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Warren Miller, filmmaker turned into ski cinema, died at 93



Mr. Miller's films showed winter sports with greatness, beauty and a mischievous sense of fun that attracted spectators who had never set foot on a slope. The main appeal of his films helped turn winter sports from a niche search into a widely popular pastime and a multi-billion dollar industry.

"Warren Miller is the man who made the snowball that created the whole industry," Dirk Collins, a founder of the adventure sports production company Teton Gravity Research, told Outside magazine a profile of Miller in 2004.

Without any film training, while working as a ski instructor in Sun Valley, Miller created "Deep and Light" in 1949 using a borrowed 16-millimeter film camera. He was the first of more than 500 feature films and promotional films he made.

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Bryce Phillips takes flight on a slope at Crystal Mountain in Washington in Mr. Miller's "Dynasty" (2009).


Ian Coble / Warren Miller Entertainment

His films achieved a simple formula, which represents athletes in winter sports in challenging scenarios, leavened with offal and shots of quite feminine skiers. Performers went through generations, including Jean-Claude Killy, who won three Olympic gold medals in 1968, and Stein Eriksen, who won one in 1952. But in all of his films, the narration of Mr. Miller, who delivered jokes inexpressive in his characteristic baritone "Looking back on what distinguishes my films," he recalled in his autobiography, "Freedom Found" (2016), "was the emphasis on entertaining people, which means making them laugh." [19659009] Steep and Deep Video by Warren Miller by The Orchard Movies

Having known the hardships while growing up during the Depression and in her early days as a ski skier, Miller was not a snob. He was inclusive in his embrace of the mountain scene, presenting fashions such as freestyle ballet skiing and snow kayaking in his films. His "Escape to Ski" (1998) defended snowboarding at a time when that upstart activity was prohibited in many ski resorts in the United States.

For the first 14 years of his career, Mr. Miller provided all photography, editing and music for his films, and spent eight months traveling to mountain locations around the world. He screened his films in rented rooms with live narration, a practice developed by ski pioneer John Jay.

As skiing grew in popularity, so did Mr. Miller's movies. In 1960, he was hired for screenings in more than 100 cities. Unable to attend each show, he began recording the narrative. His audience did not seem to mind. Mr. Miller's films became an annual fall rite among skiers awaiting the first snows of the season.

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Mr. Miller in a photograph without a date.

Credit
Archives of Michael Ochs / Getty Images

Mr. Miller's films also kept pace with the new ski styles and innovations in the sport over the decades. In 1954 he filmed Stein Eriksen doing a front somersault on skis, one of the first examples of what would be known as freestyle skiing. In 1985, he released "Steep and Deep," a film that featured a new generation of extreme skiers who jumped off the cliffs and performed tricks and showed how far freestyle skiing had come in three decades.

Born on October 15, 1924, in Hollywood, Mr. Miller was the youngest of three children. His father, Albert, was a radio actor, and his mother, Elena, sewed quilts for the Labor Progress Administration during the Depression.

Mr. Miller learned to ski as a Boy Scout on trips to the San Gabriel Mountains, north of Los Angeles. In 1942 he enrolled in a training program for naval officers at the University of Southern California, where he studied astrophysics. He left the university to serve in the Pacific during World War II. Discharged in 1946, he bought his first film camera with a bonus of $ 100 Navy and went to the mountains.

In 1989, Miller sold Warren Miller Entertainment, including his files and the rights to his voice and name, to his son. Kurt and a partner. He continued narrating films until 2005, when the company changed hands again, first in Time Warner in 2002 and then in Bonnier Corporation, a Swedish publishing house. Active Interest Media acquired the company in 2013.

In September 2009, Warren Miller Entertainment sued a Colorado production company for copyright infringement after Mr. Miller narrated one of his films, arguing that he had renounced right to use his name and voice in other ski movies when he sold the company. Mr. Miller, in turn, filed a motion to intervene, essentially requesting that the Miller company sue him instead. A year later, an arbitration panel determined that Mr. Miller's appearance in the film caused no harm to the company and that Mr. Miller was free to use his own name, image, voice and trademark on anything that was not of the ski movies. [19659023] Video

Children of Winter by Warren Miller


By WARREN MILLER FILMS on Publication date April 16, 2016.


Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive.

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In 2016 he recounted a section of a Warren Miller Entertainment movie, "Here, There & Everywhere", with skier Ingrid Backstrom and rider Jeremy Jones.

In addition to his son Kurt, Mr. Miller is survived by his wife of 30 years, Laurie; another son, Scott; a daughter, Chris Lucero; a stepson, Colin Kaufmann; and five grandchildren.

Mr. Miller continued writing a weekly outdoor column for several small newspapers in the west and served as honorary ski director at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Mont., An exclusive enclave whose members include Bill Gates and former vice president Dan Quayle .

In a 2008 speech, Mr. Miller summarized with an uncharacteristic seriousness what had brought him, as well as skiers, heads of state and corporations, to the mountains.

"It's our pursuit of freedom," he said. "That's what it's about: the instinctive pursuit of the man of freedom"

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