Warren Miller’s ski films, shown for years at Mount Baker Theatre, have often been a highlight of ski aficionados to kick off the snow season.
The Hollywood-born Miller, sometimes dubbed the original ski bum, is considered by many to be the pioneer of extreme sports films. But Miller, who turned 90 in October, hasn’t been actively involved in the films since 2004, due to a variety of legal entanglements.
Ironically, “No Turning Back,” the 65th Warren Miller Entertainment ski film, pays homage to the 65 years of mountain culture and adventure filmmaking that has lead viewers to numerous locations of the winter world.
On his Facebook page, Miller says that after he was discharged from the Navy in 1946 he bought an 8 mm camera and traveled with his surfing friend Ward Baker to Sun Valley, where they filmed each other to improve their skiing techniques. The results were pretty humorous, he says, but the pair would share their films — both skiing and surfing — with their friends, who seemed to enjoy them.
It wasn’t until the winter of 1949-50 that his films gained a wider audience and he was booked in theaters around the Northwest under his company name, Warren Miller Entertainment. He sold the company to his son, Kurt, in 1988, who then then sold the company to Time Warner, which was sold ultimately to the media conglomerate Bonnier Group.
Though the company still bears Warren Miller’s name, he doesn’t consider the newer films — the ones made since 2010 —“his” films.
That doesn’t detract from the amazing footage, now filmed largely using GoPro minicameras for up-close, skier-point-of-view angles.
These days, Miller is involved in the nonprofit Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, which he co-founded with his wife, Laurie Miller. The foundation’s mission is to teach ethical principles of business and entrepreneurship to young people.
He also has been working on a book about aging, “What Are You Doing with the Rest of Your Life?”
And surprise: Miller writes from his home on Orcas Island, where he and Laurie have lived since 1992. As part of his support for young people, his foundation built a skateboard park in Eastsound, on Orcas Island.
Miller sometimes contributes to Montana’s Flathead Beacon newspaper, writing about aging, skiing, boating and local events in his “Warren’s World” column.
His distinctive tenor voice was last heard in the 2005 film, “Higher Ground,” to try to keep with tradition, he says.
To see early hilarious footage of bloopers and mishaps on the slopes, such as “roller skiing” and “mattress tobogganing,” search for Miller’s 1984 film “Ski Country.”
And compare it to “No Turning Back.”