Still finding fresh tracks
Born and raised in Hollywood, Warren Miller began his film career in the 1940s making his first ski movie, “Steep and Light,” with a borrowed 8mm film camera.
Four decades later, he sold his Hermosa Beach, Calif.,-based film company, Warren Miller Enterprises, to his son Kurt. And until recently, Miller played a decreasing role in the filmmaking process.
In 2000, Miller told the Vail Daily he was simply writing and narrating the movies, such as “Vertical Reality,” “Black Diamond Rush,” “Born to Ski”and “Fifty,” which features passages shot at Vail’s Blue Sky Basin.
Still perhaps skiing’s most recognizable face and voice, Miller is also known for his syndicated column on skiing, boating and other topics that have appeared weekly in newspapers across the country – including the Vail Daily. He’s even published a collection of those columns, aptly titled “Lurching from One Near Disaster to Another.”
Having created a whole genre of film that other directors will be emulating for years, the “Schuss Film King” said substance and the art of casual narration – keys to his success – are often missing now.
“They (adventure filmmakers) have to get back to the substance of why we do it: We’re all searching for freedom,” he said. “That used to be what Blue Sky Basin was all about. You’d hike over there; nobody else was around; you were expressing yourself, your desire.”
Miller said he still has fond memories of Vail, where for a dozen years he owned a home at Lionshead – on Beaver Dam Circle, underneath the Eagle Bahn Gondola. The renowned powderhound said he consistently found private stashes of the white stuff to ski – even after the crowds showed up.
“Everybody who really liked powder headed for the steep stuff,” he recalled. “But I laid back. I remember doing figure-eights at Lionshead at 11, 12 o’clock in the morning, making first and second tracks.”
Reportedly, Miller’s favorite run at Vail is Simba, above Lionshead, where the Mad Mountain Marathon was held for almost a decade. Pressed for reasons why he left Vail, Miller cited growing crowds and the high cost of living as primary culprits.
Miller, at 78, also enjoys sailing the high seas with his wife, Laurie, from his island homes on Hawaii and Washington’s San Luis Islands.