Written by Mike Rogge
The rumors started as whispers in a bar. Red Bull was in town throwing a premiere for local athletes. I met up with an old colleague, a new hire at the energy drink company, for dinner with our families. This was right before the Christmas holiday.
"Hey Rogge, did you hear?" the bartender asked. "No Warren Miller movie this year."
"Yeah. They're going to make some kind of archival piece. No filmers. No athletes."
Today the news came out that Warren Miller Entertainment, the company founded by the legendary filmmaker Warren Miller, is in fact not making an annual ski film. WME's parent company is Outside Inc. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads our magazine that we've been critical of the stewardship of legendary titles by Outside Inc. (formerly Pocket Media). Publicly, they've made proclamations about the future of outdoor media only to fall flat on their faces by shuttering legacy titles and now, arguably, the most iconic action sports film company in history. Who can forget when they laid off a large percentage of their staff only to throw a tone-deaf party at Outdoor Retailer days later celebrating their NFT Outerverse? Naturally, of course, the market responded in kind and the Outerverse program was disbanded after another round of layoffs.
Some will blame the economy and an impending recession but economists and folks much smarter than me are saying what we're actually seeing is a correction due to pandemic over hiring. Maybe CEO Robin Thurston just isn't that good at this stuff?
Economics and business tactics aside it sucks to see another legacy media property shuttered due to mismanagement. On a budget sheet Warren Miller Entertainment is likely a huge expenditure. Culturally, I'd argue, we're going to miss Warren Miller films a whole hell of a lot. You see, the Warren Miller tour was one of the biggest film tours going. Mr. Miller always planned it that way. His annual films got folks from cities in seats where they were transported to the mountains.
I first interviewed Mr. Miller fifteen years ago and again for ESPN. On both occasions our calls ran over the allotted time. Mr. Miller loved dreamers and entrepreneurship. He firmly believed if you could dream it you could achieve it. In no small way his encouragement about following one's dreams is why Mountain Gazette exists today. He inspired me. His words left a permanent impression on me. I plan to run a full transcript of our chats in an upcoming book. Above all, Mr. Miller told me, twice, "What's wrong with being guilty of dreaming?"
And that's where Warren Miller films fit into the mountain culture. "If you don't do it this year, you'll be one year older when you do." He wanted us to get off our couches, turn those dreams into reality, and go skiing. He inspired generations of talented filmmakers to pursue their own silver screen dreams. We can count the TGRs and MSPs of the world as being inspired by the early efforts of Warren Miller.
On top of that, the tour benefited countless non-profit organizations, became a gathering place for industry and public to mingle pre-season, and became a reliable way, as Jonny Moseley would narrate each year, that winter starts now. These decisions to cut, kill, or dramatically alter the outdoor media space are callous at best. In his memoir, Freedom Found, Mr. Miller demonstrated a determination and grit to run his business for decades. Outside Inc. barely was able to run it for a few years.
After Powder closed their doors a former editor of mine said clearly the magazine was a mirror that reflected the culture. Just because the mirror goes away doesn't mean the culture does as well. Here at Mountain Gazette we're not going anywhere. We're going to continue holding up this mirror to show you the evolving, influential, and growing culture of mountain communities. Perhaps you don't live in the mountains. That's ok. I understand the mountains live in you.
I look forward to seeing where the athletes and filmers land. Creators don't stop creating. If any of you need my help, please reach out. I'll help however I can. Above all, I hope we've learned a lesson that some businesses care about mountain communities. Others care about the balance sheet. It's too bad. Warren Miller, the visionary, used to be able to do both. Unfortunately this won't be the last of stories like this.
Thankfully, there are a handful of indie magazines and, with luck, film companies growing out of the rubble. That's a testament that Warren's dream won't die alongside his annual film.