In the opening seconds of “No Turning Back,” narrator and Olympic mogul skiing gold medalist Jonny Moseley stops in front of a theater and snaps a photo of the movie’s poster.
“Whoa,” he says as he turns to the camera and tells the audience that this is the 65th Warren Miller ski film. What he doesn’t tell us is the significance of the poster. Instead, he utters one of Miller’s famous lines, “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”
Turns out the Warren Miller Entertainment ski film franchise — which hasn’t included Warren Miller for about a decade — was 65 years old when it first made a woman the centerpiece of its promotional poster.
It’s Jess McMillan of Jackson Hole, Wyo., who gets the honor, said Nancy Richter, one of the movie’s promoters. McMillan, who lists “Ninja” as her other dream job, rips across the screen in the opening segment shot in Alaska.
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The “No Turning Back” film tour comes to Olympia on Friday and Tacoma on Saturday.
Ingrid Backstrom, a Crystal Mountain native who skis with McMillan in the film, was surprised to hear about the little piece of history. “There wasn’t some hot doggin’ chick on a poster in the 1970s,” Backstrom said with a laugh. “That blows my mind.”
Maybe Moseley played it just right in the opening seen. Today, gifted female skiers are as commonplace as snow in ski movies. Backstrom, who also stars in a new all-female ski movie “Pretty Faces,” says, “I don’t know why people are continually surprised by this. Women have been getting after it for a while.”
“I think it (the movie) is saying women have been doing this and this is where we’re at,” Backstrom said.
In the “No Turning Back,” McMillan is introduced as one of the few women who can keep up with Backstrom. Then a helicopter drops McMillan and Backstrom on top of a mountain, and they shred steep lines and dodge avalanches.
“When I got the call that I was going to Alaska with Ingrid I was kind of speechless,” McMillan says in the film. “She is one of the best female skiers in the world, and standing on top of a peak with her, she’s where she should be. She’s where her heart is.”
Backstrom is one of three skiers with Crystal Mountain ties in the film. Tyler Ceccanti and Mike Hattrup are the others.
Between shots of McMillan and Backstrom doing things average skiers should never try, they speak about how more and more woman are taking part in big mountain skiing.
But they don’t belabor the point, because, really, this is ground Warren Miller Entertainment has covered before.
In 2004, “Impact,” the last of the films narrated by Miller, who recently turned 90, placed an emphasis on women in extreme skiing. The film featured 16 women, including Backstrom.
At the time, Jessica Sobolowski, a Lake Tahoe skier, told The News Tribune the film was “the biggest turning point for women” in the sport.
Still, the movie’s stylized blue and red poster showed a group of a six skiers standing side by side. Two were women, but one of the men was the focal point.
“Impact” did a good job of showing how far women had come in the sport and how far Warren Miller Entertainment had come in the way women were portrayed. It flashed to scenes from earlier films. There was a woman hitting the slopes in a white fur coat and another shaking her rear. Then there was a woman smiling, while in the foreground gloves on ski poles were positioned to make it appear as if they are touching her chest.
Miller had been criticized for these earlier films, and in a 2005 interview with The News Tribune he said, “I've tried to stay on the cutting edge with my movies, and not everybody likes everything about that. Pioneers die with a (butt) full of arrows.”
But, he said, times had clearly changed. “Women are an important part of the sport,” Miller told The News Tribune. “It used to be that they didn’t even make equipment for women. Now they are skiing as well as men.”