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Warren Miller Feature Films

Why ‘Winter People’ is Obviously the Best Warren Miller Movie Ever

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My good friend, the Editor-in-Chief of a certain ski-obsessed publication, recently took to these digital pages to proclaim that Born to Ski is obviously the best Warren Miller movie ever. She did so with passion and with verve and with … no idea what she was talking about. It’s easy to get sucked into subjective rabbit holes while debating this type of thing, so let’s stick to the facts.

Fact: Born to Ski contains a three-minute long rollerblading segment.

Oh, I’m sorry … are we still talking?

Look, Born to Ski was made in 1991, which was actually the twelfth year of the 1980s. Garish neon one-piece ski suits? Check. Hair styled like upright aerials—straight up and confusing? Check. The excitement and innovation found a few years later when the freeskiing revolution began? Nada, zip zilch. The early ’90s were the last throes of the skinny ski era and Born to Ski feels like exactly that: something that you vaguely remember as fun but know for sure wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Which is why, when you peruse the nearly endless Warren Miller viewing options available to you as an Outside+ member, I point you to 1972’s Winter PeopleNow, this is vintage Warren Miller and vintage skiing. Every turn along every mountain pass reveals a snowy landscape that feels like you’ve never seen it before because, in 1972, you hadn’t. The Alps, the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada—for most skiers back then, these places may as well have been Valhalla. Through muted colors and sun bursts of old 16 millimeter film, they look like it, too.

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Whoever’s doing the score in Winter People apparently hadn’t heard of rock and roll yet, because every frame is accompanied by soaring strings and playful flutes and possibly even a stoned lute. It lends the whole experience a fairy tale quality that summarizes why skiing became popular in the first place—they’re called “winter wonderlands” for a reason.

Not convinced? Check out the coverage of Vail’s first hot dog contest, with vivid reminders of how cool ski ballet was when performed on a legitimate slope and at speed. There’s also one of the largest spread eagles ever committed to film; a front flip spread eagle that may in fact be the first ski grab ever attempted, and all time Warren zingers like “George Asteroll does a shoulder roll, a fanny roll, a tip roll, another tip roll, just as though he planned all of them.”

I get that, if you’re young enough, the early ’90s probably seem to you like the early ’70s seem to me. But there’s one key difference: If I had to sum Winter People up in one word, it would be “romantic.” And while you try to remember the last time anyone referred to the early ’90s as romantic, I’ll rest my case.

Come at me, Shafer.