“Skiing, to me, is almost like a therapy,” says professional free-skier Jenn Berg in Children of Winter, the latest snow sport film from Warren Miller Entertainment. “It’s such a part of me that I go stir-crazy when I can’t ski. Summers are brutal.”
While her male counterparts in the film ride the helicopter to the top of the mountain, Berg hikes up through the powder instead and pauses at the top to tease her friends. “Whoa, that’s one expensive way up the mountain,” she says, looking at the chopper. “Your sponsors pay for that?” Then she turns around and begins to carve the slope, making for some spectacular shots. Berg’s fun-loving and comic personality makes her an ideal fit for the movie’s style and also explains why she has now skied for six Warren Miller films.
Children of Winter, the 59th Warren Miller film, will play in Santa Barbara on Wednesday, December 3, at the Lobero Theatre. Miller, a legend in the extreme sports film industry, plays no direct role in the production of Children of Winter, but the filmmakers try to retain his vision, particularly through the comic narration. Olympic skiing champion Jonny Moseley takes on the task of the film’s narrator, delivering lines like “The snow’s only soft if you’re not falling in it,” as a skier tumbles down the mountain in slow motion. Part of what makes the film fun is that it never hides the bloopers; as Berg points out, it’s not always about being “all hardcore.”
Berg-who’s made several appearances in Ski Magazine-lived in Truckee, California, for 10 years before she moved to Salt Lake City in favor of the more expansive backcountry rides. When asked what she thinks about before taking on one of her huge drops, Berg told me, “If you don’t feel like you can stomp it, don’t do it. If it’s in your comfort zone, it’s all about committing to speed and committing to pointing your skis down the hill. : You have to visualize how you want to do it. And, of course, you also have to imagine, ‘Oh, what if it doesn’t play out like it’s supposed to?’”
Warren Miller ski movies influenced Berg most as a youngster when she would go see the new film every year as a kind of family tradition. “But I never thought I would be in one,” she said. Skiing was very much a family thing for Berg growing up, and her family would take frequent trips together. “There aren’t a lot of sports where you can do that,” she explained.
A theme of the film is the athletes’ respect, not only for each other, but also for the mountains and other backcountry terrain they shred with such a sense of adventure. To athletes like Julian Carr, snow is truly a gift. “Utah powder,” he says in the film, “The world is a better place for it.”
Another showcase follows the adventures of super-group Yukon Kornelius, which stars members of The Dave Matthews band, N.E.R.D., Guster, and the Barenaked Ladies, all of whom love mountain sports. Their skiing sessions may not make for the most hardcore footage, but their concert in Okemo, Vermont-featuring cameos by Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider and actor/cowbell virtuoso Jason Biggs-ups the entertainment value, particularly during their rendition of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
Children of Winter possesses a sense of humor characteristic of Warren Miller. In a vignette in which teenage snowboarding pro Ben Watts goes up against surf legend Gerry Lopez on Mount Bachelor, Lopez quotes a buddy who described the mountain’s terrain features as “frozen waves, dude!”
By far the film’s most powerful moment is a segment dedicated to the memory of Billy Poole, a well-respected skier whose life ended with an accident while skiing for Children of Winter in Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah. In an interview for the film, Berg remembers Poole as a terrific skier and friend with a life-affirming attitude. “His commitment to the day, the line, or just the single powder turn : is really what Billy is about,” she says. “He gives his all and nails it with true passion because his love is there, and it is genuine.” In his wake, the Billy Poole Memorial Fund was created to encourage children to take up outdoor sports, so see billypoole.org for more info.
Warren Miller Entertainment’s Children of Winter screens on Wednesday, December 3, 8 p.m., at the Lobero Theatre. See warrenmiller.com.