Ski icon and filmmaker Warren Miller died last week at the age of 93. For decades, ski fans have watched his films each fall to inspire themselves for the upcoming ski season.
Warren Miller has been credited by some people for launching the ski industry because his films brought the beauty and the challenge of skiing to the masse. And in a place like Vermont, which depends on the ski industry and where so many skiers love Warren Miller films, many have been impacted by what they've seen him put on the screen.
"He was really inspirational and just an amazing guy, who just had no fear and a sense of adventure. And he loved sharing everything he loved with the people that he worked with and it showed in the films that he made," said John Egan, who appeared in 17 of Miller's films. He also guides and works as a private ski instructor at Sugarbush Resort.
"The cool thing about Warren is he was an artist, and growing up in L.A., he saw lots of art and he took the camera to a new level. He used an old World War II camera that was a wind-up camera, so no batteries needed out there, [no] electrical outlets or anything out there on the mountains. And he would slow it down and speed it up in certain spots and just catch the beauty that was going on in the mountains itself, and the skiing was just part of it," Egan said. "He didn't just focus on what's going on with the skier; he just showed you the whole panorama and gave you the feel that you were actually there."
Egan met Miller in 1978 when he came to Sugarbush to film.
"I always say he made the mistake of giving me his 800 number and I never forgot it," Egan said.
Egan and his brother Dan went on to appear in a number of films, and Egan still tours with the film each fall. He also spent the summer at Miller's house working on a film about Miller's "extraordinary life" — Egan says that film will be released this year.
"It's not a ski film; it's a story about his life, his struggles and how he transformed an industry while being its biggest promoter," he said.
Egan says he's seen the love that so many Vermonters have for Miller's films.
"I still tour with the film and go around, and I stop at over 40 cities in the fall with the new film each year. And when we get to Burlington, there is just an excitement in there. I've worked with 14 or 15 different road crews over the last few years, and they all love to come to Burlington and there's such an energy here. It's really amazing. And I think Warren realized that a lot of the great skiers out west started here in the east. And he respected that," Egan said.
While making his films, Miller followed the lead of the skiers and never put them in danger, Egan said — even if he is best known for being in danger.
"One of Warren's most famous shots actually is of my brother Dan and myself and a big cornice breaks off the side of a mountain and drops about 900 feet. And I jumped over the hole it left and landed back on the hill," Egan said. "And everybody asked me, 'Why did he put you in that dangerous spot?' And it was a spot that my brother and I had gotten into; it wasn't anything he asked us to do. And he never did that — he never really pushed it beyond anybody's limits."
Disclosure: Sugarbush Resort is a VPR underwriter.