Warren Miller weekly in Whistler 

AlpenRock House opens a theatre for ‘the man’

WHAT : Warren Miller Theatre

WHERE : AlpenRock House

WHEN : Wednesdays @ 7:30 p.m.

You might think it a little strange that Whistler, a resort praised in so many ski magazines for reasons so numerous and lengthy they would easily fill this page, does not have a temple of worship for skiers and other mountain riders.

Other than self-proclaimed hallowed halls taking the form of apres-ski bars, no venue is set up to show powder and steeps in all their black diamond glory.

So when Willi Vogl of Warren Miller Canada approached Whistler film producer Jacques Roiseux about having a Warren Miller Theatre in Whistler, Roiseux needed only to find the venue.

"I looked at AlpenRock almost right away because they have the only room in town big enough and available every week," Roiseux explained. "It’s almost right behind the stage and not very many people know about it. We plan on showing a film in DVD every week, and calling it the Warren Miller Theatre. The only other permanent one is in Sun Valley, Idaho."

Fittingly, Sun Valley is where Miller began his career in film 51 years ago. It’s also where he instructed skiing at an early age, as the photo above illustrates.

Roiseux, who owns Adventurescope with Beat Steiner, has provided Whistler-Blackcomb film footage for Miller’s movies in the past, especially for latter-day snowboard sequences.

But of course, Miller’s name is synonymous with ski movies, so Whistler skiers such as Eric Pehota, Wendy Brookbank and Hugo Harrison have provided themselves for shoots in Whistler or wherever Miller needs them.

The connection between Miller and Whistler-Blackcomb goes much, much deeper than the backcountry powder. The latest Warren Miller movie, called Ride , has its opening sequence on Blackcomb Mountain as avalanche-prone slopes are blasted to fluffy flakes just before Harrison, Jennifer Ashton and Robin Courcelles "freeride as powerfully and gracefully as the mountains around them."

But the connection gets deeper, says Vogl, who distributes Miller’s films in Canada for Warren Miller Entertainment out of Vancouver.

"I met Warren on a chairlift on Blackcomb Mountain almost 20 years ago, a lot like the one I’m on now," Vogl said from his cell-phone last week. "It was kind of a business meeting on the way up the hill, not totally by chance. I’ve also shot a lot of film for him in the Himalayas, Antarctica, China, Morocco… a lot of crazy places. We’re also the first ones to put a kayaker on snow in a film. That was shot on the Blackcomb Couloir."

Other than this being a ski-crazy area of Canada, both Roiseux and Vogl (and for that matter AlpenRock’s new general manager Dave Melenchuck), know that week after week, thousands of new people visit the resort. So this season the theatre will show Ride over and over for about the next four months, this despite the fact Miller has more than 500 film and television programs in the can.

"Well, it might not sound good for the locals, but when we showed the feature films at the conference centre here during the holidays, almost 5,000 people showed up over 10 days," Roiseux says. "So considering thousands of people a week come to Whistler, I’m sure we’ll get good response because the room only fits 200 people."

Roiseux explained state of the art movie viewing technology not only makes Whistler’s Warren Miller Theatre possible, it makes it that much better. A mini-theatre screen, 15 x 17 feet, will show DVDs of Miller’s movies.

"The projectors are very, very expensive for this kind of thing, and then you might need a bigger room," Roiseux said. "DVD makes it so good and so easy to do.

"So over the holidays we’ll kick start the theatre with a few showings, starting with a VIP party on Dec. 21 and two others on Dec. 28 and 30, then again on Jan. 2, 4 and 6. After that it’s every Wednesday for the high season."

Roiseux says the new family atmosphere of AlpenRock proved conducive for the theatre venue. Dinner can add to the evening, he said, without doing two locations.

"The theatre in Sun Valley has excellent response," Vogl said. "But the most amazing thing is, Warren Miller Films has been going for 50 years and it’s just getting bigger. Not many people know this, but it’s owned by Time-AOL, so it’s world-wide now because of that, and because of Warren’s name. We’re also working on the right to sell subscriptions in partnership with Ski Magazine, like we have with Ski Canada. That was huge. It went extremely well.

"And you know, a lot of people who go to see Warren Miller movies can’t remember the name of the movie, but they know his name because it’s synonymous with the best ski movies anywhere."


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