When the Seattle Times published its obituary for Warren Miller, the founder of Boulder-based Warren Miller Entertainment and the director of countless gut-wrenching winter-sports documentaries, Coloradans learned something surprising about this most Colorado-of-Colorado filmmakers: He didn't live in Colorado.
That was a shocker to some of us at Westword, since few filmmakers have captured the extremes of our state's ski and snowboarding culture better than Miller. But as it turns out, he lived at sea level.
Miller passed away at his home on Orcas Island, in Washington state, on Wednesday, January 24. He was 93.
The cinematographer, narrator and director released Deep and Light, his first big ski film, nearly seventy years ago. After that, Warren Miller Entertainment put out a new ski film each year, a tradition the company continued after Miller sold it in 2004.
His movies were always action-packed, showing death-defying stunts in the backcountry. As a documentarian of ski excursions in the winter wilds, Miller took us to places where the threat of avalanches made it too scary for most of us to go in the snowier months. And for skiers and snowboarders, his movies served as pure inspiration, challenging viewers to try the seemingly impossible.
In 2009, Westword's Colin Bane wrote about that year's Warren Miller Entertainment film, Dynasty:
Old man Miller doesn't have much to do with the films that bear his name these days, but his dynasty lives on all the same: Denver screenings of the annual ski porn from Warren Miller Films are as reliable as the changing of the seasons.
Warren Miller celebrated his 85th birthday last month, and this month Warren Miller Entertainment is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first screenings of his film Deep and Light. Miller's company has made one feature-length ski film a year ever since, in addition to the hundreds of other films Miller worked on in his long career. And while he sold his company in 2004 and hasn't been involved in the ongoing production of those movies, his spirit very much lives on.
Speakers at the various events heralding the start of the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show expo at the Colorado Convention Center through January 28 all took a moment to remember Miller. Skiers, fans and friends took to social media to mourn his death and celebrate his life.
From ABC's Chris Sacca:
Warren Miller just passed away peacefully at 93. His influence on my life cannot be understated. I’m forever grateful that my family and I got to know him. May his mantra for seizing the day become yours:— Chris Sacca (@sacca) January 25, 2018
“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.” pic.twitter.com/JLm2sbcsLi
From skier Cody Townsend:
One of the greatest moments of my life was when I heard Warren Miller say my name in one of his movies. It still gives me chills. His impact on my life and many skiers lives cannot be overstated. He will be remembered forever. RIP to the legend. pic.twitter.com/MdGLmChtCu— Cody Townsend (@codytownsend) January 25, 2018
From journalist Amanda Butt:
The world lost a legend last night. Thank you, Warren Miller, for paving a path in the ski video industry. You work has inspired so many. https://t.co/enljfnrfWD— Amanda Butt (@amandambutt) January 25, 2018
From author Jeff Shuey:
RIP Warren Miller. He captured amazing footage that got everyone stoked for the ski season. https://t.co/CP2YzjUaZl— Jeff Shuey (@jshuey) January 25, 2018
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And John Roderick, singer for the Long Winters, told this story:
Warren Miller died. 93 years old. At 16 I went on my first boy/girl date ever to his 1984 film ‘Ski Country’ at West High Auditorium because it was basically the coolest thing I could think of to do, and I wanted my date to like me. I wore contact lenses for the first time, also.— john roderick (@johnroderick) January 25, 2018
Miller will live on in our memories and on the silver screen. We look forward to what we hope will be months of retrospectives, in Denver theaters and on television.
As a documentary filmmaker pioneering action-sports movies and an adventurer himself, Miller definitely left his mark. And that isn't going anywhere.