Legendary film maker

Passing Date: 
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Warren’s movies were an annual event where you met old buddies that you hadn’t seen since the last ski season. Having spent the previous winter shooting action in mountains from New Zealand to New Hampshire, he now dragged his weary body over from a nearby Howard Johnson Inn to present the captivating images and the tomfool escapades he’d been engaged in. He sold the tickets, talked through a microphone to the audience, and often ran the projector himself. The moviegoers then went happily home, infused with the desire to return to the slopes as soon as the first snow fell. In one year alone, he showed his film in 106 cities. Tens of thousands of people took up the sport after seeing a Warren Miller movie.

Warren survived a tumultuous, traumatic childhood in Hollywood, California. As a boy, he survived experiences that society typically blames for producing failure. There were family challenges as well. He described his experiences in painful detail in his autobiography Freedom Found, published a year and a half ago. 

Blessed with a natural ability to draw, Warren once hoped to work as an animator in Walt Disney’s studio. Instead, he went to Sun Valley where, living in a trailer in the resort’s parking lot, he drew pictures of his friends skiing. But drawing didn’t excite him as much as movie-making. Equipped initially with a rugged 16 mm Bell & Howell camera, he began in 1950 to emulate earlier filmmaker John Jay. He gradually hired more cameramen to help him, and expanded into making sponsored films for resorts, and films about surfing and sailboarding as well. 

One reason Miller’s films enchanted a generation of skiers was his exclusive focus on entertaining. “I filmed for entertainment value,” he wrote. “I relied on ticket sales to finance the films, not product placement in the movie. My recommendations were valid because you couldn’t pay me for them.”

Warren was a naturally gifted storyteller. He wrote scores of columns for newspapers and for SKI Magazine, plus several books, including In Search of Skiing; Wine, Women, Warren & Skis; Lurching from One New Disaster to the Next; and his illustrated first book Are My Skis on Straight, which he originally sold for $2 a copy. 

Warren left his winter home in Vail in 1999 to become director of skiing at The Yellowstone Club in Montana, where he built a home. 

His name endures in his eponymous film company that came to be owned by a succession of magazine publishers over the years. “Warren Miller was a globally loved ambassador for skiing,” says Andy Clurman, CEO of Active Interest Media, the parent company of Warren Miller Entertainment.

It’s hard to think of a single influential person in the development of modern American skiing whom Miller didn’t count among his personal friends, including ski area founders Dave McCoy (Mammoth) and Bill Janss (Snowmass), lightweight ski pole inventor Ed Scott, skiwear designer Klaus Obermeyer, and French skiing’s two most iconic figures, Emile Allais and Jean-Claude Killy. And that’s to say nothing of the rich, powerful and famous who have been among Miller’s intimates, including U.S. Senators Jack Kemp and Chuck Percy, Disney co-chief Frank Wells, and Hobie Alter, the inventor of the Hobie Cat small catamaran.

Warren is survived by his wife of 30 years, Laurie; by his sons Scott (Melissa) and Kurt (Ali); by his daughter, Chris (David Lucero); his stepson, Colin Kaufmann; three granddaughters (Valeska, Kasimira, and Jenna) and two grandsons (Alexander and Ryan). In lieu of memorial gifts, the family invites those inclined to benefit the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky, Montana.

Warren Miller was a genuine polymath—ski racer, champion surfer and sailor, cartoonist, book author, filmmaker, and inventor of the liveliest, funniest aphorisms about skiing ever written. 

Warren Miller’s entire life can be read in his autobiography Freedom Found: My Life Story (Warren Miller Company, 2016), available from bookstores and Amazon. For a written collective memorial of Warren, ISHA encourages anyone who knew him or viewed his ski movies to post your words at For more information, go to

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