Take a Trip Down Memory Lane With Warren Miller’s ‘Playground’
With as much footage from contests as the backcountry, Playground tried to find middle ground in pleasing a crustier, more mature audience, and the burgeoning freeski movement.
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With a filmography spanning over seven decades, Warren Miller has been a bellwether for skiing, measuring and helping shape narratives throughout the sport. From humble beginnings in Sun Valley, ID in the ‘50s to its big mountain bad boy days in the late ‘80s to its latest soulful and inward peering film, Winter Starts Now, Warren Miller has been synonymous with skiing’s current trends.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Warren Miller’s 2007 film Playground. A perfect encapsulation of skiing in the mid-aughts, it captures the tremendous energy and momentum of the rise of modern freeskiing, in both the terrain park and big mountains. With as much footage from contests as the backcountry, Playground finds middle ground that should please a crustier, more mature audience and those entertained by skiing’s cutting edge. It’s a frenetic, swaggering artifact of the time that’s not to be missed.
Playground asks: What if the whole world was a playground—a winter one? Well, you don’t have to imagine that scenario because with a runtime at 100 minutes, Playground is a time capsule of pro skiing at the time. Salomon’s young guns Simon Dumont, Sammy Carlson and Peter Olenick shine under competition lights. The Crist brothers and Bode Miller rip through AK’s steepest and deepest. Andreas Håtveit and Austin Ross go skiing in Dubai. The late Jamie Pierre and Julian Carr huck massive cliffs. The fabled Jon Olsson Invitational makes an appearance. And finally, it features Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Sean Pettit and Chris Benchetler, all of whom are still at the forefront of skiing today.
That isn’t to say Playground abandons its Warren Miller roots. The campy and playful Jonny Moseley narration remains. There are certainly a few era-appropriate cringe-worthy music choices. And the reverence for skiing, no matter the year or format, is apparent. But there’s also an energy unlike anything else in the Warren Miller vault, a frenetic and frenzied pace of sensory overload. And while 2007 was a wild and weird time in skiing, 16 years later, Playground still rips harder than many contemporary ski films.