“Winter Starts Now” Premiers at Hamilton Movie Theater

Tess Dunkel, Staff Writer

Watching a Warren Miller film definitely is not the typical movie theater experience. “Winter Starts Now” – Miller’s 72nd annual ski film – premiered at Hamilton Movie Theater on Wednesday, Jan. 26, with free tickets provided for Colgate students. People from Hamilton as well as neighboring towns got dressed up, and the crowd cheered at many exciting on-screen moments. There was a certain palpable energy in the theater, from when the movie first began, to when the MC announced raffle prizes at intermission, until the final action-packed scenes of the movie. Everybody was excited, as watching a Miller movie indicates the upcoming season of skiing, snowboarding and exploring winter wilderness.

“I love the idea of having a more interactive experience,” said Paul Lehmann, manager of the Hamilton Movie Theater. “Especially with all of the streaming platforms now, we need to find ways to make the experience more than just seeing the film.”

The movie began slowly, with the entertainment team traveling to different local mountains to conduct interviews with down-to-earth skiers. It truly showcased the beauty of a neighborhood ski run where everyone is familiar with each other, rather than showing expensive ski resorts that attract vacation skiers. 

The trademarked Warren Miller Entertainment clips of skiing rambunctiousness truly began as professional skiers Marcus Caston, Amie Engerbretson and Jim Ryan were shown spectacularly displaying their finely tuned skills and tricks at mountains and resorts such as Palisades Tahoe, Solitude Mountain Resort and the Chugach Range of Alaska. Due to the pandemic status, this was the first time a Warren Miller film was shot exclusively within the United States.

“​​This year was different in so many ways and I have to say I have never been more grateful for a ski season. Skiing was the first thing I got to do that felt normal in a long time and while I didn’t travel like normal, I still found great snow and had epic days in the mountains with friends,” Engerbretson said.

The audience was fully engaged, often gasping as the athletes skied off cliffs or flawlessly turned through moguls. For 72 years now, Warren Miller’s ability to capture moments that beautifully intertwined nature with human skill with such clarity and intricate filming have allowed him to continue producing annual films above and beyond the audience’s expectations.

What sets “Winter Starts Now” apart from previous Warren Miller films is its attention to inclusivity. The movie made a conscious effort to highlight disabled skiers such as Vasu Sojitra and Pete McAfee. The skiers’ amazing determination and unwavering courage led them to complete the first-ever disabled ski descent of Denali, the tallest peak in North America.

“It’s accessible to everybody no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability or class,” Sojitra said. “The outdoors is a human right and let’s make sure we all have access to it.”

“Winter Starts Now” also creates a more inclusive space within winter sports by demonstrating the need to celebrate diversity in skiing through on-screen representation, as it has been a historically white-dominated sport. A segment at Aspen, Colo., follows the annual congregation of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, a national umbrella organization for Black ski clubs from around the U.S. This scene also spotlights one of today’s most promising young skiers, teenage racer Jayna Davis, who impeccably completed a slalom race at the age of 14. The Rivers triplets, the three children of NBS’s president Henri Rivers, were featured for some sibling rivalry, having fun with competition, and being inspired heavily by skiing behind Davis at the National Brotherhood of Skiers.

These jaw-dropping stunts and heartwarming narratives were proof that even in its 72nd year, a long-lived franchise can progress and prove to the ski industry that creating a more inclusive ski culture is possible.