Warren Miller 

That first turn is addicting


The snow farmers of North America are once again sweating it out. Thanksgiving has come and gone and now the worry is, will enough snow come by Christmas?

Fortunately, the major destination ski resorts have covered their mountains with snowmaking machines and high-speed quads to tire you out with only a few hours of skiing per day. The villages are full of shops that can turn a fistful of credit cards into a burning pile of plastic in less than an afternoon.

No doubt about it, it’s a booming industry. But it’s an industry that was born out of something much smaller, the desire to turn a pair of skis down a hill. Each year, as I anxiously await the snow, I remember when I first became addicted to this sport.

In 1937, when the air of Southern California was as clear as it is in Montana today, I could look to the east and see the San Bernardino Mountains. When there was snow on them, my Boy Scout troop trekked to the snow armed with toboggans and sleds and wearing our soak-up-the-melted-snow clothes. One day, around noon, we were digging a banked turn so that we could do something besides go straight down the hill on our toboggans when I saw four skiers snowplow to a stop next to us.

Those skiers were dry, looked toasty warm and they could turn wherever they wanted to. This chance meeting became the biggest turning point in my life. Those skiers knew something I didn’t know about how to have a good time on top of the snow instead of mucking around in it, as I was, up to the knees of my wet Levis.

There were four skiers, two men and two women. I still find it strange that I can remember everything about that day 65 years ago. Over the years, I have asked a lot of people about their first ski experience. If your first experience was after the age of five, you can probably remember every detail about that first time: the clothes you wore, how you got there, what you had for lunch, the lifts you rode or the hill you climbed.

Why can you remember something so long ago when you can’t even remember what you had for dinner last Thursday night or which movie you saw three weeks ago?

When I ask people that first-day-on-skis question, they get a smile on their face and a glazed look in their eyes. I believe they remember everything about it because it was their first taste of total freedom. You went across the hill at whatever speed your adrenaline would let you go. Then, the first time you completed your first turn through the fall line, it was as though the entire world had opened up and was now yours.


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