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Warren Miller’s latest kicks off winter

by Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News
Will Wissman photoSkier Chris Davenport is just one of the featured athletes in this year's Warren Miller film. The screening of Miller's films is an annual pre-season tradition.
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No matter how many times you watch a Warren Miller film, the first scene almost always makes your heart beat faster.

Especially when that first big fat powder turn fills the movie screen, and the movie theater fills with cheers, hoots and hollers.

Winter has officially begun.

This year’s film is called “Playground,” Warren Miller’s 58th annual film. It opens up with a montage of big action scenes, and segues into breathtaking scenery of Whistler, Blackcomb, B.C., with athletes Shane Szocs, Dan Treadway, Jenn Ashton and Ian McIntosh hucking themselves off big cliffs onto wide open, deep powder runs.

But this year’s Warren Miller isn’t all about skiing and snowboarding ” it’s about winter playgrounds everywhere: Snowmobiling into the heavy snowfilled backcountry of Whistler, competing at the U.S. Freesking Open at Copper Mountain, or tracking up huge descents in the Alyeska backcountry of Alaska.

Alaska gets a lot of playtime in this year’s Miller flick. Olympic Gold Medalist Bode Miller makes an appearance, both in racing and backcountry skiing in Alyeska. Zach and Reggie Crist, Kevin Quinn and Dave Barlia rip through backcountry landscapes in Cordova. Joining them is Dave Barlia, who soars along peaks at 130 miles an hour in a wing-shaped squirrel suit. Chris Davenport and Cody Townsend access the remote Alaskan backcountry by helicopter where they plunge into the Denali dominated Alaskan Chugach Range.

Grand County locals may recognize a clip from the Sleeper House in Genesee ” a home that was once depicted in Woody Allen’s “Sleeper.” The scene shows Chris Anthony preparing for a trip to Dubai, to an indoor ski facility located in the Arabian Desert. The movie then goes on to show Austin Ross and Andreas Hatveit walking through a mall in Dubai dressed in full-on winter gear as they make their way to Ski Dubai ” one of the world’s largest indoor ski resorts.

(Winter Park local Chris Seemann took a trip to Ski Dubai two years ago for its grand opening ceremonies. Seemann, the technical advisor for the U.S. Ski Team, was flown there to help shape the indoor freestyle course.)

“Playground” goes on to show scenes of close-to-home places such as Utah and Aspen, but then shoots to faraway ski resorts in Japan, Sweden and Switzerland.

Athletes such as Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Jesse Hall and Rachael Burks go mountain biking and hiking in the southern part of Utah, and then head north for some serious powder skiing. In Aspen, Casey Puckett, Peter Olenick, Gretchen Bieler and Klaus Obermeyer talk about what it’s like to live and train in Aspen, as the film depicts footage of their competition runs at the X-Games.

Chris Benchetler and Sean Pettit ski Japan’s off-piste landscape, bursting through powder stashes and unexplored tree runs. Ueli Kestenholz and Mathias Roten go speed riding in the Swiss Alps ” a combination of paragliding and skiing that allows riders to overcome peaks at high speeds. The Jon Olsson Invitational, a type of X-Games in Sweden, is where some of the world’s most elite freestyle athletes show off skills and compete.

The grand finale of the film shows a series of clips depicting some of the world’s most talented winter sports athletes, as they navigate through big air jumps, cliff drops and rail slides.

For those who want to know more about the new Warren Miller, check out warrenmiller.com ” or, go see the film tomorrow night.

“Playground” will be screened Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are available at the Silver Screen Cinema box office, located in downtown Winter Park across from Buckets.


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