The 59th annual blast is subtitled “Never Grow Old,” perhaps in deference to the on-screen young’uns tearing up and down the slopes in search of extreme-sports excitement. Producer-director Max Bervy, director of photography Chris Patterson and their crew of intrepid cinematographers capture all the gonzo stunts and dazzling wipeouts with breathtaking editing techniques by Kim Schneider and all of the schussing choreographed to a driving alt-rock soundtrack with tracks from Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Weezer and Beck. (Jeep, who lent a financial hand for this production, presumably paid a pretty penny for the inclusion of Cream’s classic “White Room.”)
While such action-packed, snow-packed imagery may feel standardized in an age of 24-hour sports TV channels, savoring those visuals on a movie screen ratchets up the thrill factor. That could explain why nearly 1,000 ski aficionados turned out at the Landmark for last year’s screening of the Warren Miller flick Playground—and the sights will be even better for Children of Winter, thanks to the new replacement screen that Universal Pictures donated to the Landmark for the September world premiere of the Ernie Davis biography The Express.
Children of Winter follows the familiar template established 58 movies earlier by Miller himself, as the cameras navigate an international path to profile various hot-doggers for vignettes running between five and seven minutes in length. There’s not much of a foreign policy for this go-round, however; aside from layovers in Japan, Iceland and the Austrian Alps, most of the action takes place stateside. Olympic ski champ Jonny Moseley serves as narrator, although the occasional voice-overs of Miller, employed in Playground and Off the Grid and cribbed from his older movies, are conspicuously missing. Miller, 84, has provided his name, but not his documentarian services, to these recent efforts.
Still, Miller’s cinematic spirit guides Children of Winter’s hyper-athletic ski bums. The movie begins and ends on a thematic note, which involves the lengths that skiers will go to reach their peaks, such as helicoptering toward distant Alaskan terrain in the opening sequence to the finale’s trek as a trio of skiers take a sailboat into the North Atlantic for some Icelandic action.
Much of this travelogue, however, depicts the snowbound destinations of the Lower 48. A Utah license plate heralds “Greatest Snow on Earth,” as skier Jeremy Nobis enthuses, “There really is nothing like a 15- to 20-inch, 3 percent density dump!” (Hell, even a first-time bunny-sloper is not going to challenge the logic of that statement.) Meanwhile, a warning sign at a ski resort in the former mining town of Silverton, Colo., declares, “You could die here today.” Unless, or course, you are a freeskiing pro like Andy Mahre, adept at handling the powdery backcountry’s vertical drops.
There’s unexpected comic relief during a stop at Okemo, Vt., when snowboarding members of the ad-hoc rockers Yukon Kornelius (featuring N.E.R.D.’s Eric Fawcett, Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson, Guster’s Adam Gardner and Stephan Lessard from the Dave Matthews Band) hang out with local farmer Jason Biggs from the American Pie trilogy of raunch. During a fund-raising concert for a local food bank, the band recruits Biggs to play cowbell for “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and even Dee Snider drops by for a Twisted Sister cover.
Girl power takes hold in Colorado’s Crested Butte, home base for flame-tressed, big-mountain ski queen Wendy Fischer, as three female up-and-comers—Lynsey Dyer, Greta Eliassen and Rachael Burks—visit their mentor. Also in Colorado, veteran skier Chris Anthony has to “cowboy up” as he takes on an equestrian skijoring competition amid the downtown streets of Leadville, where horses drag the humans like water skiers across snow-covered jumps and other obstacles at 35 mph. Anthony remarks that flying dung poses a different obstacle, as a wizened local comments, “First rule is to keep your mouth shut because all that out there ain’t white snow.”
And in Bend, Ore., 1970s-era Banzai Pipeline surfing master Gerry Lopez applies his Hawaiian know-how for shooting the curl to his newfound jones for snowboarding at Mount Bachelor. Director Bervy supplies a neat visual segue, as he cuts from an image of Lopez shaving fine dust from his new snowboard to the pretty flakes of an Oregon snowfall.
Children of Winter ends with an extended tribute to the late skier Billy Poole, with reminisces from some of the movie’s stars and footage of Poole hurtling down some mighty pretty countryside. What isn’t mentioned, however, is that Poole, 28, died in a January accident while performing a tricky stunt for this movie at Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon. While this tragedy might affect the ways that future Warren Miller Entertainment ski flicks are produced, Children of Winter pays posthumous respect as Poole embarks on an unexpected adventure in Iceland for a spiritual finale that shouldn’t be revealed—but should be experienced by true-blue ski fans.
Admission to the Landmark screening is $18.50, which includes complimentary lift tickets to Vermont’s Stratton Mountain and Smuggler’s Notch ski resorts and Swain Resort near Letchworth State Park, a two-for-one lift ticket to Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville, N.Y., and a $25 off coupon on a $150 purchase from the Ski Company, 3401 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt. Tickets are available at the Ski Company, the Landmark box office (475-7980) and Ticketmaster (472-0700). For more information, check out www.warrenmiller.com.