You like to ski or ride and the finance company has just reposessed your Beemer because they selfishly wanted monthly payments for you to keep it. You chose wisely. You can get along without a car. But you can't get along without that weekend ski fix at Old Mt. Perfect in northern Vermont.

Care and selection of who you will carpool with is very important. It's a five-hour drive from where you live in the big city sitting behind a computer all day and you want to once again stand in your favorite lift line. That's a long time to be singing fraternity songs and drinking beer. Especially when you don't drink and never went to college because of one of the wars.

This set of directions for carpooling will be broken down into several categories. Amongst them are: the care and selection of what kind of a vehicle to ride in; what kind of people to carpool with; how to make them think you are paying your share; how to drive the easiest part of the trip; how to watch out for the police when you're in a hurry, which you always are; how much gear to show up with the first time; and how to handle emergencies, such as flat tires, and running out of gas.

The best vehicle to carpool in is a van. You can disappear into the far corners of it with your favorite pillow and your thumb and fake sleeping for at least two-thirds of the trip.

Always arrive at the carpool meeting place early to accomplish this sedentary goal,.  That way, you can get first grabs on choice of seats.  Spread out your pillow, your sandwiches, and thermos of whatever you prefer to drink before you offer to help put your skis or snowboard on the roof, or your soft bag in the cargo area. Make sure you put your pillow in the left hand rear seat. Then, at the food or gas stops when you are asleep, no one will crawl over you and wake you up.

The best part of the trip to drive is always the first part. Everyone is wide awake and you can do your 100-mile stretch through traffic and toll booths, and not have to handle the icy roads and the "do you know where we are?" questions in the convenience food store in the middle of the night.

About the time your eyelids sag because of a week of burning midnight oil at the factory, it is no longer your responsibility to pilot this fun wagon on its journey to waiting in line at the cafeteria for every meal for the next two days.

How much gear to bring? The first trip, keep it to a minimum. Don't bring your downhill, slalom, giant slalom, and powder skis. Just one pair, please, until you have surveyed the group you travel with so that on future trips you can easily commandeer more space.  It's O.K. to bring one soft luggage bag full of stuff. It's not important to wear a different outfit each day you are skiing. It's more important to please the owner of the van from whom you have mooched your  ride.

Paying your way is a delicate one. If you are smart, you will drive first and at the first gas stop pay the bill. If you try and divide the $40 gas bill by the number of passengers, minus the owner of the van, somewhere in the middle of the night you will be sure and come up with the wrong answer.

Chances are you will run out of gas somewhere. You will need at least a half a dozen tanks full. Get your tank-full purchase over with first and everyone will think you are a great guy and a big spender. They don't know, that your soft luggage is full of two loafs of bread and peanut butter enough to make your cheapskate  sandwiches for three meals a day for two days. If you have already put in your tank-full, you can let someone else walk to the nearest gas station, usually, at least a three-hour distance from where you ran out. 

It has been my experience that a reasonable pair of binoculars is a must for the back seat of a van when you are in a hurry. Whoever rides in the back of the van should take turns tracking attacking police cars. You can spot a set of unlit red lights on top of an unmarked police car from 400 hundred yards, usually in time to slow down before the radar intercept. When it is your turn to be the lookout, make sure the driver knows you will do your best even though you have 20/81 vision and can't tell a Walmart from the gas station from across the street.

Emergencies? There will be a lot of them. When I am reincarnated I want to come back as someone who doesn't know a screwdriver from a lug wrench. If you are called on to help handle an emergency and the person in charge asks you to get the jack from under the back seat and hand him a crescent wrench or a Philips screwdriver or some other non related tool, he or she will know you are inept.

What if you can't find someone with a van or you are 16 years old and your dad won't let you use his Mercedes convertible for the weekend because there is no ski rack for it?

Four on the floor and five in the bucket seats is how you will get there. This is OK because you are young and the gas mileage in a small Nissan is fantastic, in fact a lot longer than required toilet stops. There won't be enough room for all the passengers and the luggage, so make sure you ride in the front seat. The three passengers in the back seat will have to get in first so you can put the luggage in on top of them. The luggage will all fit, but the passengers will arrive with their pants pressed sideways.

How about that SUV? Be careful because this driver will have 2.3 kids, a golden retriever, and a condo that is five miles from where you are staying in  Malcolm's Manor, formerly Ed's Bed's in downtown Montpelier. (Ed recently sold it for $1.2 million and has retired to Maui to windsurf.)

You have to stay awake the whole trip with them so you can get out when you drive by Malcolm's Manor or else mooch floor space from them for Friday night. You don't want to walk the five miles back to town in the rain and all the local taxi drivers have gone to bed hours ago. If you plan in advance to manipulate  this one, have an inflatable mattress and a down sleeping bag hidden in your rucksack.

Hide-a-beds are the world's most uncomfortable places to spend the night. Except for  three airline terminal chairs that are nailed to the floor side by side.

If you are unlucky enough to have to drive the last leg, wait until everyone is sound asleep. Swing the steering wheel violently from side to side as you hit the brakes hard. When the vehicle comes to a skidding stop, all you have to say is, "Wow, that was a weird dream I just had. Sorry, if I woke you up." The adrenalin of the owner of the vehicle will instantly take over and he'll insist on driving, so you can go back to sleep for the rest of the trip.

What if you belong to  a ski club group with a lot of trips ahead of you? Offer to bring the electric skillet and the Macaroni casserole for Saturday night. Never mind you are sneaking into a motel for two with a van full of skiers. Always ask to rent a back unit,  out of sight of the office.

Cooking is easily accomplished in the bathroom with the ventilator fan running full blast. (Stay away from Tuna casseroles because they smell up the room). Any frozen casserole will stay that way from Friday night until thaw-out time, sometime Saturday night.

Carpooling is a wonderful way to save those monthly car payments and still keep on skiing and let you continue to buy the latest and greatest ski gear, instead of collecting car payment receipts.

Covet thy carpool car owner for he is definitely an endangered species. He will transport you, shelter you, educate you, so regardless of how you feel about him personally, treat him the same way you treated your commanding officer when you were in the army. Learn to manipulate the system because you don't have to spend every weekend with him during the summer.

Everything I have passed on as wisdom applies for the Sunday night return trip.

On this one, though, you have to listen to all of the war stories of turning skis, girls or guys met, addresses acquired, accidents that happened, and how you stayed somewhat dry while making  83 runs  during the three inches of tropical rain that fell.  

Be sure you drive the first leg. If you drive later, repeat the  "SWERVE-JAM-ON-THE-BRAKES-WAKE-EVERYONE-UP-ADRENALIN- PUMPER" on purpose. You will arrive back in town, rested, and ready to sign on for another weekend of carpooling.

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