Planet Earth lost a tremendous human being this week with the death of legendary filmmaker Warren Miller. Beloved most anywhere skiers and adrenaline junkies congregate, it’s clearly impossible to describe his impact here in Colorado.
The self-deprecating powder hound had a way of putting things — through his deliciously funny narration, his awe-inspiring films and his great love for life — that lured generations to the slopes and wherever else there was fun to be had.
As The Denver Post’s Jason Blevins noted, when this most famous of ski bums first started living out of his van in resort parking lots in 1949, there were maybe a dozen chairlifts in America. Urged on by Miller’s homespun advice about taking up the sport (“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do”), there are now so many skiers and snowboarders, the country hosts 480 hills.
Miller put out 58 feature films. The once-a-year releases became as much a part of the season as lining up for first chair.
Where others often choose to focus on daredevils capable of feats most of us can only imagine, Miller was most at home showcasing the great fun to be had by everyday adventurers searching out the deepest powder on the hill, goofing on the groomers or playing it up in irreverent festivals of spring.
He was a ski country prophet, sent to remind us that life ought to be lived all out, that on our death bed, it likely won’t be a day at work we’ll be remembering, but a day on the hill.
“Don’t take life too seriously,” he would quip, “because you can’t come out of it alive.”
Blevins, himself a great chronicler of outdoor sports and adventure, tells us seeing Miller’s film as a boy helped fuel the man he became. Wonderfully, Blevins would one day ski with the great man. At 82, the filmmaker opened up and ripped down the hill, pre-jumping blind rollers.
“The number one thing for him is having a good time,” Blevins says of the filmmaker’s legacy. “If you can get out there and have a good time, you’re winning. … It’s not necessarily about being awesome, but about putting a smile on your face and having the wind in your hair.”
Even in Colorado, we can forget such profundity. Life is full of challenges and hostilities, and our public policy and political spheres are hardly conducive to the kind of joyful living and deep camaraderie with our fellow human beings that Miller revered and served.
We should remember this prophet’s advice. The thing to do, whether on a big mountain slope or the local park, is get out there with friends and family and kick up your heels.