69th annual Warren Miller film features Aspen’s Simi Hamilton | AspenTimes.com

69th annual Warren Miller film features Aspen’s Simi Hamilton

John LaConte/Vail Daily

Aspen's Simi Hamilton offers some comic relief in "Face of Winter," the 69th annual film from Warren Miller Entertainment.

The 69th annual Warren Miller ski film is a special one.

The film is being released less than a year after Miller’s death at age 93, and begins and ends with a tribute to Miller that will have you fondly reminiscing on skiing’s early years in the U.S., how much the sport has changed and how much it has remained the same.

While the film is narrated by Jonny Moseley, who has been narrating all Warren Miller films since taking over for Miller in 2007, it also features a lot of narration from Miller himself. One quick takeaway that many locals will relate to is explored within the first two minutes of the movie: Housing in ski towns has always been difficult to find.

The film begins with Miller recalling his days living in the parking lot at Sun Valley Resort.

“I never really considered myself a bum because the whole time I was living in parking lots I was drawing cartoons and I wrote three books while I was in the parking lot,” Miller said.

In addition to finding shelter and a lift ticket, Miller also found a way to eat.

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“In the cafeteria, I thought, ‘Boy, that would be a really keen place to paint murals,'” Miller said. “So I went to Pappy Rogers and told him my idea, I said I’ll trade you for a season pass. He said ‘OK, you got a deal, and by the way, why don’t you eat your three meals a day there, as long as you’re painting the murals.'”

And in classic Warren Miller fashion, the film begins with one of his classic quips.

“So I painted them very slowly,” he said.

DIFFERENT FACE OF WINTER

Warren Miller films have always featured the best in alpine skiing and snowboarding, but what sets them apart from other films of the genre is their ability to tell a compelling story.

There are more than a few great ski-related tales in this year’s film, “Face of Winter,” but the story that makes the film worth seeing, purchasing on DVD and sharing with your family is not related to alpine skiing or snowboarding.

Cross-country skiing, and the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team, are featured in a segment that will bring a tear to the eye of all who watch.

Again, this segment starts with narration from Miller himself.

“Something ski people can all do is slow down just a little bit, go touring and look around,” he says.

Moseley jumps in next: “Slow down and look around? Not these guys.”

SEE SIMI FALL

The scene is set in New Zealand’s south island, in August, where the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team is training.

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete Noah Hoffman, who was raised in Aspen and is a former member of the U.S. cross-country team who has trained at that location with the team for many years, said he always imagined the place to be a perfect setting for a segment like the one in “Face of Winter.”

“I was so happy to see this area featured in the new Warren Miller film,” Hoffman said. “It’s stunningly beautiful.”

The cross-country skiing segment in the new film explored Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins’ path to a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It talks about how Randall was Diggins’ hero growing up, how Randall had been to four Olympics without winning gold, and how Diggins and Randall would team up to win the women’s team sprint in 2018.

Hoffman was there when Diggins crossed the finish line, less than a ski’s length ahead, for the win.

“It was the highlight of my career,” Hoffman said. “Just being there at the finish line with these athletes, who have been like sisters to me, and then to see that breakthrough result in this real interest in cross country skiing in this country, a sport that promotes universal whole body health, is so much more accessible than alpine skiing, and is a lifelong sport, to have it featured by Warren Miller is a testament to the big growth of the sport as spurred by that Olympic gold medal and everything our team has done.”

Hoffman said he also enjoyed seeing his teammate and lifelong friend, Aspen’s Simi Hamilton, finally get his due in a Warren Miller film, albeit in a different context than he would have imagined.

Hamiliton adds a little comic relief to the segment.

“It’s kind of like Nascar with spandex,” Hamiliton says of cross-country skiing, before crashing face first into the snow.

“I’ve known Simi since I was 11, when I moved from Evergreen to Aspen,” Hoffman said. “He is one of the best all-around athletes that I’ve ever met. He could have easily been one of the big mountain skiers featured annually in a Warren Miller film, in fact, if you would have asked me when I was in eighth grade why Simi was going to be featured in a Warren Miller film, I would have placed a bet that it was him on telemark skis descending a huge line in the Himalayas.”

jlaconte@vaildaily.com

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