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Contemplating Ski Movies

By Chris Pew on

This contemplation is a distillation of a discussion we had in the office about ski movies this week. My younger colleagues thought they knew something about ski movies from the 80s and 90s and it sent me down a ranting rabbit hole that I’m still recovering from. Disclaimer: I haven’t watched a new ski movie, start to finish, in years. I did, however, spend the better part of my youth watching and rewatching one of the many VHS tape ski and snowboarding videos that myself and my brothers collected obsessively. Our collection was vast and diverse; there simply weren’t that many options in the 90s, so you got whatever you could. 

From Greg Stump’s The Blizzard of Ahhh’s, in my opinion, still the greatest single ski movie ever made; to the nonstop cliff hucking of TGR’s early cuts like Uprising, Continuum, and Harvest; to the classic of 90s snowboarding, the Totally Board series from Standard Films; we ingested it all. Every film gave us a different piece of the culture and are, in their own right, irreplaceable documents of an incredible era of snowsports progression. 

But the films that I miss the most, without a question, are the ones by the elder statesman of ski movies himself, Warren Miller. Yes, Warren Miller ski movies are still being produced today, but they have about as much to do with Warren Miller as Paul Newman’s collection of salad dressings have to do with the actor that played Butch Cassidy.   

No producer of ski films was able to capture the circus of snowsports like Warren Miller. The totality of skiing is represented: from the dirtbag ski bums to the chic and glamorous ski towns; from the otherworldly athleticism of pioneers like Scott Schmidt to the ridiculousness and determination of a rank beginner being dragged on their belly up a rope tow; it’s all there and it’s all beautiful. Warren Miller’s deadpan humor invites us all in on the joke: skiing is life, life is silly.  Watching a Warren Miller film, you are both celebrating the triumphs of the greatest skiers in the world and laughing at the absurdity of humans and how we spend our leisure time.

Now, it would be easy to call out today’s ski and snowboard movies for taking themselves way too seriously or for being the Red-Bull-fueled, dub-step-throbbing, vacuous productions of flashy edits that they are, but that would be missing the important point: ski movies today aren’t about skiing, they are about pro skiers. 

And listen, this isn’t entirely a bad thing. People love character-driven stories, and the best of these ski films can give you real insights into the humans at the center of all this. There’s value to this and sometimes it’s even artful, like The Blizzard of Ahhh’s. However, in the age of social media, tiktok influencers, and self-publishing content creators, I just feel like ski movies could be better than stitched together instagram profiles.

What I would give to see an authentic Warren Miller film, produced and narrated by the man himself, in the year 2022. It would probably have all of our same ski and snowboard heroes in it, doing all of their gnarly stunts, but he would point his lens at the other facets of what it means to be a skier in 2022: the urban skiers, the uphill ski-mo racers, the tiktok park rats, and all the rest of us, weekend-warriors. And it would be easier to see how absurd we all are, how lucky we are all, and how much fun it is to be a skier. 

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7 comments

  • Elana on

    I saw Endless Winter at the old Long Beach Convention Center with an old boyfriend. I remember being enthralled!

  • Ian on

    One of the great things about Miller’s movies was when they featured a run at a resort that you have skied yourself, and is easily accessible to any weekend warrior. A far cry from helicopter-only big mountains. The faceshots from reasonably pitched, in-bounds runs at Alta etc… were magical and sort-of accessible. I still have a VHS copy of SnoWonder from circa 1982 :)

  • Kron on

    ❤️🤙🏂🏴‍☠️

  • Greg West on

    Great post

  • toku bannai on

    Siberia , greg stumps best film & also the last film craig kelly did before accident. the original only sold in 7-11 markets in japan. the name was snow vibrations then not siberia. its a hidden gem 🙂

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