Why you should care

Because these movies are all you need for ski season inspiration.

As you cruise down the mountain at the Keystone Ski Resort, three hours north of Denver, you might spot a little arrow pointing into the woods. Follow the tight, bumpy path through the trees for a bit and it will drop you out, rather steeply, at the steps of the old-school Timberhouse Lodge. There, each night, after a warm shower and a communal meal, the guests — elderly couples, multigenerational families, sextets of local college bros — settle into the lodge’s sunken living room, lined with shag carpet and faded photos of yore, and wait for the projector to click on, and for the nightly screening of ski porn to begin.

For the next few hours, the diverse crowd will collectively moan and sigh as they watch the world’s top skiers and snowboarders bounce and sashay in slo-mo down pristine mountain slopes, sparkles of powder filling the air behind them. It’s fantasy viewing for people who’ve spent the day cussing at unwieldy boots and holiday lift lines, before veering around icy patches and reckless children. It’s watching someone perfect at what they’ve been sweating all day to just barely manage. And the man bringing them this vicarious pleasure? Ninety-one-year-old Warren Miller.

His folksy, goofy, Elmer Fudd–like narration was salted with sassy, dry humor.

For more than 60 years, Miller directed, produced and narrated over 750 of these films with his company, Warren Miller Entertainment. It started when, as a ski bum in Sun Valley, Idaho, Miller would film his friends skiing as a way to help them improve their technique. After he began getting invited to parties to show the films, the hobby turned into a business. Miller formed a production company and started a tradition of producing one ski film a year, which he would show in ski towns in the evenings. The showings gained a cult following, and soon his films were being seen in 130 cities a year. Though his folksy, goofy, Elmer Fudd–like narration, salted with sassy, dry humor, never changed (in fact, some newer films reused Miller’s old narration to retain the original feel), the man and his team excelled at keeping up with the times: Snowboarding, helicopter drops and para-alpine skiing (for people with disabilities) were all innovations featured in his films.

Miller ran the show until the late ’80s, when he turned over control to his son, who would eventually sell the company to Time Inc. in 2007. Today, Miller has distanced himself from the more modern productions that bear his name, and loyalists complain that the newer films have veered away from the original, stripped-down formula. Still, a representative for the new production company noted the films have garnered a “global audience of 1.5 million people over the past five years.” The latest film, Chasing Shadows, is currently on tour across the U.S.

But the films, especially the older ones, still capture the hearts of purists, because they’re not about shilling the gear or idolizing the pros. They’re still all about the beauty of dredging up that sparkly cloud of powder. The stuff that makes us moan and sigh.

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