Orcas Island, Wash. • Warren A. Miller, the iconic filmmaker who introduced generations to the thrills and freedom of skiing and outdoor adventures, died at his home Wednesday. He was 93.
Over a career that lasted more than 60 years, Miller stoked enthusiasm for skiing and snowboarding in general. But he also played an influential role in promoting Utah’s reputation as a ski state through dozens of segments that touted its deep powder and highlighted the skills of male and female skiers/boarders from the Beehive State.
“I don’t think there’s anyone, alive or dead, who influenced skiing in North America more than Warren Miller,” said Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, marketing arm of the state’s $1 billion-a-year industry. “In the days before the internet, he brought moving pictures to the eyes of people who had never seen skiing or never would have.”
Rafferty has no doubt that many of Utah’s current crop of rabid skiers grew up back East and were stimulated to come West by ski movies they watched at local high schools or flat-land theaters.
Eminent Utah ski historian Mike Korologos, at one time The Salt Lake Tribune’s ski writer, recalled that in the early days, Miller would provide live narration to accompany what he’d filmed.
“The footage wasn’t as dramatic as it is now, but for those days it was really pretty good,” Korologos said. “As his movies still do now, he did more to energize people than anyone and set the tone for the ski season.”
Miller’s distinct, droll narration and humorous hijinks on the slopes highlighted his films, which earned global acclaim and a passionate, multi-generational following.
While known as the original ski bum, Miller’s talents went well beyond ski filmmaking. He produced more than 500 films, primarily covering outdoor pursuits, including surfing, sailing, and other water sports. As an artist, cartoonist, and author, he wrote some 1,200 columns and 11 books.
He also was a World War II veteran, a ski instructor and ski racer, an accomplished surfer, and a champion sailor. He took up windsurfing in his 60s, and then turned to destination motor boating in his 70s and 80s, exploring the Northwest and Alaska from his home on Orcas Island.
During his 80s and 90s, Miller’s philanthropic efforts provided entrepreneurial training to thousands of youth nationwide, emphasizing hard work, ingenuity, and creativity.
Perhaps one of his most cited quotes provides some insight as to how Miller packed so much into one lifetime: “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”
“This is a sad day during which we draw some comfort from the fact that Warren’s legacy of adventure, freedom and humor carries on in the countless lives he touched,” said Laurie Miller, his wife of 30 years. “Warren loved nothing more than sharing his life’s adventures and hearing literally every day from friends old and new about how his stories inspired others to enrich and enjoy their own lives. All of us are better for knowing and loving Warren.”
“Warren Miller was a globally loved ambassador for skiing and adventure sports, pioneering an entire genre of filmmaking,” said Andy Clurman, CEO of Active Interest Media, the parent company of Warren Miller Entertainment. “We join generations of Warren’s fans in both mourning his loss and celebrating a life well lived.”
Miller is survived by his widow, two sons, a daughter and a stepson. A family statement surmised that, consistent with his movie monologues, Miller might now be saying “I’ll see you same time, same place next year, only I’ll be watching from a different mountaintop.”
— Tribune staff writer Mike Gorrell contributed to this report.