Off the Record: Stories from the Cutting Room Floor

  • SLEEP DEPRIVED: Typically hard-charging Lynsey Dyer stacks a few z

    Front-of-book Feature, Winter 2006-07

Edited by Greg I. Hamilton. Published in SnoWorld, magazine of the 57th annual Warren Miller film tour

Winter 2006-2007MAKING A WARREN MILLER MOVIE IS EXHAUSTING WORK. Consider: months and months of planning, swirling logistics, unforgiving weather patterns, and a whole bunch of goings-on that, thankfully, don’t make the final edit. In the last year, Warren Miller Entertainment saw a brand new $26,000 camera destroyed, a sled-shop owner’s personal ride totaled, some happy coincidences, and a few very unlikely tall tales. Scenes on the cutting room floor, whole segments abandoned for crummy snow, great action that just doesn’t quite fit, exposed film lost for three weeks in transit—behind the scenes with Warren Miller is sometimes a haphazard place where some things are best kept “off the record.”

“It was darker than the inside of a football, but when you see those guys skiing chest-deep powder, it works.”

When 96 inches falls on Steamboat, Colorado in 48 hours, there’s no time to consider. You go. Even if it’s November and zero logistics are squared away for the filming of Off the Grid. No matter; call Tom Day in Tahoe, round up some U.S. Freestyle Team members training nearby, including film rookie Arne Backstrom (an untested Warren Miller athlete, but hey, he’s Ingrid’s little brother, so the kid must rip), and get up there!

Line Producer Josh Haskins says the 24-hour turn was the fastest and most successful he’s seen in all his years on the film. “It was puking snow the whole time, so it was horrible light for filming—darker than the inside of a football,” said Haskins, “but when you see those guys skiing chest-deep powder, it works.”

Off the grid … but not for long: Krippenstein is one of those ski towns you thought didn’t exist anymore. It has 4,900 feet of vertical drop, mostly ungroomed freeride terrain–rare in the Alps–great snow, no crowds, and it’s easy to get there (two hours from Salzburg). Leave it to a Warren Miller film to spoil all that.

Rent-to-Own: The Warren Miller crew had completely cleared out the supply of snowmobiles at the local outfitter, KickAss Sleds out of Golden, BC. They were still one short, so the owner, snowed by the crew’s smooth talking assurances, agreed to loan his own personal ride–a tricked-out, $7,000 machine–to the oh-so trustworthy Jamie Pierre. Later that day, while Tom Day’s camera rolled, Jamie came into a tight turn a little hot, got bucked off, and the snowmobile headed straight for Tom—who narrowly jumped out of the way. The machine clipped Day’s tripod and kept going … over a knoll, off a cliff, and into a copse of fir trees. The crunch and telltale smoke plume told Tom and Jamie they had some explaining to do.

Seek Higher Ground in a Hurricane: When disaster struck in 2005, Warren Miller Entertainment, along with local rockers Rose Hill Drive and radio station KBCO, staged a benefit screening of Higher Ground, raising $25,000 for Katrina and Wilma Red Cross recovery efforts.

“All the film from the Big Sky segment was lost in shipping for three weeks—we had no idea where it was!” –Josh Haskins, Line Producer. “The box finally showed up and sat unnoticed on a desk before we realized what it was.”

Way off the grid: When spending the holidays in the Middle East, are American troops jonesing for mom’s cranberry relish or fresh pow? Nearly 100 desert-stranded GIs and officers from all four military branches crowded a stuffy theater in the middle of Qatar to see 2004’s film, Impact, on loan from Warren Miller HQ. Meanwhile, after a donated screening on Christmas Eve in Iraq, Green Beret and Physician’s Assistant Jon Christensen took time out from building hospitals to fashion an improvised snowboard and carve up three inches of fresh sand over packed gravel. Hope the hospital’s finished before you start cliff jumping on that thing, soldier.

To cover the seventh annual Monopalooza, a “fun and festive” gathering of diehard monoskiers, Tom Day’s film crew needed an athlete—a character—who could carry the segment. It seemed everyone they called was “not available.” But then Jamie Pierre signed up with gusto. Within a day he’d scoured thrift stores for the perfect one-piece suit and mirrored shades and was ready to lock his feet together and tear it up. Ten inches of fresh snow fell for the second day of shooting, and Tom called the home office to say: “I hope you don’t think we’re making fun of these guys. I don’t care what they ride or what they wear, this is going to be a rippin’ powder segment!”

5 odd things found in the Warren Miller warehouse: The “warehole,” as it’s affectionately known among WME staffers, is a receptacle for 57 years of filming flotsam and jetsam. While a major archival project is underway on the old reels of film, some of the other things found in the warehouse are worthy of a place in a museum … and some are not.

  • From 100 hours of footage to a 90-minute film, the hard way – Hollywood Film Company 16mm film power rewinder, circa 1967. It’s still in use as Warren Miller workers prep 57 years of archival footage for up-conversion to HD video. It may take a while, so don’t hold your breath for the DVD re-release of 1968’s Hot Skis, Cold Snow.
  • “Please insert disc #74,565,404 into drive A”Post-production system with 5¼-inch floppy drive, circa 1985. Editing Off the Grid’s HD footage on this beast would require over 74-million floppies, at 360kB each, plus a 36-ton vat of green health-food smoothies for the editor.
  • The show must go on – Kodak Pageant 250-S Sound Projector, circa 1980. In the early ’90s, two projectors replaced this old gem on each road crew; the second projector ran a duplicate copy of the film just behind the lead projector. Should the first bulb explode (or another such crisis arise), the projectionist would (in theory) wake up and switch to projector #2 before audiences noticed.
  • Warren Miller in Vegas! – 3D wirecam and balloon inflator: In 1996 Warren Miller films was commissioned to create a high-tech 3D ride for installation in Las Vegas, New York, and Alberta. Cameras rigged with custom-built lenses raced down the slopes on high-tensile wire to capture the action. The balloons? Well, it looked cool through 3-D glasses when you crashed into them at the bottom.
  • To outer space on rocket skatesZimmo from planet Zorlon, the prototype puppet deemed “too scary” for Zimmo’s series of children’s videos, produced by Warren Miller Films in the ’90s.

THE HIGH COST OF MOVIE MAKING: “They were filming with a brand new, high-speed Super 16 SR $20,000 camera with a $6,000 lens—my baby,” recalls Line Producer Josh Haskins. “It’s a rig shot, mounted to the front of a snowmobile, the driver hits a bump, bottoms out, the rig breaks, the camera falls, and he runs it over! Broke it in half! This was December, the beginning of the film season, the best camera in the office—you can’t just get these at the local camera store!”

House Party – Situated at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Sandy, Utah is typically a quiet and mild-mannered bedroom community known for its quick access to downtown Salt Lake as well as to Alta and Snowbird. But things tend to get a little rowdy when Jeremy Nobis fires up the grill, busts out several cases of Corona, and tacks a big white sheet to the back of his house so he can show the latest Warren Miller flick to his friends and neighbors. About 150 locals, including pro skiers Jamey Parks, Julian Carr, Jamie Pierre, Olympic slalom winner Ted Ligety, and some novelty ponies joined the party. Can you say noise ordinance violation.

Julian Carr kept a running tally of the height of every cliff he hucked in a recent winter. He racked up 2,100 feet that season.

OLDEST THEATER – The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire: When the hall opened in January, 1878, the doors were large enough for horses and elephants. Through the years those same doors have admitted fans of John Philip Sousa, Al Jolson, Buffalo Bill (his indoor rodeo, horses and all), and, more recently, capacity crowds for the Warren Miller film. Please check your saddlebags and sixshooter at the door.

Runners up: There are at least two other 19th century theaters currently on the film tour: Wheeler Opera House (Aspen, Colorado – 1889), and Hotel Colorado (Glenwood Springs, Colorado – 1893).

Wish granted: “I want to work for Warren Miller films and snowboard in their movies,” says Idahoan Wes Dykman. Yeah, who doesn’t? For 15-year-old Dykman, however, at least part of that dream has come true. During the filming of Off the Grid, Warren Miller Entertainment teamed up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to make it happen. Dykman, who has cystic fibrosis, got to hang with the crew while they filmed the Montana segment. After making turns at Big Sky Resort and sharing après-ski meals and campfire laughs with the crew, Dykman says now he’s really gunning for a job at WME. – Estella Allen

HIGHER RATINGS DOWN UNDER: Warren Miller’s Higher Ground debuted in Australia in May, 2006 (that’s winter, mates) with a top-10 all-time opening weekend screen average. Also in the top 10, ahead of movies like Shrek 2 and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, are no fewer than five other Warren Miller releases. Impressive, considering that Crocodile Dundee came in at number 38.

The first time ex-U.S. Ski Team bumper Freddy Mooney skied moguls at Mary Jane, he took the run in the fetal position. That’s because his mom, Laurie, who coached bumps for all of the resort’s 30 years, gave Freddy a very early start. Off the Grid Director Max Bervy says, “I remember watching Laurie ski all the classic Mary Jane bump runs—Derailer, Drunken Frenchman, Railbender—when she was eight months pregnant. She has influenced thousands of kids. She just flows like water in the moguls.” Her son’s early training paid off: at 26, he shines in his first Warren Miller film segment this year.

Ex-Olympian ready to fill big shoes—er, ski boots: When not on the football field, Jeremy Bloom has been known to mingle with Hollywood stars and supermodels. So why would he want to spend time in a recording studio with scruffy, unshaven Warren Miller sound techs?

Apparently, when Warren Miller is one of your personal idols, you make sacrifices. Bloom, 24, has stepped in this year as Off the Grid’s primary narrator, and he does so with a healthy reverence for the filmmaking legend.

“When I was 12, Warren asked me to be in his movie [Snowriders, 1996],” he recalls. “After I woke up from passing out, I became the coolest kid in fifth grade.” He says his role for Off The Grid is one of his all-time favorite gigs. Aside from his heli segment in Higher Ground and his stint in Snowriders, he appeared in Ride (2000) and Storm (2002).

Warren always said you only have a limited number of bump runs in your knees. Two months after he finished sixth in moguls in Torino, the Philadelphia Eagles picked the Colorado football standout in the fifth round of the NFL Draft and signed him to a four-year, $1.72 million contract.

Although there isn’t a no-skiing clause in the contract with the Eagles, Bloom doubts he’ll see much powder this winter. “I probably won’t be going anytime soon because I have a big enough challenge making it in the NFL right now,” said Bloom, who’s nursing a strained hamstring. “But I can still dream about it.” – Brian Metzler

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? It’s been said dogs can teach you a lot about their owners. While their masters worked their tails off at WME headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, these pooches slept, scratched, ate, hiked, ran, and slept some more. We think you can learn something about WME staffers from their canine cohorts:

  1. Tristan, miniature cocker spaniel (age: 3) Owner: Kristi Armijo, financial analyst. Kristi snowboarded 60 days last year, leaving little time to re-dye Tristan’s Mohawk.
  2. Floyd, French bulldog (age: 1) Owner: Ginger Sheehy, manager of TV program development. Sheehy traveled all the way to Moscow, Russia to assist in Floyd’s defection to Colorado and gave up skiing for snowboarding when she returned.
  3. Murray, chocolate lab (age: 1.5) Owner: Doug Sabanosh, director of digital media. Murray, who is named after former Baltimore Orioles star Eddie Murray, held down the fort last year when Sabanosh skied Valle Nevado, Chile where it snowed 42 inches in two days.
  4. Dougal, bichon fries/fox terrier mix (age: 1.5) Owner: Marcus Fox, producer for “Destination Wild” TV show. Fox adopted Dougal as a puppy after rescuing him from running in Los Angeles traffic.
  5. Summit, Brittany spaniel (age: 9 months) Owners: Blair Bucklin, production coordinator and Rob Hudson, publicity manager. Bucklin and Hudson, who collectively logged 125 days of skiing last winter, also climbed two 14,000-foot Colorado peaks with six-month-old Summit.
  6. Hobbs, English springer spaniel (age: 1) Owners Dave Taylor, film tour director and Megan Campe, business manager. Taylor skis, Campe rides, and Hobbs talks like Scooby-Doo in the morning.
  7. Blue, English springer spaniel (age: 11) Owner: Chris Keig, head of TV production department. Keig has no problem admitting his best ski day last year was when his two-year old daughter made her first tracks in April. Blue has trouble with thunderstorms and often hides in the bathtub.
  8. Kaya, Australian shepherd (age: 6) Owner: Craig Oberlink, film tour operations manager. Oberlink often played hooky from school to ski at Oregon’s Willamette Pass and Mt. Bachelor; he now shirks work to play frisbee in Colorado with Kaya.
  9. Piper, yellow lab (age: 10 months) Owner: Alisa Van Vliet, graphic artist. Van Vliet enjoys throwing snowballs to Piper, a.k.a. fetch with a brain freeze. – B.M.

Roadie Stalkers: Follow the Warren Miller road crews across the country to all annual screenings and you’d travel 30,792 miles.

Born: July 31, 1977 (Roseburg, OR) Home Mountain: Alpental, Washington Discipline: big mountain ripper

“It’s not like I have to have a cover or anything. All that stuff kinda comes,” says 29-year-old Bryce Phillips who was featured on the cover of Skiing last December.

The southern Oregon native who grew up skiing nearby Mt. Ashland didn’t make a serious commitment to the sport until moving to Whistler. Needing a break from college, he found his higher calling. Says Phillips: “I didn’t know anybody there, but being able to ski out my back door was unreal. I skied every single day.”

That may not sound like hard work, but Phillips applied himself relentlessly and was soon one of the most fearless skiers in an area where that sort of praise doesn’t come easily. “Bryce surprises you as a skier,” says Dan Treadway, whose own list of movie and magazine appearances would seem haughty if he hadn’t earned it with broken bones and stomped airs. “You think Bryce is a super mellow guy until he jumps on his boards and back flips off an 80-footer.”

“You think Bryce is a super mellow guy until he jumps on his boards and back flips off an 80-footer.”

Phillips took this go-for-it dedication and applied it to life after college, creating Evo, a sports gear e-commerce site that he started on a shoestring. Today he juggles life as both a pro skier and the CEO of his multimillion dollar company that is still expanding.

With the opening of a new store and warehouse this year, will the boardroom beckon him more than the boards? Well, for one, Evo’s more about barbecues than boardrooms. And for another, last season’s skiing took him to Chamonix, France; Cordova, Alaska; and Engelberg, Switzerland, to name a few—and Bryce isn’t complaining. “It was my best pro season ever,” he says. – Eric Segalstad

Born: November 30, 1978 (Pusan, Korea) Home Mountain: Vail, Colorado Discipline: Olympic mogul specialist

Some might think it a little premature for twenty-something Olympic bronze medalist Toby Dawson to retire to the quiet life of golf. Retire, did you say?

Hardly. “I’m on the four-year program to make it on the PGA tour,” says Dawson. Known on the U.S. Freestyle Team for his analytical approach to moguls, it’s not surprising that he’s applying the same skills to golf. “Toby puts in a lot of repetitions and is quite smart about how he trains,” says the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team’s Liz McIntyre, recently named USSA Coach of the Year.

About the challenge of golf, Dawson says: “Two back-to-back swings that feel the same can have very different results.” Don’t worry, his Rossis haven’t become lawn furniture just yet: “I’m still skiing, you know, I just need a break from competitions. And—I’m kinda on the old end of mogul competitors,” says the 28-year-old.

Away from the Freestyle Team’s rigorous training schedule, he hopes to have more time for ski films and freeriding. “In my early twenties, I rebounded a lot quicker from injuries, so I plan to spend this season figuring out if I want to shoot for the Vancouver Olympics.”

His last trip to the Torino Olympics, in addition to netting him a bronze medal, brought him world-wide fame. This, unfortunately, attracted a slough of would-be fathers. Dawson, you see, was adopted from the streets of Seoul, Korea. Thankfully, the greedy would-be parents have crawled back in the woodwork: “They disappeared as soon as I asked for a DNA sample,” says Dawson. – E.S.

Born: July 9, 1986 (Bethel, ME) Home Mountain: Mammoth, CA Discipline: park and pipe specialist

“I get excited to hit stuff,” says Simon Dumont. The 20-year-old Maine native soars higher over the pipe than anyone else on the circuit.

“I’m so comfortable skiing pipe; I know where I need to pop, and going eight or 20 feet feels the same,” he says. In the 2004 Winter X Games Superpipe competition, he boosted 22 feet over the pipe with a smooth corked 540—a spectacular feat that earned him gold and a slot on ESPN’s “Top Ten Plays of the Week.”

He also has a reputation for consistently delivering the goods when it matters the most. “I’m a competitive guy to begin with and once I’m on top of the gate I just go for it,” he says. But medals aren’t everything. “I’m trying to be an overall skier, not just a competition skier.” It’s a dangerous line of work. A year and a half ago, he overshot a tabletop by 100 feet in the Utah backcountry and fractured his pelvis. It took him only two months to recover, but he skied away with a hard-earned lesson. “I speed check more, take more caution. I still charge and go big; I just try to be a little smarter in the process.”

“I’m so comfortable skiing pipe: going eight or 20 feet feels the same.”

Last season Dumont applied his new-found smarts, along with his trademark ability to go large, at the inaugural Orage European Freeski Open in Laax, Switzerland. He landed his first slopestyle win by linking together a cab d-spin 7 with his signature cab d-spin 10, beating X Games winner and slopestyle favorite TJ Schiller. “He really charged it, flying 15 feet in the air,” says Schiller. “Simon’s definitely The Man.” – E.S.

World Record – Jamie Pierre’s Cliff Jump, Life-sized: Stitch together the screens from every showing on the Warren Miller film tour and you’d have a screen 493 feet wide and 277 feet tall: just high enough for a life-size image of Jamie’s world-record 245-foot jump. Now, where are we going to get a 1.21 gigawatt projector bulb bright enough to fill that screen?

OUCH! While filming in Disentis, Switzerland, snowboarder Julien Haricot was lucky to come away with just a flesh wound. He and fellow riders Nicky Wieveg and Stephan Maurer had built a kicker that launched them to the roof of a chalet. On his first attempt, Haricot stomped the landing but didn’t check his speed and careened into the woods, fending off a tree with his forearm. “It was gnarly,” says cameraman Josh Haskins, “He went sailing full-speed, head-first into a drop-off. His board caught something and stopped, and his head plopped down four feet from a boulder the size of a house.”

Get in shape with the WM road crew: Between projectors, HD playback systems, displays, and boxes of this magazine, roadies lift 172 tons over the course of each fall’s tour.

Got any Chips Ahoy? Cameraman Tom Day in India: “We stopped at this little snack stand while skiing from the top of Gulmarg to the town of Tangmarg. The kids were fascinated by us. Mostly by sign language, I asked if I could film inside the shop. The guy agreed. We didn’t rehearse the shot before filming: I just wanted Manu to come up and buy some cookies or something. He was fumbling getting his money out while the camera ran and ran and eventually I had to turn it off. We all had a good laugh—even though we didn’t share a language, we all shared in the humor.”

Born: March 13, 1981 (Sun Valley, ID) Home Mountain: Jackson, Wyoming Discipline: professional freeskier

How does a hottie freeskier get an invite to the Playboy Mansion in the middle of the summer? It has to do with one of her film projects but it’s not what you might think.

“I can’t really talk about it yet,” Lynsey Dyer says, but she will be fully clothed. Come winter, Dyer will be back in familiar turf: clicking into big mountain boards of her own design (an accomplished artist, she’s done graphics for Rossignol’s Scratch Girl BC and others) and charging lines everywhere from India, the Alps, and Alaska to her home in the Tetons.

“My riding really progressed last season,” she says. “I worked on taking more risks comfortably, knowing where I can push it, while trying to be smarter at the same time.”

Between laps on the slopes, she keeps busy sketching and taking pictures. “I bring my Canon digital camera everywhere I go; it’s the closest thing to a purse I’ll ever get.” She’s shot weddings, covered the Jackson Hole Film Festival, and documented ski trips for online magazines.

And to stay on the good side of Karma, Dyer finds time to give something back. Having recently volunteered to teach ski lessons for “She Jumps,” a charity that teaches young girls how to go big on skis and in life, she says: “Skiing has been my means to open up these other incredible experiences. I’m extremely thankful I was born into this. Pretty much everything I’ve ever learned I learned from skiing; I learned how to get hurt, lose well, win well, make friends, and get over boyfriends.” – E.S.

U.S. Freesking Open: 2006 was not the year of the dark horse at freeskiing’s biggest competition. Tanner Hall defended his 2005 Superpipe crown, reaching his 10th podium (including five firsts) in seven years at the Open. T.J. Schiller threw a huge switch 1440 (a crowd-pleasing first at the Open) to clinch a second consecutive Big Air win. Sarah Burke also defended her 2005 pipe victory, earning four first-place finishes and eight podiums (between pipe and slopestyle) in five short years.


“There were these big slabs ripping out with skiers on them.”

Avalanche! After 10 days of filming on wind-crusted snow and ice in Alaska, Reggie Crist, his brother Zach, fellow U.S. Ski Team alum Daron Rahlves, and the omnipresent Jamie Pierre all vowed to return for redemption. In April they found epic powder on top of the same treacherous layer they’d left a month earlier. It made for extremely high avalanche danger, unlike Reggie Crist has seen in nine consecutive seasons in the Chugach. He recalls the harriest day of filming:

“We were feeling really confident, so we moved to a remote zone. Zach went first and aired off a cornice, landing hard. The whole thing ripped out under him, and he had a head-over-heels, thousand-foot tumble. Next, Daron took two turns on his line, and the whole thing ripped out under him. He was on top of the slab, trying to traverse off. He managed to work his way off and avoid a bunch of rocks and ice below.

“I was next. Somehow I didn’t pull myself off the line; I totally expected it to rip out, but I had an escape route where there were two spines; I was going to work one until it ripped out and then jump over to the other. I dropped in on the first turn and got a huge face shot that blinded me. I jumped to the second spine, and that caused it to rip out. I took a pretty major fall and narrowly avoided a big crack in the ice.

“It’s easy when you’re caught up in the moment and the cameras are rolling and you’re staring down at 50 degrees of perfect powder. You see exactly where you want to go and somehow you find a way to justify it.”

Clearly, when redemption’s on the line, it’ll take more than three “small slab avalanches” to keep these guys from it.

No Rest for the Weary: Yep, it’s already time for the Warren Miller films crews to gear up for the 2007 opus. As the crew wrapped Off the Grid‘s most intense week of post-production, editor Kim Schneider joked: “Next week we kick back, right?” Yeah, if kicking back means getting up to four hours sleep each night. By the time you’re reading this, film crews should be rested up and ready to pounce on the first big snowfall.

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