Paul E. Anna: High Points
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
A little over a week ago I had the great pleasure of attending a film at the Wheeler Opera House made by Kurt Miller, Warren Miller’s son, called “The Movement.” The film, which featured superb cinematic contributions from local shooter Greg Poschman, detailed the accomplishments of four skiers who had overcome extreme odds and physical disabilities to ski.
It was an inspirational film made all the more so by the voice over-work provided by actor Robert Redford and Warren Miller. While both voices clearly were etched with the effects of age and time, they nonetheless evoked memories of just how influential and exceptional they had been in their respective primes.
I mentioned this at a dinner party in Los Angeles over the weekend and discovered that I was not the only one who harbored fond memories of hearing Warren’s voice many years before as he narrated his great ski films at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. “It wasn’t winter until Warren Miller came to Santa Monica,” said one longtime Mammoth Mountain skier who was at the table. Now that may be a line that is echoed in any community where Warren Miller brought his films but the point is, if you were there at that time, then the debut of a new Warren Miller film meant, well, everything.
The magic was, of course, in the images. Truly spectacular scenes of fresh powder below blue skies set to a sound track that made you long for a day, or a life, on the slopes. But beyond that was the dry wit, the unmistakable, near-monotone delivery of Miller, who introduced his films and then stepped into the shadows to do the voice-overs. The deadpan delivery was unlike anything else heard anyplace else. He was the veritable voice of winter.
There are Miller-isms that resonate to this day. A kind of ski version of Yogi Berra-isms, they sound silly and a little corny when you write them down or hear them from someone other than Miller, but when he uttered them, they made perfect sense. “The best skier is the one who enjoys it most.” “You are a unique person, just like everybody else!!” “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.”
These are just examples, and reading them in no way does them justice because they are products of a delivery that is unique to Warren himself. I think of NFL Films and the great John Facenda, who made the visuals come alive as though the games were historic confrontations. Those films helped to shape a sport.
And yet, that is exactly what Warren Miller did for a generation. He made everyone who went to his films want to be a ski bum. He made skiing sound like the most noble and worthwhile thing that a human being could do.
And now that I think about it, he was simply speaking the truth.
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