Review: Wine, Women, Warren, and Skis

Any ski bum worth his salt knows the name Warren Miller. The man has directed dozens of ski movies, each with his own personal flair.

Well today, let’s talk books.

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Miller is known for his movies but is actually a talented writer as well – even at the age of 90. Much like talking to grandparents about the War in 1945 gave you a first hand account, so too does Miller’s life – in this case, before RFID passes, $100 day tickets, and cafeteria food that costs more than some nicer restaurants. When skiing was first and foremost a way of life, and a business as a happy coincidence.

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Wine, Women, Warren, and Skis is a book that’s not too big (you can easily finish it in a sitting or two) that captures that Golden Age of Skiing. Miller chronicles one season, the winter of 1945, living in a camper the size of a pull-out couch, with just enough room for the barest of essentials. It’s funny, endearing, and you can’t help but cheer for the protagonist when he coerces or cheats his way on hill and gets to ski another day.

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All photos taken from my Kindle (these illustrations are impossible to find online, and they’re too good not to show).

Reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, this book gives the reader an idea of just how desperate times can be. Take this instance of Miller and his friend’s method of dealing with a frozen radiator:

We now had it down to a pretty good science… we would take a long stick, wrap it in old rags and soak the rags in gasoline. Then we would start the car. Once the car was running, we would light the rags, then with the flames about eight feet high we would hold this in front of the radiator. The fan from the engine would suck the flames through the radiator and theoretically thaw out the ice. The only problem was the amount of gasoline to use. The third time we tried this I put too much gasoline on the rag and it not only thawed out the ice but melted the distributor cap, burned the wire off the plugs and thawed out the inside of the car for the first time in three months.

That’s one of many stories.

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This is another.

Many people move to ski towns because of what Warren Miller has shown them on screen. This book crystallizes, and to a degree, romanticizes the life of a – no, the – ski bum. If anything, this is the lifestyle to which so many of us still cling, despite the corporate stranglehold. Some of us are still holding that stick in front of the radiator for the sake of a few perfect turns.

If you’re a self-proclaimed ski bum, read this to reacquaint yourself with the values you hold dear. If you’re not a ski bum, read this… then pack up the Buick.

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