Interesting morning here at WildSnow dot com. In a pre-dawn creative burst I wrote an erudite review of Warren Millers new autobiography. Discussion ranged from his tough life as a kid, with an alcoholic abusive father, all the way through his success as a ski film maker but trials as an individual. Then the internet glitched and I lost all 500 words. Well, as Warren says in his quotes, “By the time you make ends meet, they move the ends.” I’ll testify.
In any case, if there is a founder and pioneer of the modern ski film industry, Warren Miller is it. Others came before, notable individuals such as John Jay, and films came after (1988’s Blizzard of Aahhhs marks the shift from Miller’s kingly reign to that of the current ski film genre).
Miller came in on the cusp of change involving things like plastic ski boot and composite skis — and perhaps most importantly, the advent of helicopter skiing. Yet he was a backcountry skiing fellow as well. The movie that inspired Miller’s career was an early flick he saw in Yosemite, covering a backcountry ski trip to the now historic Ostrander Hut (he went on to make his own tour to the Ostrander).
This is truly an autobiography, as well as a valuable historical reference. In the former case, Miller does share his somewhat desperate upbringing during the Great Depression in an appallingly dysfunctional family — out of which he bootstraps into being a successful businessman and creative. In the latter, clearly the influences of co-writer Andy Bigford and editor Mort Lund led to readable prose, along with complete index, bibliography and filmography.
Despite business trials and human dysfunction, “Freedom Found” ends on a high note. (It also begins on a high note, with an amusing story of skiing an exploding volcano and riding skiers off the mountain strapped to the skids of an overloaded ‘copter.)
What makes it all work is that Miller did indeed end up with a good life. He shared the joy of glisse with millions of people, still enjoys a lengthy marriage (after his admitted marital challenges), and presents a positive self-help world view that nearly anyone can benefit from reading. Chapter titles such as “Experience is all you have left when everything else is gone” are frequent, as is a constant dose of humor and positivity.
Well, that’s the short version of my review, dredged up from recent fingertip memory. I’m sure Warren probably lost a few feet of good film in his career. I lost a few words. So what. Thumbs up for Miller’s book. Check it out.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.