Warren Miller, now 91, is the most important media-figure skiing, and perhaps outdoor sports as a whole, has ever had. Though he didn’t invent the ski film, he certainly perfected it over his illustrious career. The 2016 Warren Miller Entertainment film, Here, There and Everywhere, premieres tonight, October 14, in SLC.
Miller turned fall ski film premieres into a rock-solid tradition. One would be hard pressed to find a skier who hasn’t seen at least one of Miller’s films. The most underlining attribute of Miller is his lifelong search for freedom.
The last few years, his writing has frequented The Ski Journal and ski town newspapers where he shares tales of $2 lift tickets and living in the Sun Valley parking lot in old beat-up trailer.
His autobiography, aptly titled “Freedom Found” and released this fall, is a story beginning with painful childhood memories during the gut-punch of America’s Great Depression, where a young Miller finds his first taste of freedom in making money through several part time jobs, including selling magazine subscriptions. The book gradually ascends into family heartbreak at the loss of his first wife to a rare form a cancer and into the missteps of being a first-time business owner. Through the beginning of his life, Miller’s grandparents provided for his family and his grandfather acted as a steady role model, arguably the most influential person on Miller’s life.
There isn’t a whole lot of skiing in the book, but if that’s what you want, many of Miller’s classic ski films are available on Netflix and iTunes. “Freedom Found,” however, completes the narrative of his life beyond the skier we already know.
Miller’s classic, albeit offbeat, humor is ever-present throughout the pages. The man has an envious knack for writing in his own iconic voice, making for a pleasurable reading experience through 400-plus pages.
What struck me as remarkable is how candid Miller is about his personal wealth coming from his numerous real estate dealings. His business acumen can be boiled down to seizing opportunities, working hard, and having a good sense of humor. From the ’50s through the ’80s, Miller negotiated film partnerships with new ski areas for a fair fee in addition to undeveloped land near or at the new ski area. His ultimate deal, however, would come through in the Yellowstone Club in Montana, but that would take nearly a decade to complete through missteps and good-faith agreements gone unfulfilled. Though successful in real estate, he, of course, made his name in filming an annual ski movie and doing a plethora of commercial work.
Everyone from the late Ted Kennedy to Jean-Claude Killy, Scot Schmidt, and so many other iconic skiers have been in front of Miller’s lens since his first feature film, Deep and Light, from 1950. He directed his last film, White Winter Heat, in 1987, and remained involved in production until 2004. I recently asked Miller if there were any people he wishes he could have shared a lift with.
“The camera was the major attraction for nearly everyone, so I skied with countless people,” he wrote in an email, “but never Ronald Reagan nor either of the two George Bushes. I would have enjoyed those chairlift rides. So much can be discussed on a chairlift.”
Although it took him several years to pen—the book is co-written with ski writer Andy Bigford—Miller says he has no regrets about what’s in the book. “It’s my life as I lived it, my story,” he wrote. “Of course, I made mistakes but if you don’t make mistakes along the way, you’re not trying.”