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Classics: It's That Time of Year Again



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Classics: It's That Time of Year Again

By Warren Miller

No excuses for not making excuses to play hooky and go skiing.

Early ski season is an odd time. During the first few years that most skiers and snowboarders slide or ride, they try to get out onto the hill the very first day that the ground has turned white—regardless of the fact that there’s only an inch or two of snow covering rocks, stumps and grass. In the spring, when the snow is still seven feet deep, those same people are grabbing golf clubs to go catch a cold walking down a chilly fairway.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, before the invention of snowmaking, there were only two resorts that operated before Christmas vacation: Alta, Utah, and California’s Mammoth Mountain.

Today, most resorts try to open by Thanksgiving. They hire staffs to get the place up and running. But what happens is that all the employees get a month to enjoy themselves on deserted slopes before the paying customers show on Christmas week.

No one listens to the experience of someone who has gone skiing at the first flake every fall since 1946, but snow predictions are based on a lot of well-known scientific facts. For example, if the woolly caterpillar is especially woolly, if squirrels are putting away more nuts than usual or if the Japan Current is one degree colder than normal off the coast of British Columbia, then it’s going to be a long and snowy winter.

All of these signs mean absolutely nothing, of course, until frost regularly appears on your lawn, dew on your windshield is heavier than it has been in months and dropping temperatures drive you to your attic to find cozy sweaters and coats. That’s when the white stuff will start to come screaming out of the north, driven by big winds. The snow will settle between trees, leaving the wide runs without snow cover. After the winds move through, the real snow will start to come down in those big wet flakes, providing a durable base that will make this season one to remember for the rest of your life—or until next ski season.

Here’s a tip from a guy who still gets excited about carving turns as soon as the leaves change color. This preseason, instead of making excuses about why you never got into ski shape, make a list of excuses you can use to sneak away during the work week. That way you’ll be less likely to talk yourself into thinking that a day in the office is more important than a day on skis. It’s not. In fact, somehow those days when you play hooky from work to go skiing are always more enjoyable than your weekend ski days. Somehow the snow is always better, the sun brighter, your lunch tastier.

A lot of smart financial planners gab about discretionary income. I’d rather gab about discretionary time. First, time is more precious than money, so use it wisely. Believe me, at the end of a ski season you’ll remember your days on snow with friends and family more than your days behind a cluttered desk. Sure, head to the mountains when the lifts first open to ski on an inch of snow covering rocks. But save some of your discretionary time for January and early February, when the entire world thinks it’s too cold to go skiing and good deals abound. And don’t forget April, when most everyone is ready to swap skis for clubs, but the snow is often at its best.

I don’t care how well you can get down a mountain. When the urge strikes you to make some turns on the side of a hill, don’t ever be stopped by a calendar, a lack of time or a lack of snow. My advice is go skiing every chance you can. And only you can create chances to do exactly that. As I’ve been saying for years, if you don’t do it this season, you’ll be one year older when you do. 

This column was published in the November 2007 issue of SKI magazine. Miller’s autobiography, Freedom Found, My Life Story, was published in 2016. He died in January 2018, at the age of 93.


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