RIP Warren Miller: From a Skier and Storyteller

When I first heard Warren Miller died, I wanted to go skiing. It seemed appropriate.

My friend and  colleague Julian Williams, a non-skier, was the one who broke the new to me (see his blog on Warren Miller here). But Julian (like myself), is and always will be mesmerized by someone with passion and vision. It is only now in hindsight that I recognize the ways Warren Miller helped influence a good portion of my boyhood life…. Through his quest to share beautiful images of something he loved with all his heart.

My exposure to Warren’s work began when I was in my early teens. By then a decent skier but no where up to the majesty of what Warren brought to the screen.

I even saw him narrate one of his amazing films at a theater in Hartford, CT in person — I had seen his other movies and they inspired me to dream. The imagery was magical … like a large drug trip for the ski and snow addict. And his voice, brought me on a story. At times, laughing and at other times speechless with awe at what he created. The skiers in his movies became my heroes. Scott Schmidt was my favorite, with his leaps off of inconceivably high cliffs. And somehow… he’d not only survive… but ski out of the ridiculous landing.

Berkshire East, Massachusetts — Late 1980’s – does anyone do a daffy anymore?

Tuckerman Ravine, New Hampshire – Late 1980’s – Steep! Don’t lean back.

Tuckerman Ravine, New Hampshire – Late 1980’s – I remember those turns like yesterday. Pure Joy!

Doing My Best Scott Schmidt Impression in my mid-teens.
Killington, Vt – lower Cascade — late 1980’s

So now I sit in my home in Florida, miles away from the snow and cold weather, dreaming of my next big snowy adventure, where I will once again go on that spiritual journey for the perfect turn … on the perfect mountain… on the perfect day.

The addiction that I shared with Warren Miller still runs deep. I have even shared it with my kids. Now they look for big air and perfect snow… and every image I capture on a camera or in my mind of them … Warren Miller truly is there … for he helped me dream it well before I could actually do it!

Mad River Glen, VT – Fall Line with my son.

Mad River Glen, VT — top of Catamount with my son.

Ski Sundown, CT — My daughter gets air.

Ski Sundown, CT — My son gets some air.

Killington, VT – top of Cascade with my wife and kids.

Mad River Glen, VT — the old single chairlift at the best mountain in America!

 

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About the Author: Glenn Zimmerman

Glenn has what is best described as “Superhero Syndrome.” His affliction began as a child and has progressed with age.

He got into extreme skiing and extreme sports before they were a thing because every superhero should try flying at least once.

While at Boston University, it was his desire to save the day that brought him to Post- Soviet Russia where he explored the emerging homeless population.

His Syndrome brought him to journalism school at Syracuse University to get his MS in Mass Communications. He later became an award winning reporter with the number one station in Detroit (WXYZ-TV) and with NBC’s flagship station in New York (WNBC- TV).

And, it was the reason he formed the video agency Mad Bear Productions.

With Mad Bear, he harnesses the power of story to help business, non-profits and events engage with their target audience. Video is his tool and he wields it mightily.

Glenn is a sought after speaker on video engagement and mass media.

It is all part of his quest to help save the day, one story at a time.

RIP Warren Miller: Admiration from a Non-Skier

RIP Warren Miller.  If you are unfamiliar with the name, for the better part of 60 years Warren Miller was a prolific peddler of snow and skiing with more joie de vivre than Larry Flint peddling pornography.

Following his release from the army in 1946 Miller set up as a film making ski bum in Sun Valley Idaho, living in a teardrop trailer in the resort parking lot. From 1949 into the new millennium,  he produced one feature length film a year about skiing. He would rent out local theaters in ski towns, often on borrowed cash, and charge admission to that year’s film.
But to say Miller made films about skiing is like saying Ruben painted fat women. Much like the iconic surf movie “Endless Summer”, Miller creates fantasies for fanatic skiers and punters who might never have seen snow in their life.  His other worldly images of skiers carving impossibly sexy curves into virgin slopes at 12,000 feet are complemented by his own droll narration, and musical accompaniment that is singularly definitive of the times in which these films were made.
Miller’s voice brings the terrific writing and storytelling to his productions. It is equal measure poetic as it is unabashedly cornball, and always undercut with a dry wry sense of humor.  On some hand gliders he encountered:
“We wanted to include some more shots of hand gliders but they kept dying.”
On tiny ski town Elko, Nevada. “Everyone in Elko wears pointed cowboy boots, I later learned this was so you could reach the cockroaches in the corners of your hotel room.”
By the 80’s Miller was already a legend in the ski world. He mesmerized loyal enthusiasts and casual viewers alike with bronzed figures, clad in futuristic multicolored ski suits, cavorting down faraway mountains, all goggles and golden hair backlit by the sun, splashes of color bouncing through waist deep snow.
Miller had a huge hand in popularizing back country and heli skiing, introducing his audiences to never before filmed snowscapes and the underground culture of extreme skiing and later snowboarding.  Every film was a carefree expedition into a new frozen wonderland with a group of good looking, care free daredevils.
From Aspen to Zermatt, from Mammoth to Morzine, for 50 years Miller documented the changes in the sport, from stiff long wooden ski’s with primitive bindings, to todays skis that spoil their wearers with space age materials and geometric precision for all kinds of terrain.  He embraced new styles and stars. He brought Freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and extreme everything to the masses. One could argue that Warren Miller was the key contributor in bringing extreme sports to the position they occupy in mainstream culture today.
Do yourself a solid and find some of Warren Miller’s classics.  It doesn’t matter if you live to ski, or like me, don’t ski at all.  Its a bit like watching animal planet, spectacular pictures, tried and true storylines, but the skiers are the animals.


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About Julian Williams:

As Director of Photography and co-founder of Mad Bear Productions, all things visual pass before Julian’s creative and experienced eyes. He has been capturing the story as it happens from behind the lens for more than fifteen years.

Julian’s ability to find the extraordinary in the seemingly mundane is his gift. As both a cameraman and editor, Julian understands the importance of shooting the right material the first time. With a developed love for telling stories and a deep appreciation for being allowed inside the worlds of thousands of people, Julian loves shooting every kind of story.

From Shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral, natural disasters, historic elections, Super Bowls, The Olympics, a World Cup to the recent royal wedding; Julian brings his global experience and understanding for the latest technologies and trends to Mad Bear’s clientele.