Jumping off cliffs is the easy part for Chris Anthony (Kines’90).
The hard part for the extreme skier, who has been featured in the past 20 Warren Miller films, is getting to the cliffs. To film the spectacular segments in Miller’s movies, Anthony has taken some long, strange trips around the world — white-knuckle flights in rattletrap Russian Army helicopters over Iran and three-day slogs behind horses through belly-deep snow in the remote reaches of northwestern China.
On location, it’s not unusual for him to wait days for the right weather and snow conditions or to do a dozen takes to get a few seconds of usable footage. During one shoot, it took 18 days to capture eight minutes of film.
“A lot of those shots don’t come easy,” he says. “It’s a lot more work than anyone would imagine.”
But it’s work he loves and has parlayed into successful endeavors in film and television production and running a series of adventure ski camps in Colorado, Alaska, Chile and Italy.
He’s also focused his efforts on raising money for various charities and nonprofits, many aimed at providing wilderness experiences for underprivileged children. Over the past five years, he’s raised more than $1 million.
Making reel tracks
Anthony’s career path started in the late 1980s at CU where he came to ski for the Buffs. The Colorado native had been on skis since age 1 and competed throughout his youth. But at CU, when the team’s regular training mountain at Eldora was unavailable for a season, it forced daily commutes to Loveland. Anthony decided he was missing too much of the campus experience and left the team. Professor Stan Brakhage’s film class was one of the things that filled the void.
“It opened my eyes to a whole other area of interest,” he says. “I fell in love with the filmmaking process.”
It wouldn’t be long before he combined his interests in skiing and film. At an all-mountain pro-am competition in 1990, Anthony found himself competing for the top spot against Mike Farny (Rec’86), a former CU ski coach who had worked for Warren Miller. After the competition, Farny recommended Anthony to Miller’s production team, and Anthony headed for Europe during CU finals week to shoot his first film, Extreme Winter. Farny also gave him some sound advice.
“There were thousands of great skiers willing to do crazy things,” he says. “He told me it wasn’t all about athletic prowess but how hard you worked on all aspects of the process.”
The process included being part of the crew, which meant schlepping equipment, learning the production values that make Miller’s films the gold standard for ski movies and considering a film from both sides of the camera.
“You’ve got to leave your ego behind,” he says. “It’s about the bigger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish, to bring back to the editing room and to the audience in the long run.”
Anthony’s understanding of the bigger picture is a tremendous asset, says Max Bervy (Rec’85), the managing director of Warren Miller Entertainment and executive producer and director of the annual film.
“We aren’t interested in filming knuckleheads with Kodak courage,” he says. “Chris has a gift for making things look exciting. He nails the mark every time and has an aggressive style.
“Chris understands what makes a good shot and gets his arms around what the cameraman is looking for before he drops in. This creates a very efficient use of film,” Bervy says. “He’s our go-to guy for a lot of things.”
Promoting an ancient sport
Last year’s film, Dynasty, was as challenging as any in Anthony’s 20-year run with Warren Miller. It took a three-day trek with horses to reach the remote filming location in northwest China, where there are petroglyphs suggesting Mongolian tribes were skiing 3,000 years ago. Once there, Anthony and the crew found locals whose equipment — handmade wood skis with horsehair on the bottom — hadn’t changed much since the days of the petroglyphs. But that doesn’t mean they’re primitive, he says.
“The shape and cut of their skis is what’s popular now,” he says. “There’s a lot to learn from these guys.”
The scenes got a good reception from die-hard Warren Miller fans at screenings in the fall. The films are a harbinger of ski season, with raucous crowds of regulars who turn the showings into an event every year. Anthony started attending as a kid when Miller himself was still making the rounds as emcee.
“It was such an amazing experience to be going to these films, seeing Warren Miller and seeing some of the athletes,” he says.
As Miller slowed down and limited personal appearances, Anthony picked up the baton. Despite his initial shyness in front of crowds, he volunteered to host screenings so he could bring audiences the same experience he had as a kid. Now in his 13th year as emcee, he makes up to 70 appearances annually from Europe to Australia, touting the films to about 100,000 people each year. The most enthusiastic crowds are closest to home at the Boulder Theater and Denver’s Paramount, he says.
“He’s a PR animal,” says Josh Haskins (Film ex’99), who has overseen the production process for Warren Miller Entertainment for the past decade. “Chris is an amazing promoter for the films.”
Haskins says Anthony is a triple threat: a remarkable skier on film, a tireless promoter of the Warren Miller brand and a fount of creative ideas.
“His personality and persistence bring us unique opportunities,” Haskins says.
Carving out a snowy niche
Working on the films led Anthony back to competitive skiing. At the first World Extreme Skiing Championships in 1992, before there were qualifying events, competitors were invited based in part on their work in films. Anthony competed on the tour for nearly a decade, winning the Alaskan Extreme Skiing Championships in 1996.
The connections he’s made through the films and the extreme ski competitions also have taken him down another path. He leads Chris Anthony Adventures, which offers ski camps for expert and intermediate skiers. Anthony divides his time among camps at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek, Colo., helicopter skiing in Alaska’s Chugach Range and the “Wine and Dine Tour with a Skiing Problem” in northeastern Italy. He also coaches at the “Camp of the Superstars” each August in Portillo, Chile, founded by CU alumni Chris Davenport (Hist’93) and the late Shane McConkey (A&S ex’91).
The success means more demands on his time, but Anthony has been able to strike a nice balance. In the off-season he focuses on his charity and nonprofit work. He’s been the ambassador for Colorado’s popular Fifth-Grade Passport program, aimed at getting kids into skiing. He also works with The Children’s Hospital Denver sports program and SOS Outreach, which gets underprivileged children out of the city and into the mountains.
“Hopefully, some of these kids will look at the world a little differently,” he says.
The common thread for Anthony over the past two decades has been the Warren Miller films. While he feels he can continue to be an asset to the productions, both behind and in front of the cameras, past success does not guarantee future employment. The notoriously secretive production team plays its cards close to the vest, even with a veteran team member like Anthony when it comes to planning for the next film.
“I’ll wait by the phone — just like the rookies do,” he says.
Ken McConnellogue (Jour’90) skis as many days as possible when not working as the CU system’s associate vice president for university relations. But he says he avoids cliffs.