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On Growing Up... With Someone Who Never Did

By Chris Miller (For SnoWorld 1990)

On a warm summer morning, my father put me on the front of his surfboard and together we paddled to the outside waves, a quarter of a mile from shore. I was five years old. 

Breaking through the waves on the way out, I held on tightly to the board, thrilled by the new experience.

As we were riding to shore, my dad was hollering for me to stand up. I was suddenly caught up in the excitement of the moment of this new sensation. He threw me onto his shoulder. Seven feet above the water the wind seemed stronger, the water much deeper.

I was lucky. At age five, I had just been given my first taste of freedom – Warren Miller-style. 

With Warren as my father, I began to understand early that I should be involved in sports for personal enjoyment.

When my brothers, my dad and I traveled to Europe, my father gave a letter to us the night before we left. He talked about where we were going and told us about the countries we were about to visit; how little anything would change while we were away. He said only our minds would reflect what we were about to experience. How right he was. 

When I returned, my world did look the same. The supermarket was in the same place. Even the beach appeared just as I had left it a week earlier. Yet, something was altered… me. The world became much different because my perspective of it had changed.

From our living room to theaters throughout the world, my Dad has shown changes in skiing.

At age eight, I would put on my best party dress and my new patent leather shoes. I was going to see Dad’s new ski film at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The excitement was as thrilling then as it is today, when the curtain opens and my father’s voice introduces the film. 

At intermission, he used to have me come up on stage and pick the door prize winners from a box. As I walked across the stage toward him, over 20 years ago, I still remember how quiet the auditorium was. You could hear the clip-clop of my shoes on the hardwood floors.

At one show, there was a helicopter on display out front advertising ski trips. The pilot asked if anyone was interested in flying back to the airport. I was. As we took off over the ocean, the pilot asked if I’d ever seen Los Angeles from the air. We flew down Sunset Blvd., over Hollywood, back through the twin towers at Century City and returned to the airport via Wilshire Blvd. Again, a whole new perspective of the world was mine.

When Dad brought home guests for dinner, they were mountain climbers, teaching up climbing techniques in the kitchen door jambs. We are breakfast with inventors and dinner with astronauts. Skiing with celebrities and ice skating with politicians.

On a Christmas morning in Sun Valley, Idaho when I was 14, my father and I were riding the chairlift together. You could see for a dozen miles across the valley. There was new powder, and the sky was a cobalt blue. It was a Warren Miller movie day.

In the warm sun on this below zero morning, my dad turned to me and said “this is when I never pushed you to spend your Sunday mornings in a building somewhere. Because… if God is anywhere, he is right here making this day.” He put his arm around me and said, “Merry Christmas.”

The cameras have always seemed to give him the excuse to record the beat of his own drum, as if he needed an excuse.

My head has been filled with experiences as the years passed that have helped explain life to me. Spending time outside, letting life happen, expecting the unexpected, letting go of pressures to be ready to see and experience what’s just over the horizon.

 Daily I expand my urge to learn more as I begin to find myself in my own adventures. Spending time with my dad opened me to allow the freedom of the moment to influence me forever.

And most importantly, he helped me open the door to look at myself, knowing that there will always be a mountain of possibilities.

I am a very lucky lady. I grew up with Warren Miller as my dad.