Warren Miller Day festivities attract hundreds to Vail | VailDaily.com

Warren Miller Day festivities attract hundreds to Vail

VAIL — Warren Miller Day festivities wrapped up with guests hearing Miller's voice saying "Somewhere in the world, it's snowing right now."

At the time, it was snowing hard on Vail Mountain, where hundreds gathered to celebrate Miller and his films. Saturday, April 7, was proclaimed to be Warren Miller Day by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Known to many as the Walt Disney of snowsports films, Warren Miller died on January 24.

"He lived clean — didn't drink, didn't smoke," said longtime Warren Miller cameraman Gary Nate. "And as a result, he made it to 93."

In remembering Miller, the filmmaker's family decided that Vail would be an ideal venue to host an event which would close out the ski season in his honor. Miller's youngest son Kurt hosted the Mid Vail gathering, showing a selection of Warren Miller films and providing commentary in a similar format employed by his father in his in-house film narrations.

Among the most celebrated segment on Saturday was from the 1994 film "Vertical Reality," which was the one and only Warren Miller film to feature Miller himself skiing.

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"We decided that he had to ski in a film, and the only way he would do it is if I skied with him," Kurt Miller said Saturday.

The segment took place in Vail, and referenced Miller's "lifelong search for the free lift ticket."

'IMPORTANT TO BE HERE'

Warren Miller, who was about 70 when "Vertical Reality" was shot, had a classic quip in the film: "It takes at least a decade to get used to how old you are."

Miller continued to ski into his mid '80s, taking his last turns with his friend Pete Perry at the Yellowstone Club in Montana in the early 2010s.

Perry visited Vail for the event on Saturday.

"We were friends for 35 years," Perry said. "He had macular degeneration in his eyes, and couldn't quite see the contours of the terrain and he just said 'I've had a great run,' and hung it up."

Perry came into town by himself to celebrate Miller and his films.

"I thought it was important to be here," he said.

That sentiment was also expressed by Gary Nate, who was a Warren Miller cameraman for 45 years starting in the early 1970s.

Nate visited from Ogden, Utah, on Saturday, and was reunited with fellow Warren Miller videographers Tom Day, Mark Weaver, Tom Grissom and Bill Heath.

Nate said he read Miller's book "Wine, Women, Warren and Skis," when he was 10 years old, and it impacted him for the rest of his life. By reading the book, Nate said he realized "the secret is to find something that you would do for nothing, and figure out how to make a living at it."

Later, Nate would tell Miller, "You can either hire me, or compete with me," he said with a laugh.

STAUB ALSO CELEBRATED

Nate would go on to facilitate freestyler Scott Brooksbank's first appearance in a Warren Miller film in the 1970s. The two were reunited on Saturday.

Brooksbank was in town a couple of weeks ago and saw a story about Warren Miller day in the Vail Daily.

"I said I've got to come back out for that," Brooksbank said Saturday.

For Brooksbank, seeing the segments of the films selected by Kurt Miller on Saturday brought back other memories, as well. The 1967 film "Ski on the Wild Side" had a segment featuring Roger Staub, Vail's second ski school director and the namesake of Roger's Run.

In that 1967 movie, Staub is featured in a type of shot still seen often in ski films today — backlit by the sun, the skier slashes an explosion of powder into the air and then skis through it.

Thinking back on those days on Saturday, Brooksbank said a chairlift ride with Staub changed his life.

"In '72 I won the World Championships, it was here right in Vail — the moguls on Look Ma — I bumped into Roger and he said 'So what you think you going to do with your money?'" Brooksbank recalled. "I was just 19 or so and I said 'I may want to drive that Corvette.' He goes 'Cars are cars, you should buy land.' We were riding up Chair 5 in the back bowls, it was an old Riblet, really slow … and he started telling me about banking your money."

Brooksbank ended up asking Chevrolet for the retail value of the car rather than the car itself, to which they agreed. He deposited it in a bank account and let it collect interest for years.

"As it turned out, I won probably five or six more cars," Brooksbank said. "And I always would say 'Is it OK if I just put the money in the bank?"

Establishing his name on the mogul tour, Brooksbank said he found his appearances in Warren Miller films after successful events to be more satisfying than the contests themselves.

"I quickly realized why I was competing," Brooksbank said. "So I could appear in a Warren Miller film."

WARREN MILLER REMEMBERED

It wasn’t until my adulthood that I really grew to appreciate Warren Miller’s encouragement to seek out adventure and take risks. As a naval officer I do my best to live by these sentiments. Regardless of where we are in the world, my fellow shipmates and I share a love of Warren Miller films … Not only does this inspire a shared love of skiing and remind us of home, but it reaffirms our shared sense of adventure and purpose. I make it a point to tell my Sailors now is the time to venture out of your comfort zone and smile in the face of your challenges, because “if you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”

—Danielle Garbarino , LT, USN

The Slope in Vail — 1977, my cousins and I were 14 years old, eating popcorn, drinking cokes, watching ski movies, when we first heard that iconic voice narrating the film “Winter People.” I don’t remember which made me a fan for life; the amazing skiing or watching the comical series of skiers off-loading a lift. We made Mom and Dad take us back to The Slope every night we were in Vail, that year and every year until The Slope closed. Luckily we discovered the Warren Miller Movie Tour and rarely missed a movie.

—Adrian Hunt

Starting back in Wisconsin in the ’60s we tried to never miss the annual movie and largely did as Warren even came to London where we lived for six years. When I say “we” I mean my wife and me — skiing has kept us together for 61 years of marriage!

—Paul and Nancy Rondeau

Growing up in Queens, New York, a “ski life” was not really in the cards for me. I saw my first Warren Miller film in high school in 1973, igniting my passion to pursue a life that incorporated skiing. I’ve lived in New Hampshire, Utah, California and Colorado, all the time enjoying the annual pre-season inspirations from Warren, to continue to pursue my dreams. Thank you Warren!

—Mike Poisson