How Warren Miller’s “Face of Winter” presented by Volkswagen is more than a ski movie

Since 1950, ski season in America has been synonymous with one name: Warren Miller. For the 69th installment of the skiing and snowboarding films, Warren Miller Entertainment created “Face of Winter” as a tribute to Miller, who died in January 2018. For the second year, Volkswagen of America was the presenting sponsor of the film, which focused on veterans and new athletes as they pay tribute to the legend.

We talked with Josh Haskins, producer of the film, about capturing the spirit of adventure in the snow and what makes the films a tradition.

What were you trying to capture during film productions? 

We tried to capture all forms of sliding on snow and aspirational moments around the globe that documented skiing and snowboarding with incredible athletes in stunning locations. We also aim to capture stories of our heroes and give insight to their personalities.

What’s it like to produce a film with such high-volume action?

Producing our films year after year is a mixture of excitement, stress, joy, frustration and ultimately, complete gratitude when it finally hits the big screen in theaters during our Fall Film Tour. I believe the saying goes, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

Our small team of film makers are passionate about upholding Warren’s legacy and continuing the tradition that started 70 years ago. So many variables work against us during production – weather and snow conditions are probably the biggest factor, along with athlete schedules, travel logistics and time constraints. I could go on and on, but the truth is, it’s all worth it.

As for the high-volume action, I would say that we are extremely calculated in the risks we take. We work with professional athletes, snow safety experts, qualified guides and established location support. Ultimately, we let the athletes call the shots. If they aren’t comfortable in a situation, we move on. We’ve been very fortunate over the years and have had few incidents in the field because we’re willing to make safe calls, even if it means not getting the images we had hoped for.

Are you an extreme sports enthusiast yourself?

Yes. I’ve been in British Columbia, Canada flying around in helicopters, filming and skiing steep couloirs, wide open powder fields and tight trees. I’ve been skiing and snowboarding longer than I can remember, and I love chasing winter around the world.

How do you make films like these in such tough conditions?

Right about the time our film tour launches in the fall, the production team is already planning the next feature film. We map out potential locations, athletes and overall movie themes and continue to develop and plan as winter approaches. Once the snow starts flying, we’re in full production mode, with film crews in the field December through May in the Northern Hemisphere and as late as August working in the Southern Hemisphere.

During production of “Face of Winter,” we broke our record of latest filming date, finishing location filming on August 26th. As we wrap location shoots, all the footage goes to our team of editors and they start editing the film. It’s a bit of a relay race, as each production department carries the baton and passes it off to the next team as we feel the time crunch to deliver the movie for the tour.

 

Was there an overarching feel you were trying to achieve while filming “Face of Winter”?

When Warren passed away in January of 2018, that changed the direction of the film. We still traveled to amazing global destinations with incredible athletes, but in addition to that, we paid homage to the man who started it all. The entire film pays tribute to Warren in a sense: The movie opens with a tribute to Warren and throughout the film, various athletes reminisce about how Warren affected their lives. The film ends with an inspiring look at the past decades of filmmaking that Warren was involved in.

Who are some of the athletes you feature in the movie?

Gold medalist Jonny Moseley narrates the film and travels to Iceland for some heli-skiing under the midnight sun, literally.  Another incredible gold medalist, Jessie Diggins, along with the U.S. Cross Country Skiing team, train in New Zealand and recount their incredible win. There are many amazing athletes in the film: Dash Longe, Jim Ryan, 15-year old pro skier Simon Hillis, Anna Segal, Amie Engerbretson, gold medalist Seth Wescott, Rob Kingwill, Marcus Caston, Johan Johnnson, Kaylin Richardson, Jessica McMillan, Forrest Jillson. I’m sure I am missing a few others. We can’t make the movie without our dedicated team of athletes. They literally are The Face of Winter.

Both the Volkswagen Atlas and Volkswagen Tiguan were used during the filming of “Face of Winter” presented by Volkswagen. Did you have a chance to drive both vehicles?  Which was your favorite and why?

I had the chance to drive both the Volkswagen Atlas and Volkswagen Tiguan while on location during the shoots. I really like the Tiguan; it has a sporty feel and look, but I have to say the Atlas is my favorite, especially the R-Line! The larger size and capacity for hauling ski, snowboard and camera equipment won me over. I’ve driven thousands of miles in an Atlas and it’s such a comfortable ride for extended road trips.

What can viewers expect to see in the film?

Beautiful ski destinations around the world, incredible athleticism from downhill skiers, snowboards and cross-country skiers, an eclectic soundtrack and a touching homage to Warren Miller himself.