It's been many years since Warren Miller has stood in a front of a live audience and spoken -- in that legendary voice you all recognize -- about the glory days of skiing. But Sunday night, Miller spoke to a sold-out theater at Seattle's Benaroya Hall in the first "Evening with Warren Miller," a talk, photo slideshow and Q&A session. The event will take place again in Seattle on Dec. 12 and then potentially travel to other states.
Miller sold his ski film company in 1988 and he's had no involvement in the annual Warren Miller ski movie for at least the last five years. This fall, a lawsuit ended between Miller and Warren Miller Entertainment, a company now owned by the Bonnier Corporation. The lawsuit started in the fall of 2009 when WME suited Level 1 Productions for trademark infringement for using Miller as a narrator in their film. Sunday night, Miller, now 86, didn't want to focus on the lawsuit -- instead, he talked about stretch pants, his first camera and tying a French Olympian to the outside of a helicopter. Here are some of Miller's words.
When I started my business in 1950, there were 15 chairlifts in North America.
I spent three weeks living in a van in the Alta parking lot, where we skied for $3 a week. But Sun Valley is where I got into skiing in a big way.
Don't ever try to eat a porcupine. They taste like the last tree they ate.
Boyne Mountain, Michigan, is about 350 vertical feet. But each time they repainted the sign, they added another 50 feet. Now, Boyne says it's about 500 vertical feet.
I was a ski instructor at Sun Valley and I always carried my 8 mm camera around my waist in case something pretty came by -- the sun, the snow, girls in stretch pants.
Skiing became really popular in the 50s and 60s. A lot of people speculate as to why that was. They say it was because of Howard Head's metal skis or Bob Lange's plastic boots. But I don't speculate -- I know why. It's because Maria Bogner invented stretch pants. That put romance into skiing.
I was instructing this guy who ended up being the president of a camera company. He gave me a new camera and he said I could take as long as I needed to pay it off. I paid it off over the next two years and that's what jumpstarted my film business.
My first camera could capture two and a half minutes of action. Today, you can go buy a GoPro helmet camera that takes two hours of footage.
Ski filmmaking has changed a lot. In those days, a really extreme skier was someone who could make six turns without falling. Now, ski movies don't show anything the average skier can relate to.
For the first 14 years of my business, I shot all the pictures, I did all the editing, I put together the music and narration. It was 14 years before I hired an assistant cameraman. I kept doing that for 40 years.
Ski manufacturers today are doing such a great job, you don't really need any technique to ski. You just get on edge and bingo, the turn is made.
You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on equipment to get out there. Just get some of last year's gear and get a taste of that freedom.
The best skier I ever shot? Jean-Claude Killy. In 1968, he won three Olympic medals. We filmed him on Mt. Cook in New Zealand and it was getting dark and we had to get off the mountain quickly. We had four people to fit into two seats in a helicopter, so we had to tie this French Olympian to the outside of the helicopter with the skis, like a dead deer.
There are a lot of subcultures in southern California, where I grew up. At the bottom of the food chain are toboggan riders. I was a Boy Scout and we were building a toboggan run at Big Bear. I was soaked to my armpits and then a few skiers came by. They looked dry and toasty and they weren't digging a trench. I figured they knew something I didn't.
You may be able to find some of my old movies in an antique VHS rental shop.
I used to say in my movies, 'Move to a ski town. Anything you do in a city, you can do in a ski town.' I met a guy in Pueblo, Colo., who told me he'd followed my advice. He'd moved from Florida to southern Colorado. And guess what he did? He was an alligator trainer and he found a way to do that in Colorado.
I didn't pay any attention to what was politically correct in my movies. If it was funny, I put it in.
My favorite ski resort? This is going to sound facetious, but the best ski resort in the world is the one you're at at the time.