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Little wonder that Warren Miller knew what people are aching for when they come to his ski movies, an annual rite of fall for 67 years now.

He knew because he had chased thrills himself — a "ski bum" living for weeks in 1946 in a barely insulated trailer on the road next to Alta Lodge — and understood what made them so intoxicating.

But this Type A athlete also was clearly blessed with artistic skills, which enabled him to express the sensations he felt, as well as those he yearned to experience, through movies that inspired generations of young people to devote their lives to skiing or snowboarding.

"People remember their first day on skis because it comes as such a mental rush," Miller said in his autobiography, "Freedom Found," 512 pages of light reading that also features nearly 100 photographs, including a shot of him next to his trailer at Alta just over 70 years ago.

"When you come down the mountain from your first time on skis, you are a different person," he added. "I experienced that feeling, if only for half a minute. It was step one in the direction I would follow the rest of my life."

Miller, 92, grew up in a dysfunctional family in California, with an alcoholic dad and a troubled mom. But he had some tenderhearted grandparents who watched over him as he grew into a physically talented teenager.

Surfing was big in his life. And he was good enough at basketball to play for USC. But once he got hooked on skiing, which happened near Yosemite National Park, life took him a different direction.

It would lead him around the world and introduce him to some of the finest skiers on the planet, as well as leading luminaries in other athletic, social and political spheres.

All of this globetrotting wasn't completely good for Miller, who quite openly described how his workaholic tendencies inevitably helped contribute to failed marriages and strained relations at times with his children.

Beyond those personal disclosures, his book provides an inside glimpse into the commercial ski world that was just coming into existence after World War II and soon to become part of the way of life in places like Salt Lake.

After getting an inkling about what powder must be like while skiing in California, Miller and best friend Ward Baker packed up an 8-foot teardrop trailer in November 1946 and headed to Utah.

"We chose Alta because it was the first place it snowed that season," he said. "We later discovered its reputation for the deepest and lightest snow."

While Miller really made his breakthrough filming skiing at Sun Valley, he often returned to Utah as a skier and a moviemaker. His annual ski films have made their world debuts in recent years at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City.

Miller skied well enough to win the giant slalom at the 1948 Eccles Cup races at Snowbasin Resort above Ogden. Because of his sleeping accommodations, the announcer heralded him as a member of the "Sun Valley Parking Lot Ski Team."

He got to know Stein Eriksen before the Norwegian Olympic medalist made his move to Utah, filming him teaching forward somersaults to Jack Reddish and Christian Pravda long before those moves became staples in freestyle skiing.

He also played a role in the creation of Snowbird, describing how he edited some film of founder Ted Johnson skiing into the resort's then-undeveloped terrain from Alta, video that Johnson used to secure financial backing from Texas oilman Dick Bass.

"After Dick watched the movie a couple of times, he said, 'Are you sure you can build a gondola and a base lodge for $4 million? If you can do that, you can count me in.' Snowbird now had the energy to start flying," Miller recalled.

It soared under Bass, who oversaw the Little Cottonwood Canyon resort until May 2014, a year before his death, when he sold majority interest to Ian Cumming.

Through it all, Miller said he felt his movies succeeded because they inspired and entertained, frequently leaving people laughing and dreaming of what they could do as soon as the snow falls.

And he's appreciated the impact they've had on people's lives.

"People still stop to tell me how they grew up watching my ski films, [how] ski season didn't start until the local ski club or ski shop rented the latest film for its town," Miller observed.

"They can remember the sound of my voice and seeing my bald head shining from the corner of the stage," he quipped. "I'm lucky they remembered. They all helped support my lifestyle."

Freedom Found: My Life Story

Warren Miller

Warren Miller Company

Pages • 512

Cost • $29.95

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