Let It Snow

Warren Millers Journey kicks off another ski season

You know the drill: catch the new Warren Miller flick when it comes to town, pick up gear on the cheap at the nearest ski expo, book the condo in Mammoth, wax the skis and boards, locate the longjohns in deep storage, head up to the local runs to work out the kinks and count the days until your yearly ski-week vacation.

For 54 years, Miller has been getting snow riders psyched for the season with his breathtaking, humorous, historic, educational, continent-hopping films. And a strong case could be made that the first Miller movies served as the templates for all the surf, motorcycle and even grossest gross-out skateboard films that would follow.

As the title of Miller's latest implies, Journey captures the travails skiers will undergo just to get to the planet's deepest, untouched powder. The twist is that many of the die-hards captured in this film are better known to the masses as world-class ski racers. We get perhaps the best member of the U.S. Ski Team ever, Bode Miller, up to his waist in powder in British Columbia's backcountry. We get American downhill champion Tommy Moe spending the morning heli-skiing and the afternoon pulling giant salmon out of the freezing waters of Alaska's wild lands. And we get the clown prince of the sport, Glen Plake and his multi-colored, sky-scraping mohawk, serving as the on-mountain host for several segments as 78-year-old Miller is relegated these days to writing and narrating his films, which are now shot by a team of cameramen under the direction of Max Bervy.

Locales range from the familiar (heck, even I've skied Heavenly and Copper Mountain), to the obscure (they ski in Morocco?) to a whole bunch of places we ski bums can only dream of someday visiting (like Portillo, Chile; Verbier, Switzerland; and France's oui-oui Chamonix).

Though not as nostalgic a trip as Miller's 1999 career retrospective Fifty, Journey includes archival footage from his vast library, including shots he took (on his 16mm Bell and Howell) in 1948 of Marilyn Monroe at Snow Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains and a touching collage in memory of snowboarding pioneer Craig Kelly, who perished in an avalanche this past January.

Viewers are also treated to Miller performing his new job as director of Wyoming's Yellowstone Club, the only private ski resort in the world. Based on these shots, his position seems to involve solitary runs on empty hills. Hey, a man's gotta put food on the table.

Warren Miller's Journey was directed and produced by Max Bervy; and written and narrated by Warren Miller. Screens at Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 740-2000. www.warrenmiller.com. Wed., 8 p.m. $16. Also at Laguna Beach High School, 5 & 8 p.m., Dec. 14; and Carpenter Center in Long Beach, 8 p.m., Dec. 16.

 
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