Thursday, January 25, 2018

Rest in Peace Warren Miller

Forget about the weather today.  I just learned of the passing of Warren Miller at the age of 93.  I find myself surprisingly emotional considering I never met the man, but he had a profound influence on my life.

It's probably difficult for younger skiers to understand the anticipation for the screening of a Warren Miller Film in the pre-internet days.  As a youngster in upstate New York, we would travel to Proctor's Theater in Schenectady each fall where Warren would personally narrate that year's movie, shot on location in some of the most spectacular places on the planet.  Today you see footage from many of these places on YouTube after some person's run of a lifetime, but video of skiing in the Selkirks or New Zealand was like seeing skiing from another planet back in the day.  The ONLY way to see it was to go see a Warren Miller movie.

Wikipedia provides a chronological list of Warren Miller movies, beginning with his first, Deep and Light, in 1950.  I can't remember the name of the first Warren Miller Movie I saw, but I suspect it was Snowonder.  I certainly remember aspects of Ski Time, Ski Country, and Steep and Deep.  The plots of these moves are all the same, but that didn't matter.  You could count on videos of humorous chairlift incidents, hero worship of god- and goddess-like bronzed skiers, lines like "we're in the Monashees with Mike Wiegele skiing with <insert ski god and goddess names here>", followed by some incredible ski footage.

In the early 1980s, Warren Miller had no peer.  Greg Stumpf's groundbreaking "Blizzard of Ahhhs," which probably did more to push the ski-movie genre to the "extreme" than any other movie, wasn't released until 1988.  There was no Teton Gravity Research.  There were no GoPros.  You want Red Bull?  Buy cherry Kool-Aid.  Everyone you rode on the lift with at Alta didn't claim to be a pro skier.

It's worth a look at the trailer to Warren Miller's Ski Time from 1983, reflecting the mixture of what one would find in a Warren Miller movie at the time.  Andrew Mclean and other kite skiers will enjoy the sailboarding scene.

In the 1980s, Miller began shooting footage of Scot Schmidt, who was unlike anything seen previously, at least in the United States.  Everyone wanted to copy his signature "smear turn" and the footage of Schmidt skiing was the highlight of any Warren Miller movie at the time.  Here's some footage of Schmidt from those 1980s Warren Miller films.

Early Scot Schmidt from JC Ski on Vimeo.

What Schmidt did on the equipment of the time was quite staggering.  In the early 1980s, there were no all-mountain skis.  For a while, I believe Schmidt skied on a pair of K2 Comp-910s, basically K2's downhill racing ski from about 1980.  If you look closely at the footage, you can make out the "COMP" on the bases and the signature dark-to-light green striped top-skin graphics.  That ski was sold at lengths starting at 210 cm.  Think you're a good skier?  Swap your Fat-ypus skis for a pair of World Cup Super-G or downhill boards and tell me how you do skiing the Baldy Chutes.

Ultimately, Warren Miller had a profound influence on my life.  He got me excited about snow and skiing, which has had huge ramifications for me personally and professionally.  His was a life well lived.  Rest in peace my friend.


  1. Where is the thumbs up button? Great write up on the guy who got a lot of us "pre internet" skiers to move west and see what was up! 28 years later I am still here......

  2. Love those 210 GS skis for powder, before the advent of Fat Skis.

    RIP Warren

  3. LOL and I DO have a pair of Fatypus Skis.
    BUT they are old school cut mogul skis, 104-72-91. They actually do well on powder as well as bumps, its all in the technique. :)

  4. Warren Miller is on location with Bruce Brown. Two pioneering and iconic outdoor film makers. RIP.

  5. He is the reason I moved to Park City and wanted to live in "Ski Country" when I retired. I have two pictures of Warren in my home office and he has been my inspiration for many years. I hope I live to 94. He is the MAN!!!

  6. Miller started out filming yacht racing, but he decided it was to expensive a sport for him to afford. So he switched to skiing. He left the film company to his son, who promptly sold it for ten million dollars. What they issue under the Miller name now is crap, IMO.

  7. Warren Miller lived in Hermosa Beach until the early 1990’s. So as a SoCal resident I got to see him narrate in person for 15+ years starting in the late 1970’s.

    We chatted awhile in person on a press trip to the Yellowstone Club in 2001. Yet he was also manning a booth at the LA Ski Show in 2002 and would chat up anyone passi

  8. Passing by. And I loved how WME sued him for appearing in another ski movie and was awarded zero damages.

  9. Warren himself would narrate his films in person at my elementary school in Holladay back in the 60's. He was an amazing guy.