Let the countdown begin | SteamboatToday.com

Let the countdown begin

Warren Miller film signals approach of ski season

Autumn Phillips

— Watching the annual Warren Miller release is as big a ski season tradition as setting your alarm for a ridiculous hour the first day the lifts run.

As soon as the first skier crosses the screen on this year’s film, “Higher Ground,” the countdown will start to Nov. 23, opening day for Steamboat Ski Area.

This year’s film includes stops in Alaska, Colorado, France, British Columbia and Switzerland.

People walk away from Warren Miller films setting goals to ski more days and take more risks. “Higher Ground” producers put a handful of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders in some precarious situations, then they turned on the cameras to see what would happen.

In one scene, Dave Barlia flies 10 feet off the ground at 130 miles an hour while wearing a winged ski suit at Chamonix, France. In another, World Cup mogul champion Jeremy Bloom is invited to heli-ski for the first time in British Columbia.

For old-school fans of the sport, a highlight of the movie is an appearance by one-time ski icon Glen Plake. Plake offers a long-time-no-see mohawked moment back on the big screen as he models ski fashions from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

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There is also an appearance by Chris Anthony, who has appeared in 16 Warren Miller films since 1989. The cameras for “Higher Ground” find Anthony on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz, where he is cleaning bathrooms, washing dishes and giving soldiers haircuts to earn his passage to Arctic Man in Alaska.

Arctic Man is one of the World’s Toughest Downhill Ski races and an exciting snowmobile race, all in one, according to the event’s Web site. “The skier begins at a summit elevation of 5,800 feet and drops 1,700 feet in less than two miles to the bottom of a narrow canyon, where he meets up with his snowmobiling partner. The snowmobiler meets the skier, on the go, with a tow rope and pulls the skier 2 1/4 miles uphill at top speeds of up to 86 mph. The skier and the snowmobile then separate, and the skier goes over the side of the second mountain and drops another 1,200 feet to the finish line.”

“Arctic Man is one of the last great American events … where people can do crazy stuff, have freedom of expression and just basically break down any rules about boundaries,” Anthony wrote in an e-mail interview. “It is the last of the Old West. We have become very conservative as a society, and this lets loose for a week.”

What: Warren Miller’s “Higher Ground”When: 6 and 9 p.m. ThursdayWhere: Priest Creek Ballroom in the Steamboat Grand Resort HotelCost: $16; Tickets available at Ski Haus or at the doorCall: 871-5500