Friday, February 19, 2010

Warren takes a spill


(Editor's note: Ski filmmaker Warren Miller took a spill while skiing in mid-January and his wife Laurie Miller wrote this column for him).

Do troubles come in threes? I hope so.

Last week, Warren fell on his second turn of the day. When I can't go out and ski with him, I call the ski patrol and ask them to keep an eye on him. He's 85—not a child, but if he falls, skiing alone, I want someone knowing he's out there.

He fell on the second turn. The wonderful patrollers got to him right away. He thought he'd just stepped out of his binding, maybe snow under the toe or something. They helped him back up and he made another turn and down again. This time, he landed flat on his back across the ski.

They brought him home in a snowmobile and took his skis to the shop to check the binding. In another day he was so uncomfortable, I took him to Bozeman to the hospital for x-rays. He had a compression fracture of his T-6. Two days later, after lying around at home and hurting terribly, he was in so much pain I admitted him to the hospital. They started a round of those amazing drugs. The repercussions of those drugs—well, that's a little of what I'm going to report.

He has been saying the most bizarre things. I've been in hysterics. Not nice to laugh at him but I am anyway! I've only written his column a couple times before in the last 20 years. The first time was when he broke his leg and I wrote the column then on all the wonderful hallucinations he was having. The second time, I wrote about the Foundation I started in his name: the Warren Miller Freedom Foundation teaching business and entrepreneurial skills to young people. He's so proud of their progress (

I've been worrying that bad things happen in threes—with his accident being #2 after the house flood we've dealt with since mid-December. Hopefully #3 came when I got the phone call from our wonderful island caretakers in Washington. They told me the Sunday night storm was so bad and the tide so high that the ramp bounced off the float and was hanging from the pier into the water. Thankfully no one was hurt.

After relating this to Warren, in his stupor he said, "Are you building another Mississippi and going to the delta to build another boat?" Now, where did that come from? That's the kind of thing I'm talking about, though.

Warren has never smoked nor had any alcoholic beverages in his lifetime. It's amazing but true. Maybe that's why he's had such energy and perseverance starting and growing his film company 60 years ago.

I don't know if you loyal-friends-of-Warren-Miller know how dedicated he has been over the years, sometimes traveling to 110 cities and ski resorts in a year to show the film and film for the next year. I imagine he did it by keeping his system so clean (except for the countless Burger Kings and Big Macs)!

Consequently, I think his system reacts to any mind-altering chemicals he is given.

Warren was supposed to go to the X-Dance film festival to help give awards, then on to the SIA in Denver for a couple of personal appearances, and then to the Powder Magazine awards in Aspen. He was so bummed. In fact, as we sit in the hospital room, just the two of us, he has hallucinated that he's already flying there. He has wondered aloud why there were no pilots on board, or why that lady sitting there has such purple hair?

Ninety percent of the time he is not nearly 85, despite his birth certificate. But I have been concerned that the years may make this injury difficult for him. I'm so relieved during his alert, awake moments that he says how anxious he is to get this healed so that he can get back out skiing. Amazing soul.

At 85, so full of life (and devilry) and energy, where does it come from? He's so glad he can ski right out his front door. After all those years of terribly hard work, it's been quite a fitting reward.

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