For local ski bums Casey Vandenbroek, Chris Tatsuno and Lane Johnson, the fall means it’s time to jump in a van and travel across the country to get the rest of the nation pumped on the upcoming ski season.
The group are three of five emcees who travel with the Warren Miller film tour, and their job is to introduce the newest ski flick by getting the crowd excited about winter. In its 63rd year, the tour stops in more than 100 cities over a two-month period, showing films to crowds that range from college students to families to old-school skiers.
Emcees attract a lot of hugs from strangers, who are just as excited about the season as they are, Tatsuno said.
“I think that is what has kept us all coming back,” Tatsuno said. “We get to go out and start a lot of winters.”
Tatsuno, an avid skier with long black hair and a mustache, was the first to land the gig five years ago after his friend who worked for the tour told him about it. Tatsuno then told Vandenbroek, who decided to apply for the job a year later, and Johnson soon followed suit.
“We’ve passed on the torch,” Tatsuno said with a laugh.
The three have a lot in common. They have all been in the valley for years and each has lived out of his car and crashed on friends’ couches in order to sustain the lifestyle. Regardless of where they crash, during the winter they ride and in the summer they work as raft guides at Blazing Adventures.
“We sacrifice living out of our cars so that we can do the things we love,” Vandenbroek said.
When it came time to apply for the job, the group played up the ski bum image. In order to become a Warren Miller emcee, applicants have to submit a video audition proving that they can get a crowd excited about a film. Instead of making their own individual tapes explaining why they would be good for the job, the three came together and made a skit where Tatsuno went from Vandenbroek’s van to Johnson’s car, waking them up telling them it’s time to audition.
“I thought, ‘If they like me, they’re gonna love these guys,’” Tatsuno said.
Although traveling can be hectic with back-to-back screenings in different cities, it’s worth it, Johnson said.
“We’re traveling like rockstars,” he said.
The best thing about the job is that they get to come back to snow-capped mountains when it’s over, they said.
“You spend 60 days watching ski videos and talking about how pumped you are for the season and then you get to come back to snow,” Vandenbroek said. “It takes getting stoked to a whole other level.”
The Warren Miller film tour will stop in Aspen on Nov. 1. Tickets are available at aspenshowtix.com.