Warren Miller classics: It’s That Time of Year Again

There’s no excuse for not making excuses to play hooky and go skiing.
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Warren Miller At Home On the Slopes

Early ski season is an odd time. During the first few years that most skiers and snowboarders slide or ride, they try to get 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 patches of 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 full staffs to get the place running. But what actually happens is that all the new 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 snowy winter.

All of these signs mean nothing, of course, until frost regularly appears on your lawn, the 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, 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 financial planners gab about discretionary income. I’d rather gab about discretionary time. Because time is more precious than money, use it just as 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 slopes the first week of the season to ski on a few inches of snow. But save some of your discretionary time for late January and early February, when some people think it’s too cold to ski and good deals abound. And don’t forget April, when the sun is hot, the snow is soft, the slopes are often empty and you’re in top form.

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.

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