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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Jennings: Warren Miller’s latest film will get local skiers in the mood

Bill Jennings

Winter starts Saturday. Jonny Moseley told me so during a screening of “No Turning Back,” Warren Miller’s 65th annual ode to ski culture and mountain adventure playing at The Bing Crosby Theater on Saturday.

Warren Miller, who turned 90 on Oct. 15, invented the ski movie – and the ski bum – in 1950 with the release of “Deep and Light.” But he hasn’t had anything to do with the monster he created for 10 years. His avuncular aw-shucks drawl has been replaced by the slick narration of former Olympic gold medalist and current game show host Moseley. But other than the equipment, outfits and the athletes wearing them, nothing ever changes and that’s OK.

Through the years, skiers and riders lucky enough to live the dream rotate through adventures around the world, from the most exotic locations to the best-kept secrets in everyone’s own backyard. It’s such a successful formula because if you’ve seen enough Warren Miller movies, you’ve seen world-class athletes skiing mountains you’ve skied, making turns you’ve already made and looking just like you did when you made them.

“No Turning Back” features locations that include the usual suspects such as Chamonix, France, St. Moriz, Switzerland and the Chugach Range in Alaska. More exotic adventures are staged in a Norwegian archipelago, Japan and Greece – where Tyler Ceccanti of Lake Tapps, Washington, a veteran of five Warren Miller films, flirted with the wrath of Zeus riding a chopper to the summit of Mount Olympus.

Homer’s “Illiad” and “Odyssey,” the epics everyone had to read in high school, never got specific about the exact location where Zeus sat on his throne, hurling lightning bolts at the world below. There are several peaks in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus the locals call Olympus, but most people today agree that the tallest, a massif rising about 60 miles from the Greek city of Thessaloniki, is the one.

“It’s such an iconic mountain,” Ceccanti told me over the phone. “It’s easy to see why the ancient Greeks worshiped it and thought it was the home of the gods.”

Ceccanti, who grew up riding Crystal Mountain, teamed up with skier Josh Bibby to be among the first to ski lines chosen for the film. They actually dropped from Mytikas, a blade of rock 9,570 feet high that is the tallest point of the Olympus massif. Before getting their shots, Zeus chose to remind them that playing in his domain could come with a heavy price.

“We were scoping out a line Josh had picked out from the top when we decided we needed to move down the ridge a bit further,” Ceccanti wrote in his blog. “I started a kick turn and when I was bringing my other ski around, the cornice gave way.

“It broke off directly under my feet and at first I thought I was going to be able to keep my balance and stay on. But it broke down to rocks and I fell about five feet backwards off a cliff, following the cornice. The SUV-sized cornice then triggered a two-to-three-foot fracture that propagated the length of the ridge. I was lucky in that there was no snow following me, so I was able to spin myself around and set an edge before reaching the cliff band below.”

Ceccanti survived to ride Olympus another day and pursue his career skiing on camera. It’s a life every skier and rider probably fantasizes about, whether they admit it or not. Ceccanti is having the time of his life, but he reminded me that someone in his shoes can’t forget he’s in the entertainment business.

“You can’t just go out and ski,” he said. “It’s a business and if you want to make it you have to separate yourself from everybody else. You have to be different. You’re not just selling your skiing, you’re selling your personality.”

There will be plenty of personality at the Bing on Saturday night. The business aspect of the marketing machine that the Warren Miller brand has become will also be evident. Expect the usual phalanx of vendors as you make your way into the theatre. But once you find your seat, forget about all the distractions and get lost in your anticipation of the season for the next hour and a half.

Correspondent Bill Jennings can be reached billjski@gmail.com.
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