Warren Miller’s First Time Ever Contest: Fourth Place

After much deliberating, discussion and delight, The Ski Journal, in conjunction with Warren Miller, is proud to announce the top ten entries for our ‘First Time Ever on Skis’ contest. With hundreds of submissions ranging from 2010 to the 1940’s, from Norway to Dubai to Norcal, featuring tragedy and triumph, family, friends and strangers, uphill and downhill, poems, prose and even a few run-on sentences, suffice to say that they all brought smiles to our faces—and brought back our own personal memories of the purity of our first time sliding on snow.

Alas, there can only be one winner—on February 2, we began counting down the top ten entries, culminating with Mr. Miller’s favorite essay on Friday, February 11th. A special thanks to Mr. Warren Miller and contest sponsors K2, Orage, Smith Optics, and media partner Newschoolers.com. And you, the reader, who took the time to relive your first time with us—we hope your stories were as enjoyable to write as they were to read.

Fourth Place: My First Time.

By J. Guy Binko.

It was 1970; America was torn by an unwanted and unjust war, drafting students out of college to fight in Southeast Asia. I was one of those students with such high expectations about college and the future of America.

Drafted in May of 1970, right out of college, weeks after the Kent State protest, I had to go fight in Vietnam. Fate was on my side (or luck, I’m not sure!), but as a draftee, they were sending me to ALASKA instead! At least no one was shooting at me there!

I stepped off the plane in Fairbanks on September 1, 1970 and it was SNOWING. This California boy never saw it snow and it was magic, with feathery flakes falling to the ground; everywhere everything was white.

By February, I had experienced cold, 40 degrees below and more. Two rich guys in Finance had their skis sent to them from Vermont and asked if I would like to learn to ski. Hell, YES.

I had a car and Cleary Summit was about 40 miles east of Fairbanks. Cleary Summit was the farthest north skiing area in the Northern Hemisphere (at least that’s what the patch they sold me said!). During a heat wave, 15 degrees above zero, the three of us took off to go skiing. We got there easily and they rented 195cc skis, boots and poles for me for $2.00 for all day.

They said they would show me how to ski. Then they took me to the edge of a run (I don’t really remember how steep it was because they ALL looked steep), and pushed me off the edge saying “You’ll figure it out.” They took off to ski the powder on the expert runs, while I floundered on that one slope zigzagging back and forth between falls.

I did this all day, but the T-Bar by far was the most frightening part. If you got out of the track, your skis would start following another track—never parallel to one another. Many times the left went more left and the right went more right at the same time. I had never done splits before!

Between the T-Bar and the steep slope, I fell many times but it was best way to stop on that “first day.” Yes, I figured it out, the T-Bar was a challenge. I sure fell a lot, lost my wallet (and found it three weeks later in the snow!). But that day, February 1, 1971, I fell in love with this winter sport that I’ve been chasing for over 40 years.


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