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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Bellingham gets a taste of winter

By Mitch Farley

To some, skiing and snowboarding is a weekend hobby or a sport. But to others, it’s more than any of those things combined, it’s a lifestyle. Warren Miller, late ski and snowboard filmmaker has embodied the life of the sport with his feature-length films for as long as anyone can remember.

Every year since 1950, Warren Miller Entertainment, based in Boulder, Colorado, has captured the magic of skiing. The team has travelled the world following the best riders through mind-blowing terrains to create a film which showcases the lifestyle that is skiing and snowboarding.

The Mount Baker Theater tower glows purple and blue as an electric sign reads "Warren Miller's Face of Winter" below
The Mount Baker Theatre was lit up blue and purple for the premiere of Warren Miller’s ski movie “The Face of Winter” on Saturday evening. // Photo by Mitch Farley

Their new film, “Face of Winter,” showed at Mount Baker Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 10, as part of the company’s yearly national film tour. The film was the 69th yearly installment from Warren Miller Entertainment.

Western junior Mike Clarke was in attendance and said  he’s seen many of Miller’s films before. Clarke said Miller exposed the sport, showing that it’s “truly a way of life.”

The showing of a highly-anticipated film was not the only thing audience members received for buying tickets. There was also a free raffle with gear from local companies including a brand-new pair of skis from Yeager’s Sporting Goods. The grand prize dwarfed all of that with a week on the slopes of the Swiss Alps as part of an all-expenses-paid trip for two.

The crowd’s excitement couldn’t be contained as the lights dimmed in the timeless Victorian theater. Whistles and cheers overwhelmed the room as the last film made during Miller’s lifetime began.

The film featured a local segment of last winter’s 32nd annual Legendary Banked Slalom at Mt. Baker Ski Area which was a crowd favorite based on the volume level of cheers.

The camera crew followed professional snowboarders Rob Kingwill and Seth Wescott as they competed in the race. Kingwill is a Jackson Hole shredder who has been featured in several Miller films and Wescott is a two-time Olympic champion in snowboard cross.

Bellingham resident Jeremy Daniels attended the film and said that he has seen multiple of Miller’s films at the Mount Baker Theatre before. Daniels currently attends Whatcom Community College and said he skis at Mount Baker every year.

Clarke said the films have evolved to spend less time showing footage and more monologue of athletes telling their experiences.

“I loved seeing the hometown spot up there,” Clarke said. “He definitely doesn’t follow along with the rest of the genre.”

Miller stepped away from all involvement in the process in 2005, at the age of 81. The films are now produced by Active Interest Media, a publishing company that specializes in enthusiast media like horseback riding, backpacking and skiing.

“I used to watch them growing up and I loved them more than anything,” Clarke said. “But I don’t need to hear about how you ride, just show me how you ride.”

Bellingham resident and Baker-rider of 40 years, Mark Sager, said his favorite part of the film was the powder snowboarding session with Wescott and Kingwill. 

“I liked that part most because the rest was all skiing and it was nice to see some snowboarding,” Sager said.

Miller died of natural causes in his home on Orcas Island in January 2018 at 93 years old. But for his work, it will live on because as Jeremy Daniels put it, “He’s the best.”

Miller just wanted to inspire people to get up, get out and get to doing what you love.


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