'Change" is the buzzword for today's America. Just don't mess with Warren Miller's annual ski films. They are tradition. Like Christmas carols and sex education. They arrive whether or not they have anything new to say, and you are bound to be at least mildly entertained.
"Children of Winter" is the 59th feature installment of the Miller entertainment franchise. It is directed by Max Bervy, who has been standing in for retiree Warren Miller throughout most of the 21st century, and it is narrated by Olympian-turned-MTV-personality Jonny Moseley, the voice of last year's "Warren Miller's Playground."
As usual, the newest movie is a collection of extreme and not-so-extreme ski footage, awesome scenery, nostalgic touchstones, goofy asides, throbbing music, and many, many product placements. It features such world-class athletes as Seth Wescott and Daron Rahlves. And its 103 minutes are filled by hopping around the globe from Alaska to New England, Austria, Utah, Colorado, Japan, and elsewhere.
Fans of hard-edged ski documentaries may prefer the offerings of Teton Gravity Research, Matchstick Productions, and their kind. But the best moments of a Miller film typically take in serene scenes such as the one in "Children of Winter" where veteran snowboarder Josh Dirksen and surfing legend Gerry Lopez ride the "frozen waves" of Oregon's enchanting backcountry. There is also a moving tribute to big-mountain stunt skier Billy Poole, who died during filming earlier this year. And on the lighter side, it doesn't get more amusing than Miller-regular Chris Anthony's attempt at equestrian skijoring (that's with a skier, a horse, and a tow rope) in Leadville, Colo.
That said, too much of the new film feels like filler. Does it matter that Idaho's Sun Valley was "the birthplace of the American ski resort party"? How much do you care about the family lives and friendships of elite female skiers?
When "Children of Winter" gets down to business, it launches exhilarating runs through deep powder. It soars off cliffs, bounces off trees, and careens over "sick" terrain. It even manages a few new tricks; it just doesn't do that enough.