By Rich Stoner
Growing up as a young skier, it seemed that once ski season rolled around, no matter where I went, there was always a Warren Miller film on somewhere.
Whether it was in the local theatre or ski shop, I reveled in the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of the world’s best mountain riders. On-screen, ripping sick lines in far-off exotic destinations was a dream. And perhaps the best part of that dream was the narration of by non other than the producer and director himself, Mr. Warren Miller.
Miller’s voice remains a symbol of the season to come. The reignition of a fire that keeps you stoked all winter long.
In the midst this fall, just short of a year since his passing, Warren Miller is as relevant as ever. Nobody knows that better than Jonny Moseley who stars in this year’s biopic-based film on the godfather of ski film. The movie is called the Face of Winter and you can check out the trailer here.
With the Face of Winter tour set to premier in Boston on October 12, I caught up with Jonny to chat about the movie, skiing in Iceland and, of course, apres-ski. Safe to say that I’m fired up to check out the new Warren Miller flick and wax the boards.
Deep Turns With Jonny Moseley:
With this being the first Warren Miller film since his passing, how was this one different? What effect, if any did it have on the overall process?
Looking back, he has this long lasting effect on everyone and particularly the guys that make the movie, Chris Patterson, Josh Haskins and the other guys that grew up under the tutelage of Warren Miller. Like three or four guys that shot the movie and then edited it and they brought up another group of guys. People think Warren Miller is this huge company but when you get down to the nitty-gritty it’s like three guys that really make this movie. It’s Tom Day, Chris Patterson and Josh Haskins.
It was different this year because those guys really felt the loss of Warren. That was the guy who brought them in, so every every shot we did has some sort of Warren theme to it. I remember in Iceland, Chris Patterson knows every single Warren Miller line and quote from every movie. Every shot we did, he’d be like, ‘yup, Warren did that.‘ That was kind of a cool process, when we were out shooting, to always be talking about the shots Warren did. We had a lot of après sessions in Iceland for sure with Chris Patterson who is a Warren Miller history buff. We did a lot of après heli-skiing sessions in the wax room telling Warren’s stories. Bottom line is Warren had done everything before and we were just going back down the path he pioneered. It was a special year in that way.
What do you think Warren’s overall legacy in the ski industry is?
He probably single handedly got the most people into skiing out of any organization. I don’t think anyone got more people interested in coming to the mountain than he did. I don’t think that was his intention. He was really an artist. He just enjoyed making films and being out there. But, by way of his genuine passion, he resonated with so many people. His legacy is the industry that we have today. I don’t think the ski industry would be nearly as mature. I don’t think you’d have as many people on the slopes without his contribution. He inadvertently made skiing something that people really wanted to do.
What has been his impact on your career both skiing and from a media perspective?
Personally he made me want to be a pro skier. I was already competing in freestyle skiing. I was in the beginning of my skiing career as a mighty-might competing at Squaw Valley when I first saw a Warren Miller movie and I remember thinking immediately– ‘I want to do that. I want to go to those places and see myself on screen.’ I went about it in a back way, through competing. I remember that as much as I wanted to be in the Olympics, I wanted to ski big mountains in exotic places on film. I cannot remember wanting to do anything else as much as I wanted to be in a Warren Miller movie. I didn’t know how I was going to do it and I wasn’t sure that it was even a reality at 9 years old but I remember feeling really strongly about wanting to do it. It took me years for it to present itself and from there, it’s become more of my life than I ever could imagine. Now it’s pretty much at the center of my career.
In this year’s film, your segment is filmed in Iceland. What was that like?
Iceland is as advertised. It’s a visual wonder. Everywhere you look, it’s hallucinogenic it’s so pretty. The heli-skiing operation that we were in was this guy’s family farm that he took and turned into a ski lodge. We got the real inside, backstage tour of this amazing land. The skiing was world class. Big mountains and we were there late, so it was corn snow which I had never done a real corn snow trip, like Kings and Corn in Alaska. You always hear people say that it’s great, but if it’s not powder, right? I found it to be excellent…amazing! Just as good as middle of the winter pow days. Longer days and skiing after dinner. You can just go really fast and it’s more stable so you don’t have to worry about avalanches. I just found it to be a much more relaxing environment. Obviously the kicker is you’re overlooking the Arctic Ocean the whole time. It was truly one of the best trips I’ve ever had.
How does it compare skiing-wise to some of the other great places that you’ve been to?
The only other heli-trip that I’ve loved…I mean Wiegele’s was pretty amazing. Not as exotic but definitely a special place. There’s tree skiing, big mountain skiing I mean it’s all pretty incredible. But Iceland is right there. What puts it over the top is the whole cultural experience.
What is it culturally that makes it so special?
It has kind of a Scandinavian feel to it. I did really recognize that initially. Everyone has a great sense of humor, are fun to hang out with and they take good care of you. It’s all very crisp and the food is good. You just feel very comfortable. You feel like you’re at home. Just the lodging and stuff is very cozy. You’re also experiencing a very rural farming society where the guys down the street from the heli lodge are producing all the skyr at the dairy farm. And, their buddies of the heli lodge owner and you see them and chatting with them about their business and how they fit into the economy.
This sort of sums it up. They are so closely related to everybody that they have an app that when they start dating somebody they check to make sure that they are not closely related (laughs). There’s kids running around everywhere and they all gather at the local bar to watch their version of American Idol. Just fun stuff that you don’t really encounter in some of the other locations. You really feel like you’re part of their culture.
Speaking of culture, what’s the apres ski like in Iceland?
The apres-ski sessions that we had there, I brought a bunch of Mount Gay. Some of the stuff that I drink a lot. We had this killer set up. This lodge where they had a wax room and ski room that also had a wet bar set up with a lounge, fireplace and pool table all in the same room. One guy would be waxing skis and the guides would be sitting there doing their thing and then we’d also be sitting there having apres sessions. Being all in the same room, it made for a classic, almost what you might think of an old school east coast ski lodge kind of feel. So all the divisions were worn down and we’d spend a lot of hours in there throwing back cocktails and b-s-ing about the skiing and the day. We had some great sessions up there. The apres was fantastic.
What is the relationship between apres-ski play and the actual ski day for you?
First of all, the origins of it is to make sure that everybody got off the mountain. It’s a safety check. In a resort, everyone skis at different levels. You want to ski over here but they want to ski over there but then let’s all meet at apres and check back in. First of all let’s make sure that you are off the mountain. Second of all, let’s hear about where you went. It’s the catch up, most importantly. And now, there’s pictures to be shown and lines to brag about. That’s what makes the day. For me, there’s the sustenance component. There’s the cocktails and some food but it’s also it’s a great time to do that. You’re hungry, you’re spent and for me that’s the time that I want to do that. I want to eat and then go to bed and get up early and do it again the next day. I don’t want to go out late night. Apres is the best time to have a party.
You’ve skied all over the world, do you have a particular country or resort that you enjoy the apres ski at more than others?
I have a real affinity for Squaw. I grew up skiing there and even after traveling around the globe and living in other resorts and representing other resorts I always pine for Squaw. There’s something about the terrain there and the general ski culture that I love. But, there are other places that I love too. My wife and I got married in Telluride and I love that place. It’s got a real great vibe to it and I really enjoy it. I’ve spent a lot of time in Steamboat and I love that place as well. There’s Alyeska with heli-skiing off the back is pretty amazing. Look I love all the nuances of all the resorts but those are my top picks.
How does it all compare to your home mountain of Squaw where it seems as if it’s all bikinis and boots at apres?
Hahahah. In the spring there’s some bikinis that come out. Squaw’s got a great apres scene. I just saw that it was top five on some list. Particularly the Chamois…The Chammy. It’s great. A lot of it is location. It’s a great spot to decompress. It’s protected in the village but you can ski right up to it. So you take your skis off and you are literally in the bar. It’s got plenty of space. You can have 20 people or 100 and it still works. Then you can get upstairs and get upside down in the loft bar. It’s got all kinds of great history to it and it’s run by a couple that understands that history. Plaza bar is kind of the original Squaw Bar. You go in there and it’s these high vaulted vaulted ceilings that were built for the Olympics and you can just kind of picture a guy in wool pants and leather boots enjoying a cocktail after a great time on the mountain. It’s also right at the base. What I like about the Plaza is you can actually sit down, there’s cozy chairs, you can get some food, get an actual cocktail whereas the Chammy is just beer and pizza. Which is great, but not always. Plaza bar, you can have a group and talk to them. They’re both great options. You don’t get enough boot dancing going which is my only gripe, but Squaw’s got a pretty solid apres scene.
Talk to me about your relationship with Tipsy Elves. How did it come about? Why TE? How is it going and anything new in the works with them?
A few years ago, they were thinking about making one piece ski suits and they just reached out to me. I didn’t really know them, but I’d heard of them once I got involved, from Shark Tank. They basically said that they were thinking about making a line of one piece ski suits and we think you’d be the perfect spokesperson. I was like, absolutely! I’m an old school freestyler and that’s what I wore. I have those suits in my closet. I grew up wearing one pieces through my 20’s. So we just started collaborating on different things. They are great guys and they get it and they love skiing. It’s really lighthearted. So I went out and did a bunch of photo shoots with Jeff Engebretson. He was a big ski magazine star in the 80’s so it worked out perfectly because he knew all the different shots to take. So I put on my old skinny skis and the one pieces and went out and did a bunch of killer Scott Schmidt cross em up shots and stuff like that. And we got a bunch of images together and I’ve just been with them ever since. We did a line of long johnnies not too long ago. I’m always bugging them about doing a shotski. It’s fun. They are easy to work with and they get it.
What’s next for you?
This year, I’ll be doing my typical stuff. Not sure what we are getting up to with the Warren Miller guys. I’ll be on the road with Mount Gay a bunch. I’m going to four different showings. Mount Gay is the sponsor on the tour now, so I’ll be going to a bunch of events around that. I’ve also got a bunch of other stuff that I am working on. I’ve a roasted, organic sunflower kernel product called Iota that my wife and I own, so I’ll be out working on that. As far as stuff that’s not work related, I’m kind of toying with the idea of doing a skimo race. It’s basically a race where you telemark uphill and then ski down. It looks kind of interesting to me and something that I’m looking forward to trying this winter. Other than that, I’ll be out at Squaw skiing.
-Rich Stoner (*Unofficial Contributor)