Ward also brought a long a hand crank ice cream machine. He turned it to good use a couple of times. When it was my turn to fry the rabbit, (after I thawed it out) Ward would sit there on a camp stool cranking the ice cream machine, which would keep him warm and at the same time make a good dessert for us. Ward made ice cream in chocolate, vanilla and pineapple, or if you ordered it in advance and he felt like filling your order, he would pick up a small jar of strawberry jam at the grocery store, two quarts of milk and crank the evening away.
Times change and that “search for freedom instinct” burns brighter in some people than others. My search for freedom has been a lifelong one and I have been told a lot of things about the weird lifestyle I pursued at the start. But I sure did get to ski a lot and in my 80’s, over 100 days a season as the Director of Skiing at the US’s only private ski resort, The Yellowstone Club. Initially I lived in a trailer as they built my lodge, admittedly a lot nicer than my 4×8 footer, but as I’ve been saying for years; you will work all of your life to be a success overnight and I haven’t lived all of my life yet.