Snow is finally piling up in the mountains, Denver has seen its first flurries, and two ski areas, Arapahoe Basin and Keystone, have opened, with a third, Winter Park, coming online Monday.
But for many passionate skiers and snowboarders, the season really begins when the annual Warren Miller film hits. This year’s edition, “Daymaker,” ends the way its predecessors have for generations with a narrator’s joyful proclamation: “Winter starts now.”
“Daymaker,” the 73rd installment in the series that invented the ski film genre, opens at the PACE Center in Parker on Thursday and will play at 20 other Colorado locations through Dec. 4. As usual, the two premier venues are the Boulder Theater, Nov. 10-12, and the Paramount Theater in Denver, Nov. 17-19.
The film takes viewers to the backcountry in Alaska and British Columbia, the Snowbasin Resort in Utah and Sun Valley in Idaho. There’s a delightful segment on grass skiing — yes, summer “skiing” on grass with specially designed skis — shot in Wengen, Switzerland, as well as a charming visit to humble ski areas in northern Greece.
Viewers will also revel in the usual panoply of ripping powder lines on ridiculously steep slopes in the Alaska Range, bouncing runs down billowy pillow lines, face plants, flips and spinning aerial maneuvers. The deepest powder in this year’s film takes three young skiers to the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia for ridiculously over-the-top snow cat skiing with Mustang Powder.
The Colorado segment in “Daymaker” takes viewers to Snowmass for a gathering of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, which is made up of dozens of predominantly Black ski clubs and dates back to 1973. The NBS also provides support for young Black skiers in an effort to help them reach the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team.
“There are a lot of great skiers and snowboarders vying to be the first black Olympic champion in skiing,” narrator Jonny Moseley, the 1998 Olympic moguls champion, says in the segment. “But if the medal went to the best nickname, 11-year-old Ava ‘Happy Knees’ Keenan from Vail would take it hands down.”
Keenan, who turned 12 since filming her segment, is shown pounding down moguls with legs pumping rapid-fire like finally tuned pistons. She throws a compliment back at Moseley, who has been narrating Miller films since 2008. Moseley won his gold medal with a ground-breaking new trick, the 360 mute grab.
“My happy knees just help people know who I am as a mogul skier, a happy one,” Keenan says in the film. “I want to thank Jonny Moseley for the 360 mute grab, because if it weren’t for him, nobody would be doing those right now. So thank you.” In narration, Moseley replies, “You’re welcome, Ava.”
In a phone interview this week, Keenan said it was “amazing” to appear in a Warren Miller film at such a young age.
“It’s not people seeing me in the movie that gets me excited,” said Keenan, a Denver native who moved to Vail when she was 10. “It’s that they will think about all the hard work that got me into the movie; that gets me excited.”
Another ski film worth your time this season is “Magic Hour,” the latest from Teton Gravity Research. Segments were shot in Montana, the Chugach and Coast mountain ranges of Alaska, and four ranges in British Columbia.
Many snow riders, especially those with a mountaineering bent, may find scenes shot at Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park to be the highlights. Skiers and snowboarders are shown ripping insanely steep and narrow descents on the Grand Teton, Middle Teton, South Teton and other nearby peaks after climbing them under their own power. Those scenes are thrilling, inspiring and breathtaking in their beauty.
“Magic Hour” toured Colorado the last week in September and first week of October, but the digital release will drop next week.