Big kids on the ‘Playground’ |

Big kids on the ‘Playground’

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

What if the Earth was your playground, and there were no mean adults telling you that it was time to go home, that you’ve already had too much fun for one day? Swing sets and jungle gyms would be replaced by shoulder-deep powder and unlimited downhill terrain, and the only toys to play with would be freshly waxed skis and snowboards.

The latest Warren Miller film, “Playground,” answers this question by taking the viewer on a journey to more than 15 locations, including Alaska, Dubai and Sweden to catch the pros doing what they do best ” making the conquest of mountains look like child’s play.

There was a time when watching a ski video meant slogging your way though an hour’s worth of slow-motion powder descents, boring narration and lots of footage of the good times behind the scenes, not exactly a formula for holding the audience’s attention. Things have changed over the past decade, though. The age-old rivalry between skiers and boarders has cooled down, and now the two join forces, sharing screen time and broadening the attraction to winter sports.

“Playground,” which makes its valley debut tonight at Vail Mountain School and Friday and Saturday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, is an epic ski film. The soundtrack is full of recognizable bands like The Beastie Boys and Maroon 5, and each song enhances the segment. The top-notch location scouting means that nobody will fall asleep during the film, although, after an hour-and-a-half, it does seem to stretch on a little longer than necessary. Of course when you’re trying to showcase the talent of over 30 athletes, time restraints go out the window.

Chris Anthony has been starring in Warren Miller films for almost two decades now, and his segment of the film stands out as one of the most whimsical.

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“Out of the 18 years I’ve shot, this is definitely the most humorous and lighthearted segment I’ve ever done,” Anthony said. “The more wacky we were, the better.”

During one of his scenes, shot at The Sculptured House in Genesee, Colo., Anthony uses a jetpack to fly around the house, while his wife and assistant hang out at the house. During another scene in Dubai he’s lost in the desert trying to find his camera crew for a shoot.

“My theme is usually I’m in the weirdest locations, I get lost, kind of just thrown to the wolves,” Anthony said.

Besides the natural beauty that Warren Miller always captures on film, “Playground” doesn’t take itself so seriously that it’s not fun anymore. The athletes are having a genuinely good time, and why shouldn’t they be, considering they’re being paid to do what they love.

“Playground” also introduces a new generation of young skiers and riders to the Warren Miller faithful ” an audience that is beginning to age. Fourteen-year-old Sean Petit is just one of the new members of the Warren Miller flock to be introduced this year as he tackles the mountains of Japan.

Every year it seems that the Warren Miller franchise raises the bar on what ski movies should be, and “Playground” is no exception.

Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or

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