Warren Miller, 1924-2018

The ski-film industry icon and trailblazer defined an entirely new genre of adventure cinematography.
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All of us at SKI are immensely sad to learn of the passing of Warren Miller, ski industry icon and inspiration to skiers everywhere. Miller died at his home on Washington's Orcas Island on Jan. 24, 2018. He was 93 years old.

Warren Miller and the SKI brand share a long and storied history, and we are blessed to have benefited from his influence over the past 60-plus years. As skiers, we are all better off thanks to this man, who followed his passion, forging ahead into unknown territory and creating this entirely new and exciting genre of ski films—one that’s still evolving today.

Warren Miller Intro Shot

Warren Miller ignited the passion of thousands of skiers during travels throughout the ski world.

Warren Miller was born in 1924 in Hollywood, Calif., He purchased his first camera in 1946, an 8-mm Bell & Howell movie camera that he bought for $77. After nearly sinking at sea during World War II, Miller was discharged from the Navy in 1946 and moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, with his buddy Ward Baker. He worked as a ski instructor at Sun Valley during the 1948-49 season: “It was hard for me to believe my good luck in getting the job that paid $125 a month and included a place to live, three meals a day, a free lift ticket, and a new pair of ski pants and a parka,” he recalled in his 2016 autobiography, “Freedom Found.”

Photo Gallery: Warren Miller Through the Years

When he wasn’t working, Miller was filming Ward performing exploits all around the mountain. The idea of becoming a professional ski filmmaker—even though there wasn’t yet such a thing—was percolating in his mind. The following season Miller taught and skied at Squaw Valley. It was the resort’s inaugural season, attracting plenty of ski talent—lots for the budding cinematographer to film. His first film, “Deep and Light,” featured footage from both Squaw and Sun Valley, and launched Warren into a career that tallied 56 more films before he hung up the camera in 2006 (though his voice was heard alongside narrator Jonny Moseley’s in 2007’s “Playground” and in 2017's "Line of Descent", and Miller himself was featured in video interview footage in 2016's "Here There & Everywhere.")

Ward and Warren in the spring of 1947 on a weeklong Ostrander Lake backcountry trip.

Warren Miller with longtime friend Ward Baker.

We are forever grateful to Warren Miller for chasing—and capturing on film—the freedom and individuality that our sport is rooted in. We vow to honor his adventurous spirit in the work we do. Because, after all, “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.” What are you waiting for?

RIP Warren Miller, 1924-2018.

Read "The World's First Ski Bum," an excerpt from Warren's Autobiography, "Freedom Found."

Related

Warren Miller is arguably the most iconic figure in the world of skiing. His annual ski films are regarded as celebrations of the beginning of each ski season. It all started in 1946 when Miller and a friend moved to Sun Valley, ID, lived in the parking lot in a teardrop trailer and earned money as ski instructors. In their free time, the two would film each other in order to critique their ski techniques. In the summer, they did the same thing while surfing off the California coast. Miller showed his ski and surf films to friends and told stories and jokes while they watched. After receiving countless invitations from friends to show his films and narrate them at parties, he realized he could make his hobby his business. In 1949, he founded Warren Miller Entertainment and began his long-standing tradition of producing an annual, feature-length ski film. He toured his film around to theaters near ski towns each year, often showing it at night, so he could shoot the next year’s footage during the day. Before long, Miller was showing his films in 130 cities a year. In the late 1990s, Miller stepped aside from his hands-on production of the film, but one is still produced annually in his name. Since 1950, Warren Miller Entertainment has produced 59 feature-length ski films—and still counting.

Happy 60th Birthday, Warren Miller Films

In 1949, Warren Miller came out with his first ski movie. This year's 60th film, Dynasty, is touring the country now. We have an exclusive vintage film clip (just recently dusted off from the archive room) from the 1949 film, Deep & Light.

Dummy Downhill by Warren Miller

Dummy Downhill by Warren Miller

Warren Miller’s film crews capture some fun footage at the Dummy Downhill competition in New England. All you need is some creativity, some junk, and a pair of skis you don’t care about.