Amy Taisey described seeing herself in the new Warren Miller ski film as “surreal.” Her husband, Phil Taisey, said skiing for the cameras was unnerving “but a fun challenge.”

“They got some good footage of us,” he said. “It’s always kind of humbling to see yourself on the big screen skiing, but it was fun.”

The Freeport couple star in the ski and snowboard hype movie, “Winter Starts Now,” which has been showing across Maine this week and screens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the State Theatre in Portland. It’s the 72nd film from Warren Miller Entertainment, the Colorado-based action-sports company founded by the ski bum-turned-filmmaker, whose movies capture the energy, athleticism and thrill of winter sports and have helped make skiing and snowboarding mainstream pursuits.

Miller, who began making his movies in 1949, died in 2018 at age 93.

“Winter Starts Now,” the latest movie from the franchise he created, features Maine prominently – and opens somewhat unexpectedly on a lobster boat off the coast of Freeport before making its way up to Sugarloaf and then out West to destinations across U.S. ski country in Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, California and Alaska.

The Taiseys operate Amalgam Skis, a tiny and highly regarded ski manufacturing company, from their Freeport home and are part of the Sugarloaf community. Phil Taisey has worked as a fisherman and still has his commercial license – though the ski business, which turns 10 next year, takes up most of his time. (He incorporates the orange and green color scheme of his lobster buoys into the design of some of his skis).

Amy Taisey of Freeport skiing at Sugarloaf in a still from the new Warren Miller movie “Winter Starts Now.” Photo by Rob Kingwill

In addition to showing the Taiseys on the water, in their shop and skiing in the glades at Sugarloaf, “Winter Starts Now,” directed by Chris Patterson, also features Rob Lu and Peter MacDowell, the engineering brains behind Winterstick Snowboards in Carrabassett Valley. Olympian Seth Wescott, who is part of the Winterstick ownership group, is associated with Warren Miller Enterprises and helped draw attention to Sugarloaf.

Amy Taisey said she and her husband were shocked when Patterson contacted them about participating in the movie.

“I have been watching Warren Miller films since I was a kid, so to be in one is pretty incredible. It is an experience you thought you would never have,” said Amy Taisey, 38, who works as a physician assistant at Maine Medical Center in Portland. “It means a lot to be a part of it, to represent our company, to represent Sugarloaf and Sugarloafers and all Mainers too.”

The filming occurred last February and March. “We had recently gotten snow, so we had soft conditions, which was nice. It was not all ice. But two days later, after we finished filming, all the snow was gone,” said Phil Taisey, 41.

Peter McDowell and Rob Lu of Winterstick Snowboards ride a lift at Sugarloaf. Photo by Rob Kingwill

Both were born and raised in Maine and grew up in Freeport, and both fell in love with skiing the mountains of western Maine. They began their ski-making business in 2012, with the first years dedicated to research and development as Phil put his degree in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University to use perfecting his wooden-core designs and the shape of the ski. By 2015, they were selling skis.

Their skis weigh less than most other skis and are stiffer and more responsive, a result of the wooden core. The Taiseys source all their wood regionally, with maple and poplar from New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, and spruce from Maine.

“The materials we use make our product unique,” said Phil Taisey. “The lighter (the) profile underfoot, you can last longer on the hill.”

And that means more fun on the mountain, which has always been the point for the Taiseys.

In starting Amalgam Skis, the Taiseys committed to a lifestyle built around skiing and ski culture, which is something Miller himself embraced when he bought his first camera and moved from Los Angeles to Idaho. Miller spent each winter making movies in the mountains and each summer showing them to his friends in California, who marveled at both the adventure of skiing and the camaraderie of ski communities.

Phil Taisey holds a ski made by Amalgam, the company he owns with his wife, Amy Taisey, right. Photo by Rob Kingwill

The Taiseys began the ski company as a way to “pull away from the corporate world” as small-business entrepreneurs and build a lifestyle around the Maine values of community, craftsmanship and natural beauty, said Amy Taisey. The business remains small, with the Taiseys the only employees. They sell about 100 pairs of skis a year.

The exposure of “Winter Starts Now” has been, and likely will continue to be, immense. The movie was released in September and has been touring west to east.

“Beyond some local highlights we have had in eight or 10 years, this is the biggest national exposure we have had,” Amy Taisey said. “We have felt the love. When it hit the East Coast, we noticed a bump. Our hope is that we continue to grow awareness of the brand.”

Just as much, Taisey said, she hopes “Winter Starts Now” helps frame Maine as a ski destination on par with the western mountains, where Miller began making his movies. The new movie includes footage from 1971 when Jim McKay and ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” came to Sugarloaf to cover the World Cup, so the international spotlight is not new to Maine skiing. But it’s still uncommon, and the Taiseys relish the exposure – for their business and the community they love.

They will attend the screening at the State Theatre on Saturday and give away a pair of backcountry touring skis.


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