interview by Jeff Schmuck & Mike Rogge
photos courtesy of http://www.warrenmiller.net
Each and every fall growing up I counted the days till the Warren Miller premiere. Every October my mom, dad, sister and I would pile into our baby blue Volkswagen Beetle in which the front passenger had to lift up their ass just so it would start (don’t ask me why). We’d drive ten minutes down the hill from our sleepy little ski town of Rossland, BC to the neighboring cesspool of Trail, home of Cominco (a lead and zinc smelter plant that would give Al Gore a heart attack), too many baseball fields to count, and the Royal Theatre. We’d load up on popcorn, candy and magazines filled with a million Nissan Pathfinder ads, and wait for that familiar voice. The voice that made you want your local hill to open tomorrow as opposed to next month. The voice that made you wish winter was all year long. The voice that was so smooth and soothing, just listening to it was like applying Aloe Vera to a nasty sunburn. The voice of skiing….Warren Miller.
Warren Miller movies in the 80’s and 90’s were the symbolic start to the ski season, whether there was snow on the ground yet or not. Stories of skiing in far off countries my young mind had yet to hear about in school, images of extreme skiers dropping house-sized cliffs and of course, the annual ten-minute segment of people eating it while trying to get off the chair were burned into my mind along with millions of others across the globe, and for some, it was their calling. If you ask any major ski filmmaker today who inspired them growing up, and they don’t say Warren Miller, they’re probably lying. Without Warren Miller, chances are good there would be no MSP, Poorboyz, Level 1, Theory-3 or any of the other film companies that kick off your season the way Warren Miller did mine. I loved his movies then and I still love them now. I miss hearing his voice, but I love watching friends of mine in his films who now have the honor of being in front of his cameras. A lot of people in a lot of sports get called legends, but if skiing was to have only one, it would most certainly be Warren Miller.
Traditions are an important part of everyone’s life. Whether it’s cutting down the Christmas tree with the family or sitting around the fire for drinks with some old friends, traditions are the way we gather with the ones we love to celebrate our common humanity and spirit. One tradition that happened in my family was hopping into my dad’s pick-up truck and driving down I-87 to the premiere of the latest Warren Miller film. Year in and year out, my father and I would anxiously enter the theatre to witness the dry humor and wit of Mr. Miller as he told us the story of the previous season’s skiing antics. It was a chance for us to catch up with friends and share our pure love of snow, being in the mountains, and all things winter.
In honor of Mr. Miller’s lifetime of deep powder runs, fifty plus films, and his unwavering pursuit of adventure, I challenge you, the members of NS.com, to go out and make this season the best season of your life. Ski that line, take that trip, slide that rail, make that leap, live for the moment, and make memories with friends that’ll last a lifetime, because as a great man once said, “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”
Mike Rogge: The past fifteen years has given birth a new style of skiing with the creation of the twin-tip ski and today there is a huge push to get skiing half pipe as an Olympic event. What is your opinion of this new style of skiing?
Warren Miller: It stretches the boundaries of ski ability and is in a 100% prepared track, but the only opinion is in the air around it.
Jeff Schmuck: I’ve noticed your films are now showcasing more of that style of skiing, especially in your latest release Playground, which of course gives a whole new level of exposure to freeskiing given your massive audience. What prompted the decision to start paying more attention to that aspect of the sport?
WM: I have had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the film for the last four years. They use recorded sentences of my voice from earlier films in order to what I think is keeping the public fooled that I am still involved. I am not…and I am sad to see the films losing their character and the culture that was so much fun and made them such an annual event.
MR: Mr. Miller, one of your more recognizable quotes is, “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.” How and when was this phrase born?
WM: The climax of a sequence skiing with Mike Wiegele over 30 years ago…maybe more.
JS: What direction do you feel skiing as a whole is headed in? It’s become fairly evident racing is on the decline so do you think freeskiing is the future of the sport?
WM: The percentage of skiers who race or freeski is about 5% or less of the total number of skiers. I really think skiers ski for the pure exhilaration of it, and certainly for the culture around skiing that has evolved, somewhat around my films, though I’d never have thought that when I started out. Surprises me to this day.
MR: Since the sale of Warren Miller Entertainment, you’ve created the Warren Miller Freedom Foundation that aims to help ambitious teens start businesses. How did the idea for the foundation come about?
WM: My wife came up with it because she is an entrepreneur involving many things including owning a ski school with 105 instructors and a ski shop with 30 employees for 28 years.
JS: What is your favorite movie made by your company and your favorite ski movie by someone else?
WM: Well I made over 50 feature length, annual films, 45 before I sold the company to my son in ’89 and each one I always hoped was better than the one before it. In general, my favorite movie is ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy,’ but don’t really know which ski film I liked best.
JS: Can you name some skiers you’ve been really impressed with over the last few years?
WM: Scott Schmidt is still at the top of the list. Not only for his amazing athletic ability but also because he is one of the most genuine, kind people I know.
MR: You wrote in your online bio, “When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. My life is a good example of that.” On this site there are many aspiring filmmakers, writers, and photographers. What advice can you give them in their pursuit of ski media?
WM: Work eight hours a day for a living and many more hours a day making movies and you’ll work all your life to be a success overnight.
MR: Lastly, I’d like to thank you on behalf of not only the NS.com community but the ski and snowboard communities at large for inspiring us to follow our powder filled dreams in pursuit of happiness and adventure. Any closing words?
WM: Don’t ever give up.
Special thanks to Warren and Laurie Miller, the staff at Warrenmiller.net, and to our dads for taking us to witness skiing on the big screen.