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Finding Higher Ground

Caramie Schnell
Jancsi HadikChelone Miller in Courchevel, France.
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As Vail shrugs off the last aspen leaves and prepares for the imminent white flakes, the annual Warren Miller film has become a rite of passage. It signals the impending ski season and spurs 3-foot-powder-day dreams in locals that have been waiting impatiently to carve turns since the mountain closed the spring before.

Jim Cooper, the hard goods operations manager at Double Diamond ski shop in Vail, is looking forward to his 38th ski season and to Warren Miller’s latest film endeavor, “Higher Ground.”

“I think (the annual film) brings everyone together and gets everyone thinking about making turns again for the upcoming ski season,” he said.

Cooper, who has been watching Warren Miller films since the early ’80s, thinks that Miller does a particularly good job of moving with the times and bringing the latest and greatest in the winter sport industry to the forefront in his films.

“He was one of the first filmmakers to bring in snowboarders and take them seriously.”

Higher Ground is Miller’s 56th winter sports film and will blow into theaters around the country from October through December 2005. The film chronicles skiers and snowboarders in search of the best cliffs, the steepest drops, and the most challenging terrain parks around.

Jared Bortz, manager of Charter Sports in Beaver Creek, plans on seeing “Higher Ground,” which will be his third year in a row to see a Miller premiere.

“It’s just a good time, seeing what’s new and what’s set to come for the season. They do a good job at bringing new things in and new innovations in every year, but (the films) do follow a pattern, they show a bit of everything. I’m a snowboarder and I still go see them.”

Bortz’s favorite part? The bloopers.

“I think it’s one of the best parts of the film,” he said.

It can be argued that for a ski film to be legit, Warren Miller’s voice needs to be echoing in the background. And in the darkness of the theater, with just a month before ski season officially starts, there’s nothing like views of daredevil athletes pounding down Alaskan steeps, the backcountry of British Columbia and our beloved Colorado Rockies to get one ready to wax the equipment, don the gear and start the season.

Dennis Clark, assistant manager of Pepi’s Sports at the Cascade Club, grew up watching the ski films and listening to Miller’s telltale voice.

“We used to go when we were in high school, we’d travel like an hour to see them,” Clark said. “They have this way, at the beginning of the ski season, of getting you psyched up. You see all your friends as well – it’s a social event.”

Caramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vailtrail.com.


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