Three Feet of Snow a Waste in Virginia

By Warren Miller

Warren Miller

What a waste to have it snow three or more feet in Virginia. It is not exactly the heartland of skiing in America. But if that three or more feet of snow had fallen in the western ski resorts, they wouldn’t have been ready to sell lift tickets before Halloween.

I know that the frosting is on the pumpkin already, but if it snowed two feet at your local resort in Montana or Colorado or California this early in the year, the chances are that they, too, would not have anyone to load you on their partially repaired ski lifts. Certainly there are the exceptions to the rule, but it takes a really stoked skier with many years under their skis or snowboard to be ready to go at the fall of a snowflake. My grandson, Ryan, who lives in Boulder, has already skied two Sundays in a row at Arapahoe Basin, where the bottom of the mountain is above ten thousand feet above sea level.

A couple of years ago, together with The Ski Journal magazine (a great publication, by the way), we held a contest for people to write about their first experience on a pair of skis.

One man wrote about when he and his mother drove to the rope tow in Afghanistan and had to park almost two miles away because they had forgotten to build a parking lot.

Another wrote about doing kick turns in his back yard on newly mowed lawn. The skis that he had bought at a ski swap were seven feet long and still had on a soft spring wax that the newly mowed grass stuck to it. When the grass was an inch or so thick, he finally gave up and went to a ski ship to have the bases cleaned and re-waxed.

The winner of the contest was a young man who had found a pair of skis in a trash barrel. They had no bindings and he didn’t know what you needed for bindings. When it snowed an inch or so in his subdivision in Philadelphia he went out into the street in front of his house and tried to ski down the street. He had on a pair of Nike running shoes and for some reason he could not get them to make the skis turn. By the third time it snowed, he had screwed his running shoes to the free skis and was able to at least stay on them.

That was eleven years ago and today he works on the ski patrol at a popular western ski resort that he wanted to remain anonymous.

I know that everyone that reads this can remember his or her first day on skis. You can remember the car you rode to the ski resort in, who you rode there with, the clothes that you wore and what the weather was like. I know that you can remember the first time you stood at the top of a hill regardless of its size, small, medium or large.

My first day on skis was way back in 1937, and that is a long time ago in another century/calendar and an aging memory bank. But what about your next day on skis? Are you going to return to your comfort zone where you know where to park your car and the person who will put you on the chairlift so you can ski down a run that you have skied down time and time again? Why don’t you try a new place with new ski runs and with new people for a change? I always liked to go to as many new places and take pictures of something I had never seen before. I never visited a bad ski resort, nor did my cameramen. Sure we had some bad snow days and an occasional bad day getting from one resort to the next, as was the case when Brian went to North Africa and it rained the entire time. I told him to get a lot of pictures of skiing in the rain and I would handle the problem with the narration. And it worked in the film. When we rode part way up and climbed the rest of the way to the top of an ancient volcano in Hawaii, those who could still breath, skied down and climbed back up and had a great time trying to find enough oxygen to breath as they earned bragging rights for the next weekend at the Outrigger Canoe Club bar on the beach at Waikiki.

I always try to get some kind of message into what I write, and the message here is to broaden your horizons. Try other places to ski. There is nothing holding you back from heading in another direction with your skis on the roof of your car. Why not try some skiing in Virginia if the warm weather doesn’t get there before it melts.

There is always something new and different that might change your life if you do what a famous author once said, “Take the road less traveled.” It has always worked for me. Every ski resort in the world is listed there somewhere. They range from small rope tow resorts where Lindsey Vonn learned how to ski, to mega-resorts in France with almost 250 ski lifts. The only thing that keeps you from exploring a lot of them is your comfort zone. What can happen except that you might fall on an unknown ski run? Maybe that is a good idea, because when you fall, none of your friends will ever find out and your bragging rights will still be intact because the people you tell about it will not have ever been there. Automobiles and airplanes fly both ways. There are always inexpensive motels a few miles down the road from whatever resort you choose if your ski budget is limited. But whatever you do, try something different on your skis and snowboard.