Opinion » Editorial

Warren Miller

Blizzard memories



The abundance of snow this year reminds me of a winter years ago when the Northwest was buried in snow. That winter, I traveled to Oregon to promote one of my films.

I caught the last flight out of Los Angeles and by the time I got to Portland, it was after midnight and raining very hard. I was tired from the bumpy ride and a hard day in the office. The rental car lady was equally as tired and grumpy, so I took whatever car she had left that had a set of skid chains in the trunk.

Around 1:30 a.m., my headlights cut through the torrential rain mixed with wet snow as I headed up the highway to Timberline Lodge. The second time I lost control of the car on an icy curve, I decided to check into the next motel that appeared beside the road.

The next motel that appeared looked so old that it was probably already beside the road when President Roosevelt drove by in 1936 on his way to dedicate Timberline Lodge. My sagging antique bed proved my estimate of the motel’s age. The miniature electric heater seemed to have only been turned on occasionally, when someone checked in. I sat on the bed for at least 20 minutes while the freezing cold room warmed up almost two degrees. I finally slid into an ice-cold bed, wearing all of my clothes, including my parka and most of those in my suitcase, too. I laid there wide-awake and shivering for another 30 minutes.

When the first gray streaks of dawn showed up a few hours later, I was still freezing cold, curled up in a fetal position, looking out at a blizzard. I’ve been in this same situation many times in all of the years I have been on the road, so I knew what was ahead of me driving up the road to Timberline Lodge. Since the asphalt under the car had the shallowest snow available to put chains on a car, I put them on right there in the motel parking lot.

Half an hour later I felt secure, with the chains humming loudly on the back wheels as I gained altitude towards my business appointment with Dick Kohnstamm, the owner of Timberline Lodge. I was trying to sell him a promotional movie because of the 15 feet of snow that had already fallen by January 5 th that year.

About an hour later, in a blinding snowstorm, I arrived to a completely full parking lot in front of the lodge. I headed back down to the lower parking lot, which was empty, except for about a foot and a half of new snow. So far in this midweek snowstorm, it had not needed to be plowed. Since I felt so comfortable with those skid chains on the rear wheels, I drove out into the middle of it and spun a few 360s for the fun of it.