Miller

A skier gets some hang time in the Silverton, Colorado, segment of Warren Miller's film, “Line of Descent.”

Photo by Scott DW Smith

First Bruce Brown, now Warren Miller.

A moment of silence and then let’s join hands and make two turns down the mountain.

Miller, who popularized skiing through his more than 500 films about skiing, (Brown did the same for surfing) died a few days ago at 93.

I’d come back as either other one of them but there would be competition. People are looking for work that doesn’t work like work. Work they’d do for free.

Life can be serious. Challenging. Sometimes a royal drag.

Fun is important. Fun and people who are in charge of fun. People who remind us there is life beyond our desks. Remind us that life that may begin at the end of the road, in the beautiful places that can make us feel beautiful even when we feel unbeautiful.

Miller made it a habit of screening his films in the fall to get everybody revved up for ski season. Bakersfield was one of his stops. If you couldn’t go skiing, couldn’t ski the deep powder, you could watch one of Miller’s films and pretend as if you were shoulder-high in feathery light snow while floating down the mountain.

Bakersfield is fortunate. We are 90 minutes from Alta Sierra, three hours from China Peak and four hours from Mammoth. The end of the road is a half-tank away.

My earliest memories with my family included trips to Greenhorn and Mammoth. I don’t know how my parents did it with six kids. Did it, paid for it and put up with kids who were either losing mittens, sobbing about their cold feet or asking for help putting on their skis.

The skis were long then and turning them required an act of Congress. If you crossed your tips, something was going to give and it was usually your head or your knees. The boots hurt. Wool was heavy and if you wore a sweater you might as well have strapped a sheep on your back.

Everything is different now. The equipment is lighter, warmer and faster. The only hard thing about skiing is the price of the lift tickets, topping $100 at places like Mammoth.

It’s worth it. If only for one day. You’re never hungrier than after a morning, afternoon or day of skiing. Chips, a turkey sandwich, an apple and some homemade chocolate chip cookies for lunch. Skiing makes a picnic taste like a feast.

It’s not only the food though. Skiing heightens the senses. Unless you break a leg, run into a tree or get mowed down by the world’s fastest teenager, skiing is invigorating and makes you glad you are alive in a way that almost no other sport does.

Miller knew that, lived that and filmed that. He captured the joy, the fun and the sport’s nutty characters. Along the way, Miller got a few runs in too.

A few years ago, Miller talked about what led him and his fellow ski bums to head to the mountains.

“It’s our search for freedom,” he said. “It’s what it’s all about — man’s instinctive search for freedom.”

A search for freedom, beauty and our better selves.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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