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A conversation with Warren Miller


By G.D. Maxwell

Warren Miller is almost as entertaining as a speaker as he used to be when he made the films that continue to bear his name. Anyone who can figure out a way to wrest a living from the thrill of skiing is halfway to heaven on earth.

He spoke last week at the Whistler Chamber of Commerce Spirit Luncheon and was kind enough to spend 45 minutes beforehand shooting the breeze about the sport we all love. I don’t know whether he was practising his speech or if the questions helped him decide what to talk about but those of you who were there might have heard some of this before.

Pique: Do you think there’s a link between the demise of stretch pants and the declining popularity of skiing?

WM: Absolutely! There’s no doubt about it. I write a weekly newspaper column and I wrote that about three years ago and then sold the same column to Ski Magazine . I got more e-mails from that column than any other I’ve ever written.

Most people credit Howard Head, safety bindings, snow grooming and snow making for causing the big bubble in ski popularity. I said, "You’re wrong. It’s stretch pants."

Sex sells; I don’t care what you say. And in today’s world, if you stand in a lift line you can’t tell whether somebody weighs 100 or 200 pounds. They all look like a sack of cats on the way to the river. Particularly the women.

I kept getting these e-mails from ladies saying, "I’m 45 and I still fit in my 1962 stretch pants. Do you know where I can get a new ones?" I really believe that.

Pique: Why doesn’t everyone ski?

WM: There are three reason most people don’t ski: price, price and price. If I want to hook you on cocaine, I don’t say, "Hey, give me a thousand dollars." I start giving you samples. The ski industry does not give samples.

Why doesn’t a place like Whistler-Blackcomb, for example, have an outlet in downtown Vancouver... where it’ll cost $10 to get boots, bindings, skis, poles and a one day ticket on the beginning chairlift?"

I’ve been preaching that concept for 40 years. And so far, nobody’s done it.

Pique: Why’s the ski industry so dumb?

WM: About five years ago, in a six day period, I was at Sun Valley, Aspen and Vail. As it turned out, I had lunch with the president of each place and I told them the same story. All three of them told me exactly the same thing. "If we did that, everybody else would."

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