Warren Miller: The high price of gold
July 13, 2011
The other day I visited a friend here on the island who lives in a place most people would call way back in the woods, up almost a half-mile long, dirt road, and this is what I found there:
My friend who had spent his life as a physical therapist who combined his exercise programs with a combination of Zen, weights, running, vitamins and a complex mixture of health foods. His results were phenomenal and, of course, very expensive. He had semi-retired a couple of years ago and his prices had skyrocketed from their already expensive levels.
He had some houseguests for a week. One of them has a son who is an aspiring junior ski racer. When I was introduced to his son, he was all sweat and dirt on this hot July afternoon, and had a complex shoulder harness with a rope attached to a giant tractor tire. He was dragging it up the dirt road in a cloud of dust.
His father was urging him to drag the tire faster because it was part of his exercise program to get in shape for next winter’s ski racing season. In the meantime here is what his mother and their loan officer at the bank are putting up with:
When Aspen closes for the winter, they rent a condo at Keystone for their family and their son’s private coach so their son could continue to ski and run gates at Arapahoe Basin until it closed.
While living in Keystone they traveled to a racing camp at Mammoth for 10 days for $4,100 – not including airfare and the rental car – to get back and forth to their rented condo in the village. They also managed a week at Whistler training camp for about the same price as Mammoth, but that is OK because it is charged in Canadian dollars.
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His dad said, “It’s worth it because this spring in the J-4 division of ski racing my son was in the top 10. When he finishes this dry-land strength training, his mother will go with him to New Zealand for the racing circuit down there, including the races in Australia. They should only be gone about four weeks of competition and travel.”
Then he will come back for a week or so at Timberline Lodge for training under a different hard-to-hire coach. I will join him there so I can help him with logistics and maybe windsurf at the nearby Gorge in the afternoon a couple of times.
His mother will stay home after that to take care of our other kids while I go with him to Portillo, Chile and the South American racing circuit.
“Hey, I made a lot of money and I can afford it and this ski racing is teaching him responsibility to get to the starting gate on time. I am a pretty good guy with waxing so he does a little better when I am with him than when his mother goes. But she used to be a teacher so he gets a better education when she travels with him.”
The odyssey continues with the plan for the rest of the year. When they return to their hometown of Aspen, they will take Labor Day off and then come here to the island for more strength training by dragging that gigantic tractor tire up and down the dirt road back in the woods. School starts in Aspen in the middle of September but they are hoping to get him a slot at one of the top academies here in the west so he can gauge his improvement against some of the kids who beat him in the J-4 division last spring. There are only four other families I know of who are on a similar schedule of racing and training as they are with their son.
The kid is now almost 14 years old and it will be another 10 years of this kind of travel and training, as his dad says, before he might start to get on the podium occasionally. Right now there are about a dozen kids his age at each of the major resorts in American who could win at any time and in any race. I wonder, are his father and mother living what they wished their life had been through the muscles of their kid and their wallet?
What about the other three kids in the family?
One of them is a daughter and she could not care less about going through slalom gates instead of free skiing. She thinks skiing is all about freedom and why complicates it with gates? The middle son is a snowboarder and as long as dad buys his season pass and his equipment for him, he couldn’t care less about anything except powder snow and leaping off of high cliffs.
The oldest son plays the piano and soccer doesn’t like skiing very well and wants to go to Julliard.
The full time nanny/maid/house keeper/chauffer and grocery shopper is from Guatemala. I never have found out what the financial fountain head of the house does for living, but he is darn good at whatever it is.