In 1947, I made the decision to spend my winters anywhere where there was enough snow to turn those weird things attached to my two feet. During that time, I have seen all kinds of unusual weather conditions. I had watched 4 feet of snowfall on Big Sky, Mont., during the last week of June.
“I have seen all kinds of unusual weather conditions. I had watched 4 feet of snowfall on Big Sky, Mont., during the last week of June.”
I almost got caught in a blizzard that dumped 24 feet of snow in 24 hours only 47 miles from the Los Angeles City Hall. It happened on Mount Waterman in 1943 and fortunately I had five other skiers to help me push the car out of half a dozen snow banks before we got low enough on the mountain where the snow turned to rain. Then, I had to dodge the big rain soaked clumps of mud that were rolling down onto the highway.
Mammoth Mountain in 1953 had so much snow in one storm that they lost a big tour bus for three days. The snow fell in such great depths that the bulldozers were driving around in the deep snow on the roof of the bus until one of them discovered it.
When I was teaching at Squaw Valley in 1949-50, we had a colossal dump of snow that amounted to 7 or 8 feet overnight. When they tried to start up the chairlift, the engine ran but the cable would not move. Six of us put sealskins on and climbed the lift line to discover that a massive slide on the Headwall had wiped out one of the towers. Fortunately, it was a hold down tower and, with a lot of hard work, most of it dangerous, or I would call stupid today, we managed to get the cable free from the destroyed tower and run the lift again.
One of my cameramen, Don Brolin, sat in rain storm for a week in the Sierra and, when he started filming, the snow was a mass of corduroy snow ridges about 2 feet high made from the rivulets of run-off. The pictures of the weird snow were great, but the skiing was awful.
My first experience with weird snow might have been a game changer for me. Two inches of it fell on the beach at Topanga Canyon when I lived there in 1929. When I saw it for the first time, my mother explained to me what it was. I just knew it was cold on my bare feet, so I walked to the ocean wading in the creek.
One of the things that I learned early in my ski life was that it certainly did no good to complain about the weather or the snow conditions. On Dec. 29, 1948, it dropped almost an inch of warm tropical rain on the roof of our trailer in the Sun Valley parking lot. Once the rain stopped, it never got above zero for the next month. Baldy was so icy that we all rode down on the Canyon and River Run lift every day. Offset edges had not been invented yet. It was just what it was.
Warren Miller is history’s most prolific and enduring ski filmmaker. Visit warrenmiller.net or his Facebook page at facebook.com/warrenmiller. Read more of Warren’s stories at TheTahoeWeekly.com.