Hardcore skiers are the target audience for the new Warren Miller feature Wintervention
It used to be that you knew it was December because the department stores had their holiday displays up and running, but nowadays those Santa-related showcases start turning up after Labor Day. Still, you know it’s really December when the annual ski bonanza from Warren Miller Entertainment comes to town, and just in time for the schussing season, too. This year’s feature, titled Wintervention, offers a 102-minute travelogue jammed with colorful globe-hopping locations and choreographed at such a super-slick pace that director Max Bervy must have employed his own private stash of ski wax.
Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley is back for off-screen narration duties, but he also pops up in front of the camera. According to Micah Abrams’ script, which lends a kind of structural sense that isn’t usually found in other Warren Miller spectaculars, Moseley appears as a radio gab-show host, dispensing advice to call-in athletes who can’t control their mad skiing jones. The joke here, of course, is that Moseley dismisses their symptoms and encourages them all to continue “livin’ the dream” by seeking that next dose of fresh powder, while also setting up the episodic film’s next segment. (The voice of Miller, who served as guiding auteur of this cinema series for five decades, isn’t heard in this 61st installment, although Moseley relates one vintage tidbit to a listener: “As Warren said, ‘If you don’t get out there this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.’”) There are also more elaborate gags, such as the physician informing one hospitalized customer that he can no longer ski again. The next shot has the guy encased with a body cast and sitting on a chairlift, as he gleefully informs the viewer, “The doc says I can’t ski- -but he didn’t say anything about snowboarding!” Somebody cue a laugh track.
Whether by karmic accident or deliberate design, Wintervention is symmetrically bracketed by trips to the top and the bottom of our world. The opening segment takes place in Antarctica, as Kip Garre, Doug Stoup, John Morrison and Andrew McLean take a ship trip to the frigid area, whereupon they get dropped off at nearby glaciers and peaks. Then they take pitons and ropes and climb to various summits, followed by some very careful skiing down the slopes, or else risk plunging into the icy sea and its perplexed audience of penguins and seals. The film’s finale takes place in Svalbard, Norway, a mere 500 miles from the North Pole, where stoked hot-doggers Reggie Crist and Lexi DuPont (not to mention the camera guys accompanying them) set up tents in the Arctic Circle and apply gobs of sunscreen during what is supposed to be nighttime because the sun never sets on this part of the planet.
Wintervention also takes in the uberquaint charms of Austria’s Arlberg village region, where skier Hugo Harrison shows off his ugly bone spur; Moseley himself demonstrates his physical skills while zipping across the different terrains presented by British Columbia’s Columbia Mountains; and the numerous resorts in Vail are heavily praised, especially Chris Anthony’s tribute to Beaver Creek: “Where else can you get chocolate chip cookies at the end of your run?” Director Bervy’s movie also takes time to bid farewell to Arne Backstrom, who adored the nearby Heavenly Resort; last summer Backstrom died while on a ski mountaineering expedition in Peru.
During a clever interlude at Colorado’s Telluride area, married skiers Bryan and Hilaree O’Neill take separate moments to reveal their romantic courtship, although the facts become increasingly complicated in a Rashomon-like fashion. And easily the most diverting stop in this international expedition is Gudari in the country of Georgia, which gives free skiers Richard Permin, Stephen Maurer, Eric Themel and Phil Meier free reign to ham it up in a region where farm animals outnumber cars on the streets.
The aforementioned segment is underscored by the Russian rhapsodies of cultfavorite band Gogol Bordello, part of the alternative rock-flavored soundtrack that has given these Warren Miller flicks some aural distinction. The other tracks, which sound like they belong on some ultimate Hot Topic mix tape, include the driving rock of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s “Conscience Killer,” the swing-era spoofery of Richard Cheese’s “Nookie” and the ethereal gloom-and-doom spookiness of “Endless” from Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan.
All told, Wintervention is a breezy cinematic escapade even for armchair admirers, with wipeouts galore lovingly captured by directors of photography Tom Day and Chris Patterson. And the kinetic editing by Kim and Kyle Schneider continually peppers the viewers with dazzling images and incidental details; there must have been an Everest-sized mountain of footage left on the cutting-room floor after the Schneiders got through with their scissors.
Wintervention screens at Eastwood’s Palace Theatre, 2384 James St., on Saturday, Dec. 4, 6 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $20, available at the Ski Company, 3401 Erie Blvd. E., and at the door; ticket holders also receive lift-ticket vouchers for Greek Peak, Swain and Gore Mountain resorts plus Ski Company discounts. For details, call (800) 523-7117 or 463-9240 (Palace), or visit www.warrenmiller.com.