Vail Valley Voices: Films that instruct
May 13, 2011
As I work on writing my autobiography, I keep finding long-forgotten stories about movies that I produced, concurrent to my annual feature lecture, which I then narrated in person at over a hundred cities worldwide.
Yesterday, I was thumbing through one of my give-away programs and ran across a full-page advertisement titled “Own your own ski school movies. Just choose your technique.” I would rent a copy of the film in 16mm with sound or silent with a script in case those who were interested did not have a sound projector.
I would rent any of the eight different techniques for $10 each or $50 for the series, and you could have a different movie for eight of your ski club meetings. If you were hooked on an individual technique, you could buy a copy in color with sound for $125 or silent with a typed script for $59.95.
Over the years when I would visit and film at a ski resort, I would spend an afternoon with a famous ski school director and film his technique from traversing a hill to demonstrating his flawless turns. Of course, each one of them was dramatically different. When you went to various resorts, you learned from different techniques because each one of the directors had a different way to teach the same thing.
After many years of different techniques, the hard heads of some of the skiers got permeated with the idea that the same physical forces caused the skis to change direction. With the sophistication of ski equipment each individual or national technique slowly merged into what is taught all over the world today.
Unfortunately, the men who appear in these movies were from a generation or two ago and were skiing for my cameras in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
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An example was the Stein Eriksen technique film. In this film, Stein demonstrates the technique that earned him his Olympic gold medals. It also demonstrated his forward flip with a full layout years before anyone else was doing one. I featured Stein in many of those 1960s-1970s movies, and after watching him ski every night on the big screen, I discovered that he turned one way with rotation and the other way with reverse shoulder. He was in my audience one night in Detroit and took exception to my analysis, and we got together the next day in my hotel room with a projector and my film and I ran it back and forth several times and finally he said, “By gosh, you are right. I never knew that before and none of my coaches did, either.” So, if Stein Eriksen can learn something from those ski technique movies, a lot of the people that rented them did, too.
Another film was “The Techniques of Champions.” This was a slow-motion analysis of the technique of half of the medal winners from the Innsbruck Olympics in Austria.
The Canadian ski technique featured Ernie McCullogh and his Mont Tremblant ski school. One of the features of this film was how to hang on ice – which we filmed when it was so cold and the ice was so clear you could read a newspaper through 9 inches of it. (And the really bad part of it was that it was last night’s newspaper.)
The film “Powder Snow Technique” was a real winner because when I produced it, the only people who could handle powder snow even a little bit were people who skied on flexible Head skis.
The resorts with powder snow were not so popular because no one had the ability to make turns in it. The ad featured how to handle deep powder, heavy powder, light powder, short turns and long as well as how to fall properly, if there is such a technique.
“Learn Ski Tricks” taught how to do jump turns, step-over Christies, Royal Christies, brushing up on your grandstand ability, tip drops and much, much more as demonstrated by Junior Bonous.
In the 70s, I was producing as many as 10 or 15 different films every year, and not only ski films. This was before videotape so I could only shoot in 16-millimeter film. I cranked them out for wine making, motor home travel, Micronesia, Hawaii, New Zealand, France, and Pan American Airlines. And I made some sailing films for the Ford Motor Company. I was one very busy person. I wish I had copies of some of those films. If anyone out there knows of any of them lying around in a garage somewhere, I sure would appreciate getting them so I can transfer them to a DVD and put them in my library so when I don’t have anything to do for a while I can reminisce about those good old days while people learned to ski with bad equipment on ski hills full of ice. In the 1970’s, as my business grew, I had hired my first cameraman full time and my first editor, so I had to keep them busy.
Those were the hot summer days when as the afternoon wind came up, I would hurry down to the marina and launch my Pacific Catamaran and sail until it was too dark to do it anymore. Then I would go back to the office with another gazillion-and-a-half ideas for narration of the movies I currently had under production.
And if I came home late enough, I’d manage to get out of doing the dishes!
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log on to http://www.warrenmiller.net.