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Locals, camera, jib

Richard Chittick

Roughly two thirds of the way through Warren Miller’s “Journey,” Ben Dolenc found himself sitting in Copper Mountain’s Burning Stones Plaza making fun of some gapers.

“Check that out – an Arkansas A-Frame,” he said. A person was clumsily passing with their ski poles dangling off of their skis, which were sticking straight up. Another target of Dolenc’s passed with poles in hand.

“Right there is the Handbag,” he added.

It turns out that Dolenc, a member of the Copper Mountain Freeride Team and one of the best telemark skiers in the country, features prominently in Miller’s 54th ski flick. Be sure to stick around for the end, when Dolenc takes the opportunity to share with the viewers everything he’s not allowed to say on camera, complete with a handful of bleeps.

Only moments before Dolenc was shown relaxing in Copper’s Center Village, Nike and Warren Miller were shown shipping Dolenc off to Morocco.

“It was a totally different cultural space than anything I’ve ever been to,” said Dolenc from Seattle last week. “They spoke three different languages, so it was always hard.”

The sequence features a bit of skiing in the Moroccan high country, but, for the most part, centers on a five-day kayak trip from the Atlas Mountains of North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean.

“That was super fun,” Dolenc said. “I haven’t kayaked in about two years, though it used to be a passion of mine. To be able to get to go over there was special.”

Dolenc himself leads into Summit County’s largest ski resort, Copper Mountain, which Miller describes as “new school is already old school, and jibbers are everywhere.”

The footage blended aggressive park riding with images of powder skiing on Tucker Mountain, where the Copper Mountain Freeride Team (Dena Melin, Nick Mercon and Greg Tuffelmire of Frisco, Jay Quinlan and Matt Peterson of Breckenridge and Matt Quam of Copper) all performed for Miller’s cameras.

“We’re really excited about our segment,” said Beth Jahnigen, a Copper spokesperson. “It really represents what Copper is all about – the vibe, the culture.”

The first half of the segment is set to the music of the Riddlin’ Kids, also shown rocking a concert at the mountain during the Sunsations beach party last April.

The second half mellows as Miller elaborates on the Tucker Mountain backcountry.

Copper Mountain isn’t the only local hill to be featured in the movie. The Warren Miller crew stopped by the Nissan Ride and Rail Exhibition held at Breckenridge last season.

Josh Tostado and Tommy Halvorson of Breckenridge join legend Glen Plake and a handful of other professional skiers in the Freeway Terrain Park.

As for the rest of “Journey,” this may very well be one of Miller’s best movies.

As Vail’s Chris Anthony points out during a trip to Valbruna, Italy, every year, Miller’s photographers add new elements to the film.

It shows. The footage bounced back and forth from Portillo, Chile to Lake Tahoe to Chamonix, France to the Canyons in Utah.

In between the Breckenridge and Morocco sequences, Kent Kreitler and Micah Black trade some of the sickest Alaskan heli-runs ever recorded on film.

Along with the Morrocon whitewater, “Journey” features barefoot water skiing, Miller-style. The acceleration is provided by a snowmobile to an unbelievable base jump.

Of course, there’s plenty of powder, plenty of jibbing, a healthy dose of Glen Plake laughing and the commentary by Miller himself that is at the heart of every Warren Miller movie. In addition, there is a moving tribute to Craig Kelly, a pioneer in the world of snowboarding who was killed in an avalanche in British Columbia last season.

All of this is set to a typical Warren Miller soundtrack, from cutting edge new music to the use of the Allmann Brothers Band during a sequence of ski-mountaineering in Chamonix by a handful of 40-something skiers.


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