It snowed almost five feet in four days with intermittent 60 mph wind that filled in all of the moguls. I deposited more untracked powder snow turns in my memory bank than I had ever done in one day in my life on this particular "Big Wednesday" when the sun burst out.
It was the kind of a day that I've shared with millions of people over 55 years making my annual ski films. Riding up on the quad at 8:32 a.m. with my friends, they asked, "This is a perfect Warren Miller movie day. Don't you kinda miss running your camera on days like this?"
"Some ski days were like this," I replied. "Others were a little different. Let me tell you about a day of filming that I would consider normal."
It is 9 a.m. on a freezing cold spring morning and the World Professional Ski Racing Championships starts here in Aspen in an hour and a half.
I'm at the bottom of the number one chair lift in my car with my feet out the door, while I sit in my jockey shorts and T-shirt getting dressed to go film the race.
Not when you have been in the film business as long as I have been. Let's go back to when my alarm went off four hours earlier, at 5 a.m., 100 miles from here.
I was packed and on the road an hour later and my first stop was the local plastic fast food stop. The five other people who were standing out in the freezing, semi- darkness had just been told that the manager's car wouldn't start.
They wouldn't be serving their regular egg substitute and sausage between a chalky tasting biscuit until at least 8:30 a.m. Or until some employee would volunteer to drive down valley and jump-start his car. The manager had the only set of keys to the building.
Early in the morning, it is a beautiful drive from Vail to Glenwood Springs. Except for the occasional deer that went one-on-one with an 18-wheeler sometime during the night and lost.
This ski filming day all happened before Glenwood Canyon was widened to four lanes. It was always half an hour or more wait for the dynamited rocks to be cleared before you could continue. No matter what time you got there, your direction of one-way traffic had already left. So I got to wait for what seemed like three days before my westbound lane of traffic got to proceed.
Glenwood Springs had a fast food manager whose car actually started. I was now driving while munching on a chalky muffin full of greasy sausage and soggy eggs, plus a slowly coagulating container of orange juice that had spilled all over the steering wheel and my lap. A pick up truck ran a boulevard stop and I had to jam on my brakes. It was now a slow, easy, but sticky drive up the Roaring Fork Valley to Aspen.
I got to follow a line of 71 cars that were being led by an overloaded redi-mix truck at 27 MPH.
Fortunately he turned off at Snowmass, so the rest of the trip to Aspen was a breeze. Except for the sheriff who was driving a plain unmarked pick up truck with $50,000 worth of radar concealed somewhere on it. I got a ticket for going 40 in a 35 zone.
Fifteen minutes later, I met the camera crew in the lobby of the hotel, got my rucksack load of camera gear, a tripod, and a lift ticket so I could get to the top of Ruthies and ski down to the start of the race.
While trying to register for my room, I was told, "There are no rooms available. Your crew is one person larger than your reservations."
No big deal. I'd been left out before.
This is why I'm now at Lift One in my jockey shorts and T-shirt, pulling on my long underwear.
Reaching in my suitcase in the back seat for my ski pants, I learned there were none. I've skied and filmed in Levis before. Anyway, it looks like it might eventually be a warm spring day. When I tried to put on my windbreaker, I discovered it was my wife's.
I've skied in a trench coat before and will again someday.
When I finally arrive at the top of Ruthies with all of my gear, the rest of the crew has already started to ski down with their own rucksacks full of camera gear. The snow is still frozen ruts and death cookies with an occasional smaller unconscious cookie to trip you up when you least expect it.
With sharp edges and a 45-pound rucksack, I realize I'm going faster than I want to go, so I went into my famous snowplow to a stop. At about 20 MPH, I stepped out of both skis.
Instead of snowplowing to a stop, I'm now sliding down on my stomach with the rucksack on the back of my head forcing my face into the ice. It's a 50-yard slide with both arms out in front of me. I jam my outstretched right arm against a larger than normal death cookie and I know something is seriously wrong with my shoulder, my bindings, and my head.
Working the two-way radio with my left hand, I notified the rest of the crew that I would be down to help them before dark and not to hold up the race for me.
Close examination of my skis revealed that they had been used by someone else who had changed the bindings and given them back without telling me. My Swiss army knife adjusted the bindings back to where they should have been so I could get down to the race course. It took 119 kick turns to get there.
The day turned warm and the snow got very slushy. I forgot to put on sunscreen and got a sunburn that made me look like a boiled ham. My Levis got sopping wet, I laid down my gloves to run the camera and they are now in "the I lost it and you found it department."
My boots have a half a gallon of water in each of them and as the sun went down I have to ski down to my car on snow that is mostly frozen. The rucksack is killing my torn up shoulder, the snow feels like cottage cheese here, buckshot there, and frozen wagon wheel ruts somewhere else.
Walking through the parking lot to put my gear into the car, I see that my right front wheel has a yellow garbage can lid leaning against it.
The dreaded "Denver Boot" is bolted onto it for illegal parking. So I called the police.
"We are short handed and will try and get someone over before the next shift comes on, or within seven hours, whichever comes first. Oh yes, it costs $125 to take it off. Cash only, no credit cards or checks, please."
I am sitting half in and half out of the car, with my wet Levis and long-johns draped over the open door, my ski boots alongside a deep mud puddle by the car. I'm semi-naked in my T-shirt and my jockey shorts again when the police car ground to a stop and knocked my ski boots into the mud puddle where they disappeared into it's murky depths.
Their ticket read, "illegal parking, $125, changing clothes, and almost naked in the parking lot."
So far it's been a standard day with a wrecked shoulder, a sunburned, bald head, and the thought that I could now drive around Aspen on a Saturday night with my left hand, while I looked for a hotel. I needed one that would rent me a room for less than seven nights or less than a thousand dollars, whichever came first.
I soon gave that up, and drove as far as Glenwood Springs, where I managed to get a room for the night for $50. It was next to a room that a fraternity had rented for their weekend beer bust.
However, I did manage to get a lot of good ski racing images on film. Now, it is time to get off of the quad lift at the top and get set for yet another untracked powder snow run on Big Wednesday.
My friends said, "Let's count our turns this time."
I managed to carve 81 consecutive untracked powder snow turns without a camera in sight.
"Yes, both days were perfect filming days. But, I'm the only who will have those powder snow turns of BIG WEDNESDAY deposited in my memory bank."
(Copyright, 2009: WarrenMiller.net).
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