I was standing on a catwalk one day when someone skied to a stop alongside of me and said, "You're Warren Miller aren't you?'
"I just have to tell you that my father hates you."
This seemed to be a different way to start a conversation with a stranger.
He said, "Let me ride up on the lift with you and I'll tell you the whole story."
This guy had all the right moves, the right amount of duct tape on his faded gloves, the elbows of his parka a little worn and I knew right away he was between 25 and 35 because he had the mustache of that age group that's looking for identity and not knowing how to get it. He told me his story on the lift.
"When I was a little kid, my Dad used to take me to your personal appearance with your ski films in the Ford Auditorium in Detroit. You always showed up with a new film the night before Thanksgiving and the first two or three times I went, I'd sit in my Dad's lap and scream and shout like everyone else did, I didn't know why I screamed, but it seemed the thing to do.
"I remember when you showed Vail on the screen the first year it was open and you said, 'get out there and discover it before everyone else does.' My dad made Christmas reservations for us the next morning.
"My two brothers, my mom, and I complained all the way from Detroit to Denver, but dad drove nonstop in our station wagon. We had to stay clear down in Glenwood Springs and drive back and forth every day to ski because there was only one hotel in Vail and it was sold out. Dad didn't tell us this until we drove right by Vail that first morning.
"I really got hooked on skiing when my dad skied down the catwalks from Mid Vail with me between his legs.
"From then on, it was an annual family trip for Christmas Holidays and, after three years, we added Easter week. But it was tough for my dad to budget the money and the time to drive. We couldn't afford to fly because he was putting all his money back into the manufacturing plant where he was making automobile radiators.
"One Easter week, he didn't even get to go with the family because he was having union problems and had to stay home to solve them. We were all hooked on skiing by that time. Mom did almost all of the driving except when she got sleepy. I did some of it across Iowa and Eastern Colorado when we thought the police weren't around.
"That Easter I was 14 years old and I got to be pals with the ski patrol and, when we got home, I studied for my first aid certificate. The next year I started helping out by volunteering to work part-time as a ski patrolman during Christmas and Easter week. By the time I was in college, I was spending more time skiing in Colorado more than I was in college.
"I managed to study enough between ski trips until I got my engineering degree three years ago and started to work full time for my dad. My dad always told me that someday I would own and be running the radiator manufacturing business that his father started sixty years ago.
"Then it happened.
"I came back into the plant after a Christmas holiday of powder snow skiing, full moon nights, meeting and skiing with wonderful people, and enjoying great dinner parties. As I wandered around the radiator shop and heard the noise of manufacturing I thought, is this where I want to spend the rest of my life?
"That same day I took my Dad to lunch and said,
"Pop, I can't do it," I said. "I'm going out to Colorado and I'll be a ski patrolman for a year or two. I can work construction during the summer because I just don't want to spend my life running a factory in Detroit. I'm sorry."
He knew arguing was useless, and with a tear in his eye, my Dad said,
"If only I hadn't taken you to so many Warren Miller Films I could be moving out to Colorado instead of you. I really hate that Warren Miller."
The lift ride was almost at an end when he said,
"D'ya mind if I ski down behind you? Oh, yeah Warren, thanks a lot for messing up my life."
(Copyright, 2009: WarrenMiller.net).
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