I drove to Encinitas early on Friday. I was going to the early showing of Warren Miller’s No Turning Back Film Tour at La Paloma Theatre. I went early to check the surfers at Swami’s and get a beer, but mostly to miss out on rush hour traffic. At the end of the night I knew how I was going to start this re-cap. If you go to a Warren Miller Film Tour showing you are not just going to a movie. You are going to an EVENT. You are going to see snow porn. People will whoop and cheer and clap. And in minutes you will want to abandon your seat, and drive to the nearest mountain and strap some sticks to your feet.
It was grey, and cool in SoCal on Friday. Perfect movie going weather. About an hour before the film the streets were relatively empty, and I wondered if anyone was going to show up at the movie. I found a nearby dive bar and bought a $2 Lagunitas Pils to pass the time. 45 minutes later I wandered back to the La Paloma to find a half a dozen Ford Fusion street-teamers corralling the in-coming crowds into a photobooth before shuttling them off in test drives in an electric car. There was an SUV with a full No Turning Back logo wrap. Walking into the theatre I was met by Oscar the house dog, some smiling faces ripping tickets and then booths from REI and the state of Montana giving out stickers, maps, lift ticket information buttons and more. Someone shoved a glossy Warren Miller magazine in my hands and told me to fill out the raffle form inside and look for the online coupon code.
There aren’t many people inside yet so I find a seat in the back row, set up my gear and head back into the hallway to watch the crowd coming in.The theatre itself is like a hipster’s wet dream. It is old with lots of character. One screen, ornate fixtures and cobwebs in the chandeliers. The crowd is completely mixed demographics. Lots of older folks, grandkids and entire families coming in. The crowd is noticeably enthused. I smiled at a passing grey-hair who responded by asking me, “Where can I find the pot? We always used to smoke at these events.” Apparently times have changed.
I settle into my seat a few minutes before start time. The screen is revolving through sponsor ads. Reports vary on the capacity but it is somewhere between 400-500. The theatre is nearly full by the time Courtney (Warren Miller Entertainment Rep) comes out to make some announcements. Most of those involve thanking sponsors again. If this movie isn’t making a profit on sponsorship deals some accountant somewhere should get fired. The crowd is pretty juiced up. Greeting friends, couples taking selfies in front of the screen and waving. Lots of waving. I wonder if I’m the only one who hasn’t been to a Warren Miller movie before.
The movie starts with an intro by narrator Jonny Moseley and a ton of ski & snowboard highlight clips. The crowd cheers for big jumps, sucks in their breath at big falls and laughs at the wackiness of weird skiiers. The backing music to this highlight madness is intense. It sounds like Skrillex and the theme from Inception had a baby. It’s somewhat terrifying, and a lot annoying. Doesn’t matter. In less than a minute all I want to do if teleport to a mountain somewhere and go harder, go faster, go more dangerously from top to bottom than I ever have before. LET’S DO THIS!
This is a rock n’ roll lifestyle movie. This is a staying young movie, and this is a movie that has a little bit of everything for everyone. There are old skiiers, young skiiers, Olympic racing, backcountry snowboarding, jumping off cliffs and paragliding with ski’s on skiing. It never ends. It is a big production using slow-mo interspersed with Bourne Identity-style quick edits to keep moving, and Jonny’s narration to keep the nostalgia at a high level. As a film it falls victim to some serious over-production, but it does it so big you can’t help but get sucked into it. Mostly, the movie shows the endorphin rush of moving down a mountain face, and the truly, honest-to-goodness, visceral joy of snow sports. It is hard to argue with when all I want to do is join them.
Halfway through there is an intermission. Courtney is back with more sponsor announcements, and it is time to do the raffle. Some kids from the audience help her mix up our raffle forms, and pick them out one by one. Each kid gets to tell us their name and favorite sport. It is family fun at its best. One kid picked his own dad out of the bin, and I sensed collusion for a moment but even I am not that cynical.
The second half the movie keeps up the pace trekking us through more incredible visuals and some wild skiing. It also pauses a bit more to remind us that we don’t just ski or board for the thrills but for the journey. Not just the journey top to bottom but from here to wherever you love to ride. The movie travels to big destinations. Switzerland, France, Colorado, Greece, Alaska, Norway and Japan. It is all beautiful to look at.
The last scenes of the film introduce me to Speed Riding which is some insane combination of skiing, paragliding, snow-kiting and just plain badassery. I can’t do it verbal justice but you can watch this clip and have your mind blown.
The movie ends. We all clap, and people start filing out talking and laughing about their favorite parts. I step out into the cool SoCal night air, and take in the marque one last time. I watch the crowd for the 9:00 PM show gathering at the Ford photobooth lining up to take test rides, get stickers and swag. I look down at my Warren Miller magazine, and start to imagine my next snowboarding trip. I start mentally planning my runs. I remember the feel of the wind whipping around my goggles, and just for a second I pretend I’ll soon be on top of all the peaks I just saw.