Warren Miller: Santa And His Reindeer
It is the time of the year when children all over the world are eagerly listening for Santa Claus and the clatter of his reindeer hoofs on their roof.
It is a scientific fact that female deer shed their antlers after they give birth so they can hide in the trees during the upcoming mating season.
Female reindeer, on the other hand, live in a far northern part of the world where the weather is so cold and terrible trees are not often seen by reindeer. As a result of that natural phenomenon, female reindeer keep their antlers until spring while the bucks shed their antlers in the fall.
Because female reindeer are the only ones with antlers during Christmas, it’s therefore obvious that eight female reindeer haul a very overweight gentleman with a long white beard, wearing a red velvet suit and a sled all over the world without getting lost. That’s because, being women, they are willing to ask for directions! (I’m not sure where Rudolph fits in.)
This Christmas will be the 90th time I have heard those reindeer hoofs on my roof. It did not matter where I was living at the time as Santa Claus always visited me when I was sound asleep.
There must be something hypnotic about the clatter of those reindeer hoofs because each time Santa visited me, he left very memorable presents.
My first electric train, when I was living in Topanga Canyon; a small motorboat that was powered by an Alka-Seltzer tablet and a few drops of water while I was living in the Encino Country Club when my parents were caretaking for the bankrupt owners. That same Christmas he left a set of molds and the lead to melt and pour into them to form infantry soldiers.
That set of molds almost cost me my eyesight when they got so hot. I cooled them off with cold water and when I later poured a ladle of hot lead in them there was still some water in the bottom and they exploded all over the dining room. Fortunately, I was leaning back when they exploded.
Probably the most life-changing Christmas for me was in 1945 when the war was over and I was able to get five days leave and spend it skiing at Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park.
I think those five days were given to me by Santa Claus that year and that set the path that I would follow for the rest of my life.
This will be my 69th Christmas at a ski resort and my 15th Christmas in Montana that just happens to be the fourth-largest state in America with barely 1,000,000 people living here. (Consequently, there are never any lines at the ski lift…or nearly never.)
Just being fortunate enough to be at a ski resort during the Christmas holidays is really hard to describe. From 1945 until three years ago, I skied every Christmas Day until I fell and had the freedom of skiing on my lifelong freedom journey taken away from me. I fell right out in front of our house at three miles an hour and landing on a ski on its edge, I somehow managed to break my back.
Quite often people write about skiing and they almost always include this three-word sentence, “It is indescribable.” And skiing truly is.
Every day you have skis or a snowboard attached to your feet is somehow a little bit better than Christmas Day. When you get to ski on Christmas Day it is indescribable.
Maybe Santa Claus lives on Mars or Jupiter or the other side of the moon? The greatest Christmas present of all unfortunately lies in the hands of the federal government.
All they have to do is release a few of the undeveloped mountains in the West and hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs would instantly be created by ski resort developers.
There are enough long lift lines in Colorado to immediately support several new major resorts so that when you take your vacation, every day will become a Christmas Day from when the lift starts in the morning until it closes in the afternoon. Why not?
Anyone who reads this and says he or she is not a different person at the end of a good ski day is in complete denial.
My good friend Jack Kemp, who unfortunately we lost a few years ago, was instrumental in helping the development of the world’s only private ski resort, the Yellowstone Club with 14,000 acres of private ski runs.
Unfortunately, a complete ski resort cannot fit in Santa’s bag to be hauled all over Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and California. Not to mention Washington and Oregon.
Your local congressmen and senators are all Santa Claus on almost a daily basis year-round, so why not address a letter to them and tell them that this is what you want in your stocking Christmas morning: A brand new, shiny half a dozen chairlifts and infrastructure within 100 miles driving distance of where you live.
Why not? Untold billions of dollars change hands every year in the ski business. More resorts would only help local economies.
As you read this, those female reindeer are working out at the local gymnasium adjacent to Santa’s toy factory. If you write Santa Claus (the Washington, D.C. kind) today asking for a new ski resort, he can still draw up plans for that resort and it won’t be too heavy a load for those lady reindeer to haul and drop off where appropriate. Santa knows exactly where to put them and so does everyone who knows that it’s Greta and Agnes hauling Santa’s sled, not Donner and Blitzen.
Come on, what have you got to lose? Remember when you used to write a letter to Santa Claus and quite often what you asked for in your letter appeared under your tree Christmas day.
Don’t be a pessimist. Santa’s letter worked for you then, it can work for you now!
Santa has blessed Montana as it has 16 ski resorts, 10 of which are only open on Thursdays thru Sundays. Some offer several thousand vertical feet, one chairlift, and no accommodations.
This is not skiing as it used to be, but rather skiing the way it should be. That’s according to Santa Claus.
Photo: Filmmaker Warren Miller (Warren Miller Freedom Foundation)