Several months ago, after searching high and wide for several years, I dug deep into the bowels of the internet to finally find a DVD copy of my favourite ski movie ever: Warren Miller’s Fifty. “Fifty” was the last movie that Warren fully narrated before he “retired” in 2000.
This seminal movie holds much meaning to me for a bunch of reasons. None the least was the fact that in 1999, to much fanfare and even more expense, I hosted the Manitoba premiere for “Fifty” at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg with Gord’s Ski and Bike (my first year at Gord’s). The event was a total bomb (something about scheduling it on Halloween night). Notwithstanding my unfortunate timing, the movie was spectacular.
I remember standing at the back of the almost empty theatre with my mouth agape watching the familiar Warren Miller corniness and silliness interspersed with gorgeous mountain cinematography complete with jaw dropping shots of ski bums chasing perfect snow in fascinating locales. “Fifty” didn’t disappoint, a cornucopia of awesome scenes complete with a killer soundtrack mesmerized me as I filled out my to-do list of places I wanted to ski. I’d watched every Warren Miller movie before this one… and hardly any after he stopped narrating his namesake series. His famous line “Remember, if you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do” has resonated with me since I first heard it a million years ago at Place des Arts in Montreal.
How sad and coincidental that Warren Miller passed away only a few days after Fedex showed up with that prized DVD.
I hadn’t seen “Warren Miller’s Fifty” in over ten years and I hesitated watching it right away because I knew that the memories would flood my heart… A lot happened in the late 90’s and for me this movie was the exclamation point on that tumultuous decade. It was my go-to movie for half a dozen years after that ill-fated premiere. I watched it over and over, several times a season until someone threw it out… So on that night, after putting it into the DVD player more than a week ago, I finally summoned-up the courage and pressed “play” and I let the memories wash over me like massive warm waves of days gone by.
It’s with a great big smile and a heart filled with substantial nostalgia that I watched this ode to what was a big part of each and every one of my ski seasons. I sat there with the volume cranked way up while goosebumps rode up and down my spine as the sensational soundtrack and the accompanying images of ski days gone by took me back… way back. Absolutely Nothing sounds or looks better than Dave Mathews’ “Crush” as JP Auclair, Mosley and their guide carve up Blue River with Warren’s voice warmly narrating away.
I’ve re-watched “Fifty” over a dozen times since that night and it never ceases to move me. The most difficult part of the movie for me remains the part at the end when Warren utters his famous sign off. I get emotional when I hear him say his parting words “[Over the years] I’ve changed a lot of lives, I hope I’ve changed yours. I’m Warren Miller till I see you next year, same time, same place: Goodnight”.
Damn you were good Warren Miller. Thank you for inspiring me to live this amazing life among the best people in the best industry.
I’m watching it again.